Rwanda is gearing up to build the world’s first airport for drones in 2016. The Rwanda Civil Aviation Authority recently announced that it is drafting regulations on unmanned aerial vehicles to be submitted to the government’s cabinet. Efforts are being made to have the regulations in place by 2016, when a pilot project for cargo drones is set to break ground.
The East African landlocked country, nicknamed the “land of a thousand hills,” is known for its transportation difficulties. That’s part of the reason why Foster + Partners, an architectural firm, proposed plans for a three-building “drone port” for aircraft carrying emergency medical supplies to rural areas.
Norman Foster, Chairman and Founder of Foster + Partners, said “the shortage of terrestrial infrastructure has a direct impact on the ability to deliver life-giving supplies, indeed where something as basic as blood is not always available for timely treatment. We require immediate bold, radical solutions to address this issue.”
Collaborating with Foster + Partners are Redline partners led by Afrotech, École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL); and the Norman Foster Foundation.
There are two types of drones being developed to use the ports; RedLine and BlueLine; making half the country accessible by these couriers.
The Redline will have 3-meter wingspans, carry 10 kg (22 lb) payloads and have a range about 50 km (about 31 miles), designed to medical and emergency supplies.
The commercial Blueline would transport crucial larger payloads such as spare parts, electronics, and e-commerce, complementing and subsidizing the Redline operations. These would have 6-meter wingspans, carry 100 kg (220 lb) payloads and double the range of the RedLine.
Adjacent to the drone port will be a health clinic, a center for making more drones, and a kind of post office. According to the proposal, if the pilot project takes off, 40 other drone ports could be built across the country and perhaps elsewhere in the region.
Unlike Rwanda’s tech-friendly policies, peers such as South Africa and Kenya have installed strict regulations on the use of drones.
Rwanda which was gripped by genocide in 1994 is using technology to turnaround the country’s economy which was brought to a standstill.