The first ever ‘droneport’ is planning to be built in Rwanda to help support routes flown by cargo drones capable of distributing critical medical supplies.
In a presentation last month, UK architecture firm Foster + Partners, in conjunction with the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL) in Lausanne, proposed the new infrastructure to help combat diseases in a region where the local population is expected to double by 2050.
‘It would require unprecedented levels of investment in roads and railways to catch up with the exponential growth in Africa’s population,’ says Foster + Partners. ‘Cargo drone routes have utility wherever there is a lack of roads.
‘Just as mobile phones dispensed with landlines, cargo drones can transcend geographical barriers such as mountains, lakes, and unnavigable rivers without the need for large-scale physical infrastructure.’
The proposed cargo routes would see two networks operating side-by-side, one for medical supplies and the other for technical support, capable of carrying spare parts electronics and e-commerce.
The pilot project is expected to begin next year in Rwanda where three buildings, to be built by 2020, will enable the network to send supplies to almost half the country.
Initially, the project will deploy three metre wingspan drones, capable of carrying a payload of 10 kg. By 2025, there will be drones with a six metre wingspan, capable of carrying payloads of 100 kg.
‘Africa is a continent where the gap between the population and infrastructural growth is increasing exponentially,’ says Lord Norman Foster, chairman and founder of Foster + Partners.
‘Rwanda’s challenging geographical and social landscape makes it an ideal test-bed for the Droneport project. This project can have massive impact through the century and save lives immediately.’
There are more than 450,000 deaths due to malaria each year—a quarter of which are attributed to a lack of blood available for treatment.