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“Drones in Salone” Weekly Webinar kicks-off on May 15 – Join the Conversation!

DSTI will host a weekly webinar to examine the use of drones before, during, and after the COVID-19 Pandemic. Sierra Leone has the only national drone corridor in West Africa, the second on the continent after Malawi.  The “Drones in Salone” webinar is a platform for  policymakers, regulators and private sector drone experts to discuss emerging trends, challenges, and opportunities and benefits in the local drone ecosystem. 

Drone enthusiasts, innovators, media and the general public  are invited to participate in the panel discussion every Friday starting May 15, 2:00 PM GMT via Zoom.

The theme for the first-panel discussion is “The Role of Drones in the Covid-19 Response”. Speakers include; Edmond Nonie, UNICEF; David Manley, DSTI; Koinguma Baimba, Flying Labs Sierra Leone; James Houghton, Crown Agents Sierra Leone; Samuel Nonie, TYB Holdings; and Michael Duff, Drone Video Journalist.

The UNICEF backed Drone Corridor was launched in December 2019 by H.E. Julius Maada Bio, a demonstration of Sierra Leone’s high-level commitment to technology and innovation. Since the launch of the corridor,  drones have been used for medical delivery and most recently for surveillance during the government-mandated lock down to contain the spread of COVID-19.

Next week the “Drones in Salone” Webinar will take place on May 22, at 2:00 PM with guests including; Minister and Chief Innovation Officer, Dr. Moinina David Sengeh, and representatives from the World Bank Sierra Leone and the World Economic Forum. Visit @DSTISierraLeone on Facebook and Twitter for weekly updates.

Blog

Sierra Leone joins Africa’s tech nations to deploy drones for COVID-19 Response

Drones flew over the capital city of Freetown during a three-day lock-down in March as part of Sierra Leone’s COVID-19 Response. The Directorate of Science, Technology, and Innovation (DSTI) collaborated with a local drone company to capture images to understand citizen compliance in the Western Urban and Western Rural districts during the lock-down.

In West Africa, Sierra Leone has the sub-region’s only national government drone corridor which was launched in November 2019, by H.E. Julius Maada Bio in partnership with UNICEF, and Njala University. Since then, the nation’s first certified drone pilot graduated from the Africa Data and Drone Academy’s (ADDA) drone certification program at Malawi University of Science and Technology, aerial drones have been used in medical deliveries, and now for COVID-19 emergency response activities.

Countries in Africa that have embraced innovation are integrating technological solutions in their COVID-19 Response. This week Rwanda used drones to spread public health awareness messages. In South Africa, Artificial Intelligence and drones are collecting data on citizen movement and lockdown measures. Similarly, in Tunisia, police robots equipped with AI capabilities are manning the streets as part of their compliance monitoring strategies.

Sierra Leone’s DSTI has the vision to use science, technology, and innovation to support government service delivery and strengthen the entrepreneurial ecosystem. DSTI is currently deploying its scientists and technologists to support the Government’s integrated COVID-19 Response.

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DSTI Sierra Leone at the first African Drone Forum #ADF2020 in Kigali, Rwanda

The National Drone Project Lead, David Manley, represented the Directorate of Science, Technology, and Innovation at the African Drone Forum (ADF) recently held in Kigali, Rwanda (February 5 -7, 2020).

The Forum was organized in collaboration with the Government of Rwanda, the World Bank Group, and partners including UK AID and the World Economic Forum. The first of its kind event explored how Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) technologies like drones can improve citizen service delivery. The ADF focused on emerging transport technologies that can leapfrog the continent’s infrastructure deficit and address its public health and mobility challenges.

At the grand opening ceremony, H.E. President Paul Kagame of Rwanda encouraged Africans to design and manufacture drones with a focus on the continent’s needs and challenges and not just focus on its use. 

The Government of Sierra Leone is at the forefront of Africa’s emerging drone industry. In November 2019, H.E. President Maada Bio launched West Africa’s first Drones for Good Corridor in Sierra Leone (only the second drone corridor on the continent). And earlier this year, a nurse at the campus clinic at Njala University in Southern Sierra Leone received the nation’s first medical drone delivery

“What drives our work at DSTI is the belief that we can use technology to improve the lives of our citizens. Chief amongst the test cases being explored at the Corridor is blood delivery to health centers. Sierra Leone has one of the worst maternal mortality rates in the world, an estimated 1,165 women die each year primarily because medical practitioners do not have the life-saving blood they need for high-risk pregnancies. Drones offer us the opportunity to solve these challenges,” said David Manley, DSTI’s National Drone Project Lead.

He presented Sierra Leone’s plan to expand the Drones for Good Corridor to include crisis response, data, and digital connectivity and aerial imaging for education. As well as the government’s efforts to support private sector involvement in the ecosystem for the development, deployment, and use of drones.  

“Sierra Leone is taking leadership to work with partners including the World Economic Forum to develop the appropriate regulatory environment. We are committed to finding the right balance; technological advancements go hand in hand with safety and security,” said Manley.

On the sidelines of the ADF, Manley held meetings with two of the continent’s leading providers of medical supply deliveries; Zipline-a California based drone medical deliveries company with operations in Ghana and Rwanda, and Lifebank a digital blood bank saving lives in Nigeria. DSTI will continue to build relationships with local and global leaders as it fulfills its mission to make Sierra Leone a hub for innovation and entrepreneurship.

Sierra Leone’s Drone Corridor is under the technical leadership of the Directorate of Science, Technology, and Innovation in partnership with UNICEF Sierra Leone, Njala University, and the National Civil Aviation Authority.

Blog

Building the workforce of the future – Sierra Leone sends a woman to master drones in Malawi

Rakie Sesay, a 24-year-old mechanical engineer from Freetown is the first person from Sierra Leone to attend the Africa Data and Drone Academy’s (ADDA) drone certification program at Malawi University of Science and Technology.  

UNICEF Sierra Leone and the Directorate of Science, Technology, and Innovation (DSTI) made a joint call for application to the ADDA program after the launch of the Drone Corridor at Njala University, Sesay answered that call. 

She and others from the continent have enrolled at the UNICEF-sponsored African Drone and Data Academy operated in partnership with the Malawi University of Science and Technology (MUST), and Virginia Tech University. Located in Lilongwe, the academy is hosting the selected applicants for three months. Upon completion of the course, graduates will receive a Certificate of Drone Technology (CDT). The course covers aircraft fundamentals, operations, regulations, and data analytics for drones-Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV).

Graduates of the program will be licensed as drone pilots under the Malawi government and will possess valuable skills to enter the drone workforce.

“The future is here and we need to build our human resources as governments so that our citizens can compete globally.”  Dr. Moinina David Sengeh, Sierra Leone’s Chief Innovation Officer. 

“Among the critical fourth industrial revolution technologies that will shape the economic and social development of Africa is drones. It gives us a lot of confidence that young people in Sierra Leone are acquiring the skill sets needed locally and internationally to prepare us for that future,” Dr. Moinina David Sengeh, Sierra Leone’s Chief Innovation Officer. 

Drone technology is an emerging field in Africa. There are only two drone corridors on the continent; in Sierra Leone and Malawi. A drone corridor is an airspace designated and defined by aviation authorities to keep private drone operations out of the non-segregated airspace in which manned aircrafts operate. Drones provide instant telecommunications infrastructure to perform quick deliveries for equipment, drugs, and patients; they also enhance search and rescue efforts to assess damage and map disaster zones. 

By participating in the Africa Drone and Data Academy, Sesay will become Sierra Leone’s first certified female drone pilot.

“There are but a few drone pilots in Sierra Leone so what this opportunity to study in Malawi gives me is the chance to not only perfect my flying skills but also learn how to build drones,” said Sesay.

When she returns home, Sesay will join a community of drone researchers and enthusiasts currently testing use cases for medical deliveries and drones for social good at Sierra Leone’s drone corridor. 

Rakie Sesay at the launch of Sierra Leone’s Drones for Good Corridor – 29 November 2019 at Njala University.

“Seeing a dynamic, young Sierra Leonean furthering her skills at the African Drone and Data Academy is exciting. We see that the opportunities for people to make a difference for children in Sierra Leone through the technology and innovation sectors are accelerating. For example, with Sierra Leone’s Drone Corridor, someone like Rakie will have space and support to contribute in a positive way to Sierra Leone,” said Shane O’Connor, T4D Specialist, UNICEF Sierra Leone.

In November 2019, the President of Sierra Leone launched a 25-acre drone corridor in Moyamba District, Southern Province. The corridor, which includes two drop-off sites in Bo and Ernest Bai Koroma University, in the Northern Province, was set up by the Directorate of Science Technology and Innovation in partnership with UNICEF-Sierra Leone, Njala University, and Korri Chiefdom.

Blog

Drones for Good Corridor launched as drones take flight to deliver medicine to remote areas in Sierra Leone

FREETOWN; 29 November 2019 — Sierra Leone is a step closer to fast and efficient health care delivery of medical supplies, thanks to the drone corridor launched by H.E. President Julius Maada Bio in Njala today.  

During the launch, test drones were launched from the 250m runway to demonstrate the capability of drones to travel in a 200km square airspace to deliver supplies to health centers, which have traditionally experienced delays due to distances and topography.    

This new way of service provision is supported by UNICEF in partnership with Sierra Leone’s Directorate of Science, Technology, and Innovation (DSTI).

“It is time for Sierra Leone and other developing countries to take the lead in solving our developmental challenges, such as maternal mortality. My Government has prioritised technology and innovation as an essential part of our solutions package. Using fourth industrial revolution technologies to accelerate our development goals is not an option–it is the only way we can quickly and most efficiently address the huge problems existing for our people,” said President Bio.

Sierra Leone’s maternal mortality rate is 1,165 per 100,000 live births, which is one of the highest globally. According to the Ministry of Health & Sanitation National Reproductive, Maternal, Newborn, Child, and Adolescent Health Strategy 2017-2021, almost half (46%) of all maternal deaths are due to obstetric hemorrhage or blood loss.   

Women in remote rural communities like the Njala Kori Community Health Centre, which serves a population of 4000 residents, are at the most risk of maternal deaths and would therefore benefit from the speed and efficiency that drone technology will provide to the health sector. 

“The facilities to store blood are not widely available, so mothers die due to a lack of blood. Drones can be used to deliver this life-saving input at a cost and speed to make a real difference as we have seen in other parts of the world.” said Dr. Suleiman Braimoh, UNICEF Representative.

A drone corridor is a segregated area and airspace where drones and drone solutions can be tested for use to support different sectors in the country. With support from UNICEF Sierra Leone and UNICEF’s Office of Innovations in New York, Sierra Leone’s drone corridor will explore using aerial drones for medical deliveries, emergency response activities, agroforestry, and geospatial mapping to start. The Government of Sierra Leone, through the Civil Aviation Authority and the DSTI, is working with partners to develop a regulatory framework for drones to take flight for health service delivery and other use cases for societal impact.

Over the past weeks, DSTI has held engagements with Njala University, who signed a Memorandum of Understanding to provide the land for the corridor. Njala has committed 73 acres in total of its property to the corridor to support the drone ecosystem. Researchers and students will gain experience and new skills in drone technology as they work with DSTI and UNICEF to test use cases for drones in Sierra Leone. 

DSTI provided the technical leadership from the Government that fast tracked the construction of the corridor–their oversight will continue with the collection of data for research and decision making. 

Dr. Moinina David Sengeh, Chief Innovation Officer, said the partnership with UNICEF has made it possible for Sierra Leone to explore the use of drones for development.  He noted that DSTI and UNICEF would collect data on all drone deliveries beyond today’s test launch to gain insights to inform decision making in health service delivery for women and children. 

“Drone blood deliveries in Ghana and Rwanda are saving lives; we want to do the same,” he said.  “Sierra Leone and its partners are developing a national innovation ecosystem where problem solvers can test and scale solutions to improve health outcomes for all citizens.” 

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