AERIAL FUTURES: Urban Planning with Drones in Africa

Through concrete examples, we will explore how advances in drone technology and aerial big data and North-South cooperation contribute to tackling the SDGs and build local capacity in science, technology, and innovation.

Event Details


June 06, 2018 from 5:00 pm to 8:00 pm America/Cambridge Bay (UTC-07:00)



photo credit: Chris Morgan/World Bank

Following a presentation at  the UN’s STI Forum 2018 in New York City, swissnex in New York will host a special event with limited public RSVPs!

By 2050 one in four people will be living in Africa, with most of the population living in urban areas. This puts Urban Planning at the centre of Africa’s rapidly expanding urbanization. In this context, civilian drones are emerging as powerful and accessible technology tools providing planners with high quality aerial data to inform their work. Drone technology can now reach unprecedented levels of precision, making aerial data collected through remote sensing increasingly useful in informing city planning and sustainable land and disaster risk management on the African continent.

African countries are poised to join the Drone Frontier. In Tanzania, authorities launched the Zanzibar Mapping Initiative (ZMI), which has successfully deployed small-scale drones to collect the data necessary to improve the planning process. Zanzibar has been mapping the whole island with a precision 25 times superior to that of Google Maps. Projects like the ZMI are well-suited to be replicated elsewhere in Africa and develop the local capacity for the use of advanced robotics technologies and meet the increasing data processing needs.

Discussions around concrete examples will highlight how advances in drone technology and aerial big data and North-South cooperation contribute to tackling the SDGs and build local capacity in science, technology and innovation.


6:00pm Doors Open
6:30pm Welcome Remarks and Presentations
7:15pm Panel Discussion and Networking Reception
9:00pm Doors Close


Mr. Juma Reli, Executive Secretary of the Zanzibar Planning Commission

Mr. Juma Reli is the Executive Secretary of the Zanzibar Planning Commission where he reports directly to the President of Zanzibar Mr. Ali Mohamed Shein. Prior to this role, Mr. Juma Reli served as the Deputy Governor of the Bank of Tanzania. Mr. Juma Reli holds an MBA in international business from the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom.

Ms. Khadija Abdulla Ali, UAV Pilot at Uhurulabs, GIS Officer at the State University of Zanzibar

Ms. Khadija Abdulla Ali is a drone pilot for the Zanzibar Mapping Initiative, Uhurulabs, and Wingcopter. She was trained by senseFly and Drone Adventures and has worked with WeRobotics and the World Bank on several drone projects, specializing in geo-tagging, large scale aerial mapping, and 3D modelling. She holds a degree in Information Technology Application and Management at the State University of Zanzibar where she also serves as a GIS Officer.

Dr. Manu Lubrano, Founder of Drone Adventures and CEO and Co-Founder of INVOLI

Dr. Manu Lubrano is founder of the NGO Drone Adventures, CEO and Co-founder or the company INVOLI and former Head of Industrialization at Swiss drone manufacturer senseFly. Manu is in the drone industry since 2012. He is an experienced entrepreneur with a Ph.D. in Manufacturing Systems and Robotics from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL) and he is particularly skilled in Computer Science, Robotics, Industrialization and start-ups.

Mr. Stephen Mather, GIS Manager at Cleveland Metroparks and Founder of OpenDroneMap

Stephen has been working in GIS, Planning, and related fields since 1998, working for the last 9 years as the GIS Manager for Cleveland Metroparks. He has been interested in the application of computer vision to geospatial analyses since 2004, and has recently initiated the OpenDroneMap project, a toolkit offering a suite of open source computer vision software for use with UAS (drone) and street level images. Additionally, Stephen works with the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo and Karisoke Research Center (Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International) to research mountain gorillas in Rwanda. Stephen is also coauthor of the PostGIS Cookbook and blogs all his geospatial and ecological whims at


Dr. Mark Iliffe, Geographer at the Global Geospatial Information Management, United Nations

Mark Iliffe is a Geographer working at the Global Geospatial Information Management Secretariat, Statistics Division, United Nations. Mark works at the intersection of Mapping, Policy, and International Development. Previously, he was the Senior Geospatial Specialist at the World Bank, Tanzania Country Office where he initiated and managed Ramani Huria and the Zanzibar Mapping Initiative, as well as other mapping and urbanisation projects in East Africa. Mark holds a PhD in Geography from the University of Nottingham.