Passionate about drones and robotics applications that make their community and their country better, a team of local experts in Zimbabwe formed and launched Zimbabwe Flying Labs.
Zimbabwe Flying Labs is a technology and innovation hub working to solve social challenges and meet local needs through drones and robotics. The group formed after Tawanda Chihambakwe was selected as an Unusual Solutions finalist in 2019. Tawanda’s project, building a ‘Drones for Good Network,’ aimed to enable drone pilots, technicians, and data scientists to connect, collaborate, learn, and grow drones through ethical approaches to gathering, storing, and sharing data. Tawanda wanted to connect local drone stakeholders by creating a space to benefit from each other’s insights and experiences. After meeting WeRobotics founders Patrick Meier and Sonja Betschart, Tawanda discovered that the vision for WeRobotics and Flying Labs was in line with his passion. Through Flying Labs, he could help increase the reach and impact of the drone industry right in Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe Flying Labs plans to work in three key areas:
- Catalyzing Business: 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.