The future of logistics on the horizon
The concept of using drones for commercial deliveries has gained traction over the last few years, and is increasingly on the way to becoming a reality. As Liquid Telecom’s AfriCAN Insight reports, the continent is set for the construction of the world’s first droneport, located in Rwanda.
The ambitious Red Line droneport project began in September 2015 and is expected to open during 2017. It is the result of collaboration between architecture firm Foster + Partners and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, and its linked Afrotech initiative.
The project will eventually see a network of drones help deliver medical and emergency supplies as well as commercial products across the country.
According to Jonathan Ledgard, director of Afrotech-EPFL and founder of Red Line, two different types of commercial cargo drones will be used to transfer medium-sized payloads between secondary towns in Africa, or to deliver goods such as medical emergency products.
“In the next five to seven years, I expect very large retailers to start using delivery drones on a massive scale to serve African towns,” Ledgard says.
“Roads, railways and other transport links will still be needed, but I do think carrier drones will be a useful supplemental transportation system for higher-value, lighter-weight products,” he adds.
The idea is for the droneports to be sustainably built and civic in nature. Droneports will have a digital fabrication lab for repairing drones, a secure operational area and a post office area, where people can come to collect and drop off packages and items.
There are plans to build another three or four droneports within five years.
“In Rwanda, we have the president, military and civil aviation authority all supporting our project. We are confident that within three years we can help establish a regulatory framework, which is safe, secure and will allow drone technology to scale on the middle mile,” says Ledgard.
“I don’t buy into this vision of delivery drones serving the last mile in Africa, except for emergency use. There is huge unemployment across Africa. Why would you need a drone to deliver on the last mile when a person on a bike can earn money doing it?” he adds.
Read the full report here.