Avid readers or drone enthusiasts will most likely remember WeRobotics. We wrote about their Unusual Solutions competition since Zimbabwean drone expert Tawanda Chihambakwe was part of the finalists of the competition earlier this year.
WeRobotic’s subsequently decided to partner with Precision Aerial – the local company started and led by Chihambakwe- to create ZimbabweFlying Labs (ZFL). ZFL is a drone technology and robotics innovation hub that will be working to solve social challenges through the use of appropriate drone and robotics technologies in a sustainable, and responsible manner.
The following are some of the key areas ZimbabweFlying Labs will be focusing on;
Zimbabwe Flying Labs will help build up the local drone industry by organizing “Drones as a Service” incubation programs that facilitate project opportunities and support for local entrepreneurs. Their focus will predominantly be on agriculture & smart farming, disaster mitigation & management, environment management, and healthcare delivery.
The team has already trained students on using drones for disaster risk planning and post-disaster assessment and management with a local NGO. This training helped community leaders in rural areas understand how drones could help them and afforded many of them their first opportunity to see and operate the technology themselves
Facilitating the Drone & Robotics Ecosystem
Zimbabwe Flying Labs will work with innovators, manufacturers, service providers, academic institutions, NGOs, and the government to nurture the drones for a social good ecosystem. The team plans to form a nation-wide ‘Drones For Good’ platform to connect professional drone pilots, drone data analysts, team leaders, and disaster professionals who are willing to assist local government and rescue workers in disaster management.
Build Local Skills
Zimbabwe Flying Labs organizes hands-on hardware and software training for various drone platforms and use cases. They work with several certifications, academic, and training partners to provide programs like;
- Bootcamps for Schools,
- Drone Pilot Training,
- Advanced Drone Operations & Maintenance,
- Advanced Drone Applications Bootcamps,
- Disaster Preparedness,
- Simulation Training, and,
- Co-creation Workshops for Multistakeholder Engagement.
Once trained, the team will also support the participants with expert advice on their projects.
How will all this be achieved?
When I spoke to Tawanda a few days ago he impressed upon me how big of a deal he feels this partnership will be for the Zimbabwean drone community. His positive feelings are due to the fact that being part of the Flying Labs network (yes there are many of them) will come with some perks that will make it much easier and less expensive to make use of drones for what they hope to achieve.
Being part of a network makes Flying Labs Zim privy to discounts when buying drones (for non-commercial purposes), and access to top drone software at no extra cost. Beyond that, WeRobotics will also provide access to conferences and massive online courses to ensure Zimbabwe Flying Labs stays up to date.
The access to the Flying Labs network will also prove invaluable with countries such as Kenya, Malawi, Namibia, and Zambia already being part of that network and at times facing similar hurdles to those that Zimbabwe Flying Labs will have to overcome.
Just taking Zambia Flying Labs as an example, since 2019 they’ve done the following;
- May 2019 – Zambia Flying Labs Launches, Offering Drone Trainings for Local Students;
- April 2019 – Zambia Flying Labs Brings Drone Training, STEM Education to Hearing-Impaired Students
- September 2020 – Zambia Flying Labs Relaunches with the University Of Zambia and Supporting Partners
Overall, the launch of Zimbabwe Flying Labs is an exciting development and I hope Precision Aerial, Chihambakwe and the rest of his team will carry out their mandate as expected.