There’s a fast-rising tech company that is building high-tech drones from start to finish in their own backyard and there’s a certain 26-year-old that is making all of it happen.
And interestingly, the said individual cannot exactly tether his expertise and the success he has so far achieved to some sort of deep-rooted background in IT and Robotics.
That individual is William Elong who calls the shots at Will & Brothers; a company he founded in his home country, Cameroon, back in 2014 and dragged by the bootstraps to its current position as one of the continent’s foremost, indigenous drone-producing company.
Will & Brothers prides itself as a pioneer in Africa’s nascent drone-making segment. Through its flagship project, DroneAfrica, the startup is known to churn out a number of smart technology-driven Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) from its sixth-floor workshop in downtown Douala, just a couple of minutes away from the Atlantic seafront that is a key feature of Cameroon’s economic capital.
The young Cameroonian tech entrepreneur, who has already masterminded something of a coup by pulling off the unlikely feat that is turning out the first “Made-in-Cameroon” drones, has always been something of a prodigious talent.
Having obtained a Bachelors degree in Sales Management from HEC Yaounde back in 2011 at only 15 years of age, he traveled to France for his MBA in 2012 – becoming the youngest graduate of Strategy and Economic Intelligence at the School of Economic Warfare in Paris.
What followed was stints at several high-profile organisations in France including UNICEF, Oracle, and Nexter, where he fulfilled a number of roles and served in different capacities before making the move back to his homeland.
In April 2014, William Elong set up Will & Brothers Consulting. The company was initially set up as an IT innovation & business consulting service for clients around the world.
The business set out to help African investors, startups, and governments to understand the value and the power of information technology. And it appears to still be doing so, albeit, in a more sophisticated fashion.
Not long after setting up the company, William Elong identified bigger fish to fry in drone technology and basically threw himself at it. With William’s western connections, the startup managed to raise funds to the tune of USD 200 K to facilitate the DroneAfrica project and that money went into hiring the requisite expertise and procuring some materials.
For several years, the folks at Will & Brothers learned and unlearned, tweaked and tinkered. It was a stop-start affair interspersed with hits and misses.
But they did hit paydirt some four years after setting up shop. Early last year, the startup achieved a breakthrough in its DroneAfrica project and in February of the same year, it unveiled the first drones produced by the company in a modest ceremony that took place in Yaounde.
At the unveiling ceremony, William described DroneAfrica as “the first civilian drone service in Cameroon.” He explained that the drones have a top range of up to 20 kilometres (12 miles), while also featuring miniaturized cameras that can be remotely controlled and can capture images. This makes the drones suitable for such purposes as cartography, media coverage, and agriculture.
Besides producing drones which serve geographical and agricultural purposes, the company also produces terrestrial drones which are ideal for security surveillance – finding bombs, making out landmines, and even detecting gas leaks in mines.
A distinguishing feature of the drones are the in-built AI systems, which makes them quite adept at identifying objects and tracking different elements – and that’s because the drones can be fed information.
According to Elong, Will & Brothers’ drones have since drawn orders from clients in both West and Central Africa. The company is believed to have secured up to 50 contracts across the continent, some of which include surveillance work at the Olembe Stadium currently being constructed by the Italian firm, Piccini, and monitoring of a number agricultural projects run by CRIFAT.
In a recent conversation with Cameroon Tribune, Elong revealed that the company was particularly overwhelmed by orders it received during the final quarter of last year and some parts of the production process were subcontracted to trusted technical partners, who did their bit while upholding the DroneAfrica “Made-in-Cameroon” trademark.
As part of efforts geared towards beefing up production and expanding capacity, Will & Brothers recently announced the closing of a funding round worth approximately USD 2.2 Mn.
The funds are expected to facilitate the expansion of the DroneAfrica project which currently boasts a team of as many as 20 techies from Cameroon, Kenya, and Cote d’Ivoire on its roster.
Interestingly, the African tech entrepreneur has spread his tentacles to Europe where he is looking to replicate the success he has achieved back home. In November 2018, he established Algo Drone Holding in Essen, Germany.
Part of the recent funding secured recently from mostly western backers – with the Cameroonian government chipping in – will go into financing the research and development efforts of the new enterprise.
Going forward, the plan is to generate more funds and enter markets in the U.S. and other parts of Europe. And with William Elong steering the ship, they might just be docking at those locations pretty soon.
Featured Image Courtesy: afrohustler.com