Archipe grabbed the combination of sleek white plastic and wires by its sides and rotated it quickly, forcing the machine into swift 360-degree turns. Then he joined the rotation, spinning himself and the machine in another four circles of the same speed. “I have to make sure that the drone knows where ‘home’ is. If there’s a problem, it will try to land here, not 2 km away,” He explained, grinning widely.
With their current location calibrated, he steadied the attached camera and set the machine on the dusty red ground. As his partner watched the screen of the live feed, Archipe took the control and encouraged the drone 500 meters up into the sky above UCBC (the Christian Bilingual University of Congo).
Archipe is UCBC’s first drone pilot and the principle researcher in the school’s Integrated Research Institute (IRI) program, “Sharing the Land.” This program uses GPS mapping technology and the drone’s aerial images to create a map of all the plots of land in the city.
“Beni doesn’t have an accurate map,” Archipe explained, “The old way of mapping here was accurate to 3 meters. With this new technology, though, ours is accurate to within 15 centimeters.” While a map of that precision would be valuable on its own, Archipe and the other members of Sharing the Land have bigger plans – the reduction of the region’s conflict.
In Beni itself, much of the city’s conflict comes from disputes over who has legal right to the land. In fact, this is the case for 85% of cases in Masiani district, where the university is located. Working with the local authorities, Archipe and his team are able to register the boundaries of all land parcels and match these with city files delineating which holdings are legally titled and which are not. This then provides efficient information to settle claims disputes, which even today often escalate quickly, resulting in the destruction of property, interpersonal violence, and murder.
Sharing the Land is one of UCBC’s many innovative programs and successes. Supported by ECI, the university now hosts the largest ratio of computers to students in the country, a growing library, and projects with IRI that focus on pioneering new connections with the surrounding community.
For the university’s Rector and founder, Dr. David Kasali, the motto “Being transformed to transform [Être Transformé Pour Transformer]” summarizes their mission. “My goal with this university is to cast a vision,” he explained, “But it does not start with UCBC, it starts with Congo. I envision a Congo that is even better than what we have lived.” And he sees the students, especially those, like Archipe – who inspire technological innovation and progressive connections to the community – as “the very agents of that change.”