Across the country, Senegal Flying Labs is solving challenges through the use of robotics and AI technologies—specifically, drones. However, they must first tackle popular misconceptions. Across Africa, when someone mentions drones, listeners tend to think of them as solely for recreational or military use. That is why Flying Labs is working to educate the next generation of Senegalese leaders, innovators and entrepreneurs, and spreading the word about drones as an essential tool in achieving sustainable development, with applications in humanitarian interventions, e-commerce, cartography, urban planning, natural resource management, and so much more.
On May 25 and 26, Senegal Flying Labs brought its “Introduction of Drones in Universities” program to the University Alioune Diop Bamey (UADB). This training and capacity building session was organized in partnership with the Superior raining Institute for Agricultural Research (ISFAR) and SenAgri Digital, an enterprise initiative. Participants were to engage in a number of presentations and demos, and to learn about the use of UAS (Unmanned Aerial Systems) and how to comply with relevant security standards and regulations.
When the team arrived, they were greeted by 35 students in the fields of agricultural engineering, conservation, and technological sciences. Some students had been deterred by the participation fee of 15 US dollars, and by a lack of understanding around why learning about drones was a good use of time and resources. While this meant that there were fewer participants than the team had hoped, it turned out to be the perfect group to launch a focused discussion and to pilot the notion of drones’ importance to UADB.
The session kicked off with a first day dedicated to theory. The group talked about drones, how they are used across the globe, how to operate them safely and responsibly, and the different UAS platforms—for example, fixed versus multi-rotor wings, and how to select the best sensor and platform for the operation of different models. By Day Two, the group had mastered these topics and moved onto the collection, management, and analysis of UAS data and its use in the students’ areas of expertise—agriculture and forestry.
Finally, just before noon, the time had come. The students and their trainers left the classroom behind, and ventured off to a local farm. There, for the first time, they experienced drones in action—with some students even having the opportunity to pilot them firsthand! After a successful and satisfying practical session, the group returned to the classroom, energized to analyze the data they had collected.
Thanks to Senegal Flying Labs and its partners, these 35 students no longer have misconceptions about drones. On the contrary, they now know how UAS can make a real difference not only in the work that they do around agriculture and forestry, but in achieving sustainable development in Senegal, the west African region, and the world. Participants expressed their gratitude, saying that before this session, they had no idea about the great benefits drones could have in their own professions. They also expressed their initial hesitation to pay the 15 dollar fee, but exclaimed that they were very happy they had done so. Going forward, the Flying Labs will work to find a balance between funding these sessions and keeping each one at a manageable size, and spreading the word to all who can benefit from them.
Senegal Flying Labs is grateful to the University of Bambey and SenAgri Digital, for their role in making this program a reality. It was a great experience and an essential pilot in launching this program at additional universities.
The mission of Senegal Flying Labs is to develop local skills, increase impact, and advocate for the professional use of drones in our region. We believe that drone technology offers new opportunities for governments, development organizations, research centers, and private companies that increasingly rely on data for strategic collaboration and decision-making. Follow this link to enroll in our next course and join our community to receive updates on upcoming courses and events.
The training was complemented with great Fijian hospitality by Assoc. Professor Rollings and Ms. Lal and her team. Travel and accommodation of the PNG team was made possible by WeRobotics.