Droneport proposed to be constructed in Rwanda

An artist's impression of the Droneport planned to be built in Rwanda. Image courtesy of Foster + Partners.
An artist's impression of the Droneport planned to be built in Rwanda. Image courtesy of Foster + Partners.

A new proposal is calling for the construction of a pilot drone-based delivery system in Rwanda.

The proposal, outlined last month by British architect Lord Norman Foster lays out a series of ‘Droneports’ used to facilitate the rapid transport of critical supplies.

While drone delivery systems are being tested in the developed world, Foster sees a large amount of potential for this technology in underdeveloped African locations.

“The dearth of terrestrial infrastructure [in Africa] has a direct impact on the ability to deliver life-giving supplies. We require immediate bold, radical solutions to address this issue,” said Lord Foster, chairman and founder of Foster + Partners

“The Droneport project is about doing ‘more with less’, capitalizing on the recent advancements in drone technology to make an immediate life-saving impact in Africa.”

Primarily, he sees that drones could be used to leapfrog the development of road-based delivery infrastructure. Currently in Africa, just a third of the population lives within 2 km of an all-season roadway.

This system of drone delivery was developed by architecture firm Foster + Partners in cooperation with the Afrotech initiative of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne.

While with current technology, drones cannot carry large payloads, they can nonetheless deliver critical medical supplies to remote locations in time to save lives.

“Specialist drones can carry blood and life-saving supplies over 100 kilometers at minimal cost, providing an affordable alternative that can complement road-based deliveries,” Foster + Partners explains.

The pilot project has been planned to begin in Rwanda in 2016, as a prototype for a greater expansion across the continent.

Rwanda was chosen as a location due to its mountainous terrain which has served as a barrier to the construction of a comprehensive road network.

All up, three ‘Droneports’ are planned in the Rwandan pilot from which deliveries will be able to reach locations in up to 44% of the country.

The Droneports themselves will be modular structures designed based on Foster + Partners’ earlier experience designing airports and future lunar structures for the European Space Agency.

Initially, the project plans to deploy 3m wingspan drones called the ‘Redline’, capable of carrying a medical payload of 10kg.

By 2025, they are planning for the integration of drones with a 6m wingspan called ‘Blueline’, which will be capable of carrying more diversified payloads of up to 100kg.