Droneport will enable drone deliveries of urgent supplies in Rwanda

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The Droneport is slated to begin as a pilot project in 2016(Credit: Foster + Partners)

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Foster + Partners has drawn upon its considerable experience designing airports to conceive a Droneport for Rwanda. Gimmicky-sounding name notwithstanding, the ambitious project could save lives if successful. Working alongside École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne, and Afrotech, among others, the aim is for delivery drones to fly out from the hub and travel up to 100 km (62 miles) to take medical and other urgent supplies to where they're needed.

Paved roads and other infrastructure aren't always available in rural areas of Africa, making it very difficult to quickly deliver medical supplies to those who need them most. Foster + Partners, along with its collaborators, aims to overcome this issue with two parallel drone delivery networks, the Red Line and Blue Line.

The Red Line will operate smaller drones for medical and emergency supplies, while the larger-capacity Blue Line drones are planned for electronics and e-commerce, hopefully subsidizing the Red Line network. Though the idea sounds rather blue-sky, we already know that Amazon, Flirtey, GeoPost, Google and others have all been looking into delivery by drone, so perhaps it's possible.

The Droneport will offer the remote aircraft a safe place to take off and land, and serve as a manufacturing center for the drones themselves. It will also include a health clinic, digital fabrication shop, post and courier room, and an e-commerce trading hub. All of which are intended to help generate local employment.

The building's design comprises a vaulted brick structure that can be expanded to form new spaces as required. Only the basic formwork and machinery will be delivered to the site, and local raw materials like clay bricks and boulders will be used to complete the construction by local workers.

Foster + Partners made scant technical details concerning the drones themselves available, but says they would initially sport a wingspan of 3 m (10 ft), have the capacity to carry a payload of up to 10 kg (22 lb) and deliver to an area of 100 km (62 miles). If this wasn't ambitious enough, the plan is to increase to a 6 m (20 ft) wingspan and maximum payload capacity of 100 kg (220 lb) by 2025.

The project is slated to begin as a pilot phase in 2016. All being well, Foster + Partners will then construct three Droneports by 2020. The firm reckons that up to 44 percent of Rwanda would be covered by the delivery network.

More distant plans include the possibility of creating over 40 Droneports across the country in the future, and expanding into neighboring Congo.

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