Virginia Tech launches Drone and Data Academy in African nation of Malawi

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BLACKSBURG, Va. (WFXR) — Virginia Tech in partnership with UNICEF will help develop African expertise in drone technology with a launch of a 12-week course in Lilongwe, Malawi.

The program will support “a new generation of young people in Africa with drone, data, and entrepreneurship skills to respond to development needs in health, agriculture, the environment, and other sectors,” according to a press statement from VT.

The program’s goal is to train approximately 150 students to build and pilot drones by 2021 for the use of humanitarian, development, and commercial purposes across the continent.

This effort is a continuation of VT’s work in Malawi beginning in 2017 when training workshops were held.

During that time, Kevin Kochersberge, an associate professor in mechanical engineering at VT, and a group of Malawi academics and students built and demonstrated EcoSoar, an unmanned aircraft.

The successful flight entailed completing a 19 kilometer “beyond visual line-of-sight carrying a simulated blood sample,” said VT.

The program will develop by 2022 into a two-year master’s degree program in connection with the Malawi University of Science and Technology.

According to VT, more than half of the inaugural class are women, 16 students are from Malawi, and 10 students are from across Africa.

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