UNICEF Looks to Fund Drone Start-ups with Potential to Benefit Humanity

A drone operated by Chief Air Traffic Controller Steve Mkandawire, one of five Civil Aviation certified pilots, takes off during a demonstration for residents in Thipa Village, Kasungu District, Malawi in 2017. Photo: UNICEF

The UNICEF Innovation Fund is looking to make up to $100,000 equity-free investments to provide early stage (seed) finance to for-profit technology start-ups that have the potential to benefit humanity through the use of drones.

If you’ve got a start-up registered in one of UNICEF’s programme countries and have a working, open-source drone prototype or service (or you are willing to make it open-source) showing promising results, the UNICEF Innovation Fund is looking for you. The submissions deadline is on 11:59 PM EDT July 22, 2018.

Click here for details on how to apply for funding for your tech start-up.

Beyond Seed Investment, Selected start-ups Can Use UNICEF Drone Corridor: Get exclusive access to UNICEF’s 6,500 m2 drone corridor with 500 meters above ground level located around Kasungu, Malawi. Access to the UNICEF Drone corridor in Malawi provides the physical space for testing solutions. Data from peer companies testing in the three drone  corridors where UNICEF is present will be made available.

UNICEF is currently looking to invest in a group of companies developing drone solutions. Examples of these include, but are not limited to:

1) Software to collect, share and analyze data from UAVs (for low-connectivity areas)

  • Remote transfer or processing of visual data over low bandwidth networks
  • AI / Machine learning / Deep learning algorithms for feature detection and counting
  • Data management portal/stakeholder access protocol management

**Of particular interest software applications that work in low-connectivity areas

2) Software to manage flight and delivery operations

  • Manage supply chain payments and quality of assets for sensitive products
  • Load, delivery or flight navigation optimization
  • Digital management of delivery execution
  • Feature detection to land or drop deliveries autonomously on landing pads

3) Business models and sustainable drone services in emerging markets

  • Develop new services through the use of existing third-party drones for transport, image capturing and analysis (e.g. to support health care, crop disease detection, risk  mapping, search and rescue, disaster preparedness, etc.)
  • Explore ways to combine existing services into multi-role service applications

4) Air Safety, risk management tools and Unmanned Traffic Management (UTM) Systems

  • Simulation or predictive tools for managing altitude, navigation deconfliction, schedules, routings, or fleet management
  • Use case specific risk assessment tools (integratable with ICAO, EASA, NASA or other internationally recognized frameworks in development)
  • APP for field operations and decision-making process management
  • Machine-to-machine / V2V anti-collision software, neural networks

UNICEF is interested in companies that are working with easily replicable business solutions that can take advantage of the platforms the organization has in place.

How to Apply
General eligibility criteria:

  • You must be registered as aprivate company in a UNICEF programme country;
  • You are working on open source technology solutions or willing to be open-source under the following licenses or their equivalent: BSD (software), CERN (hardware), or CC-BY (content);
  • You have an existing prototype of the solution with promising results from initial pilots;
  • Your solution has the potential to positively impact the lives of children.

If your company and project meet the eligibility criteria and is aligned with the tech use cases outlined above, visit the UNICEF site to read more about the application process and submit an application.

After Submission
The submissions deadline is on 11:59 PM EDT July 22, 2018. Only shortlisted companies will be contacted and then requested to submit a more in-depth proposal.