Malawi-based African Drone and Data Academy wins international award

drone academy

UNICEF’s African Drone and Data Academy (ADDA) based in Malawi has received the Humanitarian and Public Security Award from the Association for Unmanned Vehicles Systems International (AUVSI).

AUVSI, the world’s largest nonprofit organisation dedicated to advancing unmanned systems and robotics, selected the Center for International Research, Education, and Development-managed drone academy for its commitment to developing drone technology to improve lives.

The Drone Academy, which has been in operation since 2020, was launched in Malawi when UNICEF partnered with Virginia Tech to provide young Africans with drone, data, and entrepreneurial skills to meet their development needs. Students take a 10-week course to learn how to build, test, and fly drones, as well as analyze drone images and data. Drone technology can be used to meet many humanitarian needs in the areas of health, agriculture and the environment.

Africa Drone Academy

Brian Kamamia, ADDA project manager in Malawi, said, “Graduates of our program are fundamentally improving their local communities through careers in emergency medical deliveries, precision agriculture, urban planning, climate change, and anti-poaching. Furthermore, through predictive analysis such as flood modeling and land use analysis, our graduates are able to better prepare their local communities for natural disasters and disease outbreaks. The 21st-century skills acquired from ADDA are crucial in promoting and ensuring sustainable growth across the African continent."

Kevin Kochersberger, associate professor of mechanical engineering in  Virginia Tech and head of the ADDA program, said the award further supports drone technology as a valuable tool for addressing emerging global challenges.

“All around the world, we see mobility and data access as critical elements to achieving higher standards of living,” he said. “Drones have become the go-to resource to support these areas, especially in regions with limited infrastructure. Winning this award recognizes the value of the program to our graduates and the communities they serve.”

Over half of ADDA graduates are women, and the majority are under the age of 30.