Drones for a Sustainable Future
ADDA graduate Ndapile Mkuwu lives out her commitment to drones for good by inspiring young innovators
Ndapile Mkuwu was born in Malawi’s Mangochi District. As a young person passionate about science and the natural world, she enrolled in the University of Malawi’s geology department. Throughout her studies, Ndapile’s curriculum exposed her to the science of soil, minerals, water and natural resources. However, it wasn’t until she began volunteering with YouthMappers, ultimately becoming a Regional Ambassador for the organization, that she entertained the possibility of exploring a career in technology and innovation.
At YouthMappers, Ndapile joined a global community of students, researchers, educators and scholars experimenting with using public geospatial technologies to highlight and directly address development challenges worldwide. Recognizing that many of these global challenges were also present at home in Malawi, she was inspired to enrol at the African Drone and Data Academy (ADDA), ultimately earning her qualifications as a pilot and imagery data analyst. Ndapile’s initial plans upon graduation were to begin working in disaster management and mitigation, exploring the application of geographical information to lessen the effects of natural disasters. Considering the impact of intense and frequent flooding in Malawi, she wanted to examine the use of drones to conduct real-time mapping analyses of disaster areas to inform response activities and mitigate the impact on communities. However, her life took a different turn when she joined the ADDA as a national instructor.
Ndapile is now part of a diverse team delivering a drone-centred curriculum through a partnership between the Malawi University of Science and Technology, Virginia Tech University and UNICEF. Together, she and her colleagues combine theory and practical experience with teaching young people how to make, test and fly drones. Simultaneously, they develop problem-solving skills that empower them to be change-makers in their own communities. Ndapile is passionate about the use of ‘drones for good’ and fast-tracking the inclusion of girls and women in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), both as role models and as students. Recognizing that girls and women consistently bring unique perspectives to some of the most pressing development challenges, especially in emergencies, she argues that their participation and platforming must be prioritized in this field.
Through her experiences as a student and teacher at the ADDA, Ndapile understands firsthand how innovative drone technologies can efficiently map roads, waterways and infrastructure, deliver medical supplies to rural communities, and facilitate advancements in agriculture. Now, she’s inspiring the next generation of innovators to find creative ways to use drones and geospatial technologies to better their lives and those around them. In doing so, she’s equipping young people with the skills they need to build a more sustainable and innovative future for generations.