LIFE-SAVING TECHNOLOGY IN MY HANDS

...I operate drones that save lives

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“Ever since I was young, I dreamt of flying planes. Today, it’s even better than I imagined because I operate drones that save lives,” says Ange, a 26-year-old who flies the small aircraft that transports blood to remote hospitals across Rwanda. Technology has always fascinated Ange, and she grew up wanting to use her skills to help people.

Ange works at the Zipline drone port in Muhanga District where we met her to learn more about her work. As one of the first female drone operators in Rwanda, Ange shared her journey and passion to use technology for good.

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Why did you decide to study technology?

When I was young, I was curious about how technology functioned. I loved watching planes, and how they fly in the sky without visible support. It made me curious. I also loved watching television and asked myself how people could fit inside such a small device. I even thought about taking it apart to find out! My uncle, who had studied technology, explained how these amazing things work. My enthusiasm for technology grew and I decided to pursue it. In high school, I studied electronics and telecommunications. At university, I continued with telecommunications which enabled me to learn even more about the field.

What made you pursue technology to the point where you are today?

I grew up wanting to become a pilot but later realised there are lots of other good options in the field I was interested in. Helping people has always been close to my heart. I was inspired to take care of people after my brother’s IV fluids ran out at the hospital and his blood flowed back into the IV tube. I knew I had it in me to come up with a solution.

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How did you try to solve that problem?

When I was writing my university thesis, I researched a device that alerted medical professionals or patients about the level of IV fluids. My school loved the project and encouraged me to develop it after graduation.

What happened to your project after university?

I presented the project at Miss Geek Africa – a competition where girls present tech projects and the best win an award. I was among the winners and was even more motivated to search for opportunities like my contribution here at Zipline. The organisation supports Rwanda’s health sector with modern technology. Our role is to supply blood in different parts of the country using drones.

Was your journey an easy one?

Not always. Sometimes, I didn’t have the resources I needed for my project, and some people discouraged me. I chose to focus on my progress and believed in myself. Girls who achieved their dreams, such as pilot Esther and others, inspired me to keep going.

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What are your responsibilities at Zipline?

I operate the drones and set the course for them to reach their destinations. When a hospital sends us an order, I prepare a blood package and a drone to fly it there. I control the take-off using a computer and track its trajectory until it returns to the base station.

Have you reached a peak of knowledge in your field?

I am still learning. Technology is a constantly evolving field, but I use the Internet to discover new things and to develop my skills.

What message would you like to share with other Ni Nyampingas?

I would encourage Ni Nyampingas to look for opportunities that enable them to follow their dreams. It’s very helpful to do research, find mentors and study subjects that are relevant to their passion.

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