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How drones helped fight fires in the Cape

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Modern drones stand to offer support in combating forest fires and disaster relief operations in and around the southern Cape coast.

In the midst of the worst wildfire to strike the southern Cape coast, South Africa in over 150 years, drones slowly started coming into play as a local firefighting and disaster management tool. Firefighters issued a call for drones equipped with heat mapping capabilities, which would allow them to identify hot spots at the greatest risk of flare-ups – a task virtually impossible for ground crews working in blinding smoke and dense undergrowth. Drones were also harnessed by civilians who filmed the devastation in Knysna and Plettenberg Bay, allowing homeowners around the country and the rest of the world to witness the destruction and confirm whether their own properties were damaged or not.

In years to come, we can expect to see unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or drones taking on an increasingly important role in firefighting and disaster management, says specialist drone firm Airborne Drones South Africa.

JJ Rebello, Foreign Government Relations Manager at Airborne Drones South Africa, says drones will not only improve the effectiveness of firefighting efforts; they will also reduce the risk to human life during firefighting operations and stand to limit damage to assets by enabling firefighters to work proactively, rather than reactively.

“Commercial drones can withstand temperature extremes from below 5 degrees Centigrade, up to 50 degrees Centigrade, and they can be flown to an altitude of 4500 metres, making it possible for firefighters to deploy drones over areas where fires are active. With the use of advanced thermal imaging cameras transmitting data to command centres, they can identify people or animals, even where visibility is limited by darkness, smoke or vegetation, so allowing emergency teams to pinpoint exactly where assistance is needed. Thermal imaging cameras also support proactive firefighting measures, by mapping hotspots where flare-ups could occur.”

Rebello notes that in the security industry, it is estimated that a drone can take the place of 12 foot soldiers. “The same might apply in disaster management,” he says. “Sending in technology reduces risk to human life and allows resources to be deployed only where assistance is needed.”

Drones equipped with Light Detection and Ranging (Lidar) technology support the three-dimensional modelling of forest structures and surface topography, which allows for the development of fire behaviour models, fuel maps and prescribed burn plans. Drones are already being harnessed internationally to monitor and improve planned burns and provide real-time maps of fire progress.

For insurance purposes, drones also offer access to structures that are cut off from road traffic or too high to allow easy access, so supporting claims investigations and processing after disasters.  Drone mapping allows insurance firms to rapidly document the scene without intruding on clean-up operations or exposing investigators to potentially hazardous materials; as well as providing data on risk factors associated with the damage.

“Drone technology is proving increasingly important in supporting pre-emptive approaches to fire and natural disaster risk management, as well as for disaster relief support,” says Rebello.

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Showmax launches half-price mobile streaming service

A new streaming product designed specifically for Africa, featuring TV series as well as African content and live sport, is aimed at filling the gap in subscription video on demand services

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The subscription video on demand (SVoD) model, which originated in the USA, spread rapidly in countries where uncapped broadband is affordable and widely available. However, because the model also relies on consumers being comfortable with transacting online and having ready access to credit cards, it has barely scratched the surface across Africa.

On top of that, smartphones are often the only only form of Internet access across Africa, and none of the popular SVoD services have been designed for the format.

Showmax says it plans to change this with the launch of a new mobile plan that costs 50% of the standard Showmax package but still features 100% of the same video content. Showmax is set apart by a combination of four pillars: hit African content, exclusive international series, topkids’ shows, and live sport, including weekly matches from the English Premier League, Italy’s Serie A, and Spain’s La Liga.

Showmax says the new plan is aimed at consumers who only use smartphones and tablets to watch video content. Video resolution peaks at standard definition to help reduce data consumption. As it is a product aimed at individuals, only one concurrent stream is included in the plan. As with the regular service, it is also available for a 14-day free trial.

“This is all about an African service developing a solution that meets the needs of African consumers,” saus Niclas Ekdahl, CEO of the Connected Video division of MultiChoice. “Customer feedback consistently points to local content and sport as some of the things that people value most from Showmax. That’s of course on top of the international series, movies, and kids’ shows that are our bread and butter. With all of that content now available in a product designed specifically for mobile usage, we’re doing something no other service can offer.

“On top of that, with groundbreaking deals like our new offer with Vodacom in South Africa, we solve the credit card issue through add-to-bill payment and the data issue by including data directly in the package. We’re looking to launch similar offers in Kenya and Nigeria soon.”

Both the standard and mobile plans include live sport, sport magazine shows and sport documentaries. The 2019 Rugby World Cup Final was streamed live on Showmax earlier this month, and the following is a selection of some of the football due to be live-streamed in November:

22 November: Levante vs Mallorca (La Liga)

23 November: Arsenal vs Southampton (Premier League)

24 November: Bologna vs Parma (Serie A)

25 November: Aston Villa vs Newcastle United (Premier League)

29 November: Celta Vigo vs Valladolid (La Liga)

30 November: Fiorentina vs Lecce (Serie A)

30 November: Chelsea vs West Ham United (Premier League)

Showmax’s mobile plan is currently available in Nigeria, Kenya, and South Africa. 

Comparison of Showmax plans:

Mobile Standard
Price per monthR49 / N1450 / KSh 375R99 / N2900 / KSh 750
Watch on smartphone or tabletYesYes
Watch on smart TV and computerNoYes
HD streamingNoYes
TV series, movies, kids’ showsYesYes
SportYesYes
Concurrent streams12
Cancel anytimeYesYes
14-day free trialYesYes
Chromecast and AirPlayNoYes
Number of devicesOne registered device5 devices can be registered, with 2 able to stream at the same time

For a 14-day free trial, visit www.showmax.com

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Online series wins SA’s Journalist of the Year award

A series of stories on gang warfare in Hanover Park earned Tammy Petersen of News24 the ultimate prize in South African journalism. Here are all the winners of the Vodacom Journalist of the Year awards.

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At the 18th edition of the Vodacom Journalist of the Year Awards held at Vodacom World earlier tonight, News24’s Tammy Petersen took top honours and the R100,000 grand prize as national winner for her body of work on a gang war series entitled When you live in Hanover Park, you know death. Petersen’s submission was one of over 1,000 entries received from around the country across 12 categories – Investigative, Opinion, Lifestyle, Photography, Sport, Economics, Politics, CSI, Live reporting/ breaking news, Data Journalism, Multi-platform and the Young Journalist of the Year Award. This year’s theme – Connect the Dots – pays tribute to the best-of-the-best of those entries.

Takalani Netshitenzhe, Chief Officer for Corporate Affairs at Vodacom Group says: “This year has seen extraordinary entries to the 18th Vodacom Journalist of the Year Awards. Not all the stories that are national winners were about huge events but also showed the importance of telling the stories of ordinary people. In line with our theme, the dots were indeed connected, and we congratulate all the winners.”

Convenor of the judging panel Ryland Fisher says: “The quality of entries has convinced the judges once again that our industry is in good hands, as far as journalism is concerned, despite the many problems that have beset the industry in recent times. Judging from the entries, South African journalists are determined to fly the flag high for a free, independent, and vigorous media, which augurs well for our democracy. As judges, we can only salute all the entrants for the great work that they submitted. In the end, our industry is probably the biggest winner.”

Judges for this year’s awards are: Ryland Fisher (convenor), Jermaine Craig, Arthur Goldstuck, Albe Grobbelaar, Franz Kruger, Patricia McCracken, Mapi Mhlangu, Collin Nxumalo, Mary Papayya, and Obed Zilwa.

Visit the next page for the full list of winners and their citations.

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