Drones, data and artificial intelligence are leapfrog technologies that allow more informed and agile development response and potentially accelerate economic growth in the region. However, to achieve this, Malawi and neighbouring countries lack qualified and skilled personnel needed to seize the opportunities offered by drone and data technology. To respond to the skills deficit, UNICEF established the first African Drone and Data Academy (ADDA) in January 2020.
The African Drone and Data Academy: The African Drone and Data Academy (ADDA) aims to be a centre of excellence that will dually equip young people in Malawi and the African region with necessary 21st-century skills while strengthening the drone ecosystem for more effective humanitarian and development response.
The ADDA course, developed by the international project lead Virginia Tech, combines theoretical and practical methodologies in making, testing and flying drones. The curriculum allows young people to learn how to construct and pilot drones, to integrate them into a supply chain system and to analyse drone data. It follows UNICEF’s ‘Drones and Data for Good’ vision, focusing on the potential of technology to deliver positive results for every child.
The ADDA will initially be implemented over four years. From January 2020 until July 2021, some 140 students will enrol in a 10-week course in six cohorts (24 students per cohort) gaining a Certificate in Drone Technology (CDT) from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, commonly known as Virginia Tech upon successful completion.
Virginia Tech is partnering with the Malawi University of Science and Technology (MUST). International “flying faculty” will travel to Malawi from international partner universities throughout the year and are supported by ADDA local instructors during the lectures. Through this co-teaching approach, the local instructors will learn the curriculum on-the-job, and subsequently, be able to deliver the training themselves. Virginia Tech has the responsibility to ensure that the accreditation of the certificate and Master’s degree is of international standards and approved and recognised by the Government of Malawi and the Malawi Department of Civil Aviation.
Certificate of Drone and Data Technology Level 1
CDDT Level 1 is a 5 week online course that is divided into 2 modules as follows:Data module- The first 3 weeks cover data analysis; GIS fundamentals, data types & co-ordinate systems, multispectral sensing, introduction to computer vision and machine learning, advanced spatial analysis methods, data ethics etc. Different mapping applications e.g. agriculture, disease control, emergency response, flood modeling, infrastructure management etc.Drone module- In the 4th & 5th week, students are introduced to unmanned aerial systems; flight physics, aircraft performance, propulsion systems, aerostructures, payloads, flight operations, wireless communications etc.Entrepreneurship- In the middle of the cohort there is an entreprenuership workshop that imparts student with the knowledge to start their own businesses.
CDDT Level 1 graduates receive:
i. CDDT Level 1 Certificate issued by Virginia Tech & Furman University
ii. Trusted Operator Program (TOP) Level 1 Certificate issued by AUVSI
Note that ADDA is currently the only TOP training provider outside of the USA
Applications are now open to citizens of African countires. Everyone is encouraged to apply but priority will be given to those who will be 18 to 24 years at the time the cohort starts. Cohort 4 is tentatively scheduled to run from 11th January – 12th February 2021. Deadline to apply for CDDT 1, Cohort 4 is Friday, 11th December, 2020, 23:59 CAT. Applications will be reviewed on rolling basis.
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