Khadija Abdulla Ali has gone from volunteer to “Queen of Drones” in Tanzania

Tell us about yourself and your background.

My name is Khadija Abdulla Ali and am 26 years old. I am currently an undergraduate in Information Technology and Application Management at the State University of Zanzibar, and also a drone operator volunteer for the World Bank projectthe Zanzibar Mapping Initiative (ZMI).

I was born on the Zanzibar Islands in Tanzania. Versed in computer programming and website design, I always wanted to be a digital girl with advanced technology skills. In secondary school I started my love for computer programming and in 2016 my heart was opened to work on unmanned aircrafts.

How did you get started in the drone industry?

In May 2016, Yussuf Said Yussuf, who is now the WeRobotics – Tanzania Flying Labs Coordinator, came to me and asked if I would volunteer with the Zanzibar Mapping Initiative, the goal of which is to map all of Zanzibar using UAVs. Yussuf told me they need someone smart, strong and who can give the project full energy, working at any time needed and that I was the perfect fit. He also told me the project does not have any money to pay me, but I made the decision to participate anyway.

I then started to get training from SenseFly and Drone Adventure on how to use drones, how to monitor and setup specifically eBee drones using eMotion2, and got to attend a one-week training session, going into the field for hands-on practice. I am now proudly qualified as a eBee drone operator.

Tell us about your organization and your role there.

The State University of Zanzibar (SUZA), organizes public lecture based in GIS and computer science and also builds GIS capacity for government staff. I contribute by providing technical support under the department of Computer Science and Information Technology.  

 Industry Experience:

What do you like most about being in the UAV industry?  

What I like most is learning new ideas / keeping track of new technologies / which I hope makes me a great consultant.

What’s your favorite type of project and why?

I am very gratefully to be part of the Zanzibar Mapping Initiative (ZMI) project, which has built my love of UAVs and has allowed me to become sort of the “Queen of Drone” in Tanzania, by having more than 1000 hours of flying professionally. ZMI also has given me the great opportunity to present at multiple conferences, including the SwitchPoint Conference in April of 2017 in North Carolina, USA on drone mapping and disaster relief, the ZANSEA Conference in July of 2017 in Zanzibar, Tanzania on the ZMI project, and at the Geo4Africa summit also in July of 2017 in Kampala, Uganda on UAVs in land use planning and conflict resolution. I trusted myself in what I’m doing and like other students I try to work professionally.

Do you have a success story you would like to share?

Last month I signed a contract with Uhurulabs Company to map mining areas in Northern Tanzania. The company gave me the wrong base map, but I calculated right place and start mapping, and ultimately with a lot of security and resource challenges the client was pleased with my work. This story I will never forget as long as I fly UAS, and proved to me that no one can pay for true field-experience.   

What excites you most about the potential for women in the industry?

On one side I am excited because I love technology and working with experts from the field, but on the other I am excited because I want to be a mentor to other women by motivating them that they can exist and work in technology internationally.

What’s your current favorite drone to fly?

My favorite drone to fly is the Cumulus One, but I love the eBee from SenseFly as well.

What You’ve Learned:

What has been your most significant “lightbulb” moment since you entered the industry? 

My lightbulb moment was when I was chosen to volunteer for a WeRobotics project to help in disaster management using UAVs to provide information that can help in recovery from floods, disease, and earthquakes. This project involved mapping Kagera,Tanzania, which was recently affected by a large earthquake, using Cumulus One and Parrot Bebop 2 drones in October of 2016. We helped improve local community’s perspective’s on using UAVs for humanitarian good. I also supported humanitarian drone training for other organizations around the world, including motorized drones and fixed wings drones (such as the eBee+), in July of 2016.  

What have you learned you wish you had known when you got started?   

I know now how to make profit and my value in the field, which I wished I knew when I spent all that time volunteering.    

Is there a tip you learned you would like to share with other women in the industry?

I learned to believe I in myself and work professionally, never scared to show the world what I can do to solve problems as a woman in technology.


What’s the best way for W&D readers to connect with you?
Name: Khadija Abdulla Ali
Skype: Khastylez
Twitter: khastylez1
WhatsApp: +255 773 379598

The Final Word:

Is there anything else you would like to share with the Women and Drones Community?

Most women feel scared to learn or participate in activities that make men lose confidence to them. It’s time for women to open their minds and accept reality, because you can’t fight without understanding reality.