Drone technology can save lives and create jobs for thousands of young people

UNICEF and QP Drones host landmark conference to incorporate drones and robotics into disaster risk management

20 October 2022
Lebo Mokoallo at work, piloting a drone.

PRETORIA, 20 October 2022 – With humanitarian disasters wreaking havoc across the globe and rampant youth unemployment a reality in South Africa, scaling up disaster and emergency preparedness drone technology in the country will not only aid children and young people whose lives are severely impacted by crises, but also provide learning and employment opportunities for thousands of young people in South Africa.

Drones and the use of other technology, such as robotics, in disaster response can and are saving lives around the globe. From search and rescue drones in Kazakhstan to vaccine deliveries in Vanuatu, the sky is truly the limit in the application of drone technology in emergency preparedness and disaster management.

In a two day conference – Incorporating Drones and Robotics into Disaster Management and Humanitarian Aid – hosted by UNICEF South Africa and QP Drones in Cape Town over 20 & 21 October, leading minds and policy makers across government, tech industries, academia, humanitarian agencies and the private sector gathered to chart the way forward for drone technology in South Africa and the wider continent in supporting the most vulnerable children and people who are at risk of – or already affected by – disasters.  


“South Africa, with its strong human resources capacity, connectivity and leading role on the global stage, can also add significant value by deploying drone technology in disaster preparedness and response.”  

Muriel Mafico, UNICEF South Africa deputy representative

Delivering an opening address, UNICEF South Africa deputy representative Muriel Mafico remarked, “Disasters and humanitarian crises are unfortunately increasing in frequency and scale – and South Africa is not exempt. The COVID-19 pandemic, unrest across KZN and Gauteng in July 2021 and the flooding to also hit KZN this year are all reminders– if any were needed – why disaster risk management, including preparedness, is so important.”

From quicker transportation, more effective supply chains, deliveries of emergency medical supplies, impact assessments and the communication of vital information, drone technology can be at the forefront of enabling a more targeted and effective response that contributes to improving anticipatory action, rapid lifesaving work and monitoring capacities to inform impact and future responses.  

In South Africa, a country with an abundance of young creative and tech savvy minds, the power of technology to support disaster risk management through rapid risk assessments, identifying priority areas of need, and informing emergency preparedness work can be harnessed.  

“South Africa, with its strong human resources capacity, connectivity and leading role on the global stage, can also add significant value by deploying drone technology in disaster preparedness and response”, said Mafico.  

Drone technology requires pilots, engineers and technicians and is already providing skills development opportunities for youth in South Africa.

“Working with QP Drone Tech, UNICEF South Africa is already upskilling and supporting employment opportunities for young women in the Alexandra township of Johannesburg”, said Mafico before adding, “this is being achieved through training and certification of young women as drone pilots. The programme will be scaled up in the coming months to enable more girls to access this opportunity and in turn to improve their skills for employability across the science, technology, engineering and maths fields.”

Unemployed youth – especially adolescent girls – are now being trained on how to use drones and other tech in emergency response work. Exploring the next frontier in the use of drones and tech disaster risk management provides the potential to create thousands of jobs.

Speakers at the conference include Deputy Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Ms Thembisile Nkadimeng, City of Cape Town Mayoral Committee Member, Mr JP Smith, and UK Consul General, Mr Ben Boddy, who added their support for expanding drone technology in emergency response and preparedness in South Africa.

Notes to Editors:  

The final day of the Incorporating Drones and Robotics into Disaster Management and Humanitarian Aid conference will be held on 21 October 2022 in Cape Town. UNICEF’s work to expand the use of drones in humanitarian and emergency contexts has already seen, together with the Government of Malawi, the establishment of the African Drone and Data Academy in Malawi in 2016. This is testament to UNICEF’s commitment to maximize the latest technology to save and improve children’s and young people’s lives. Visit UNICEF Innovation for more on how drone technology is supporting the most vulnerable children.


Media contacts

Daniel Hartford
Risk Communication and Community Engagement & Communication
UNICEF South Africa
Tel: +27 78 828 7371
Toby Fricker
Chief of Communication & Partnerships
UNICEF South Africa
Tel: +27 61 418 7486


UNICEF works in some of the world’s toughest places, to reach the world’s most disadvantaged children. Across more than 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, to build a better world for everyone.

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