Images: Foster + Partners
Norman Foster's architect firm, Foster + Partners, plans to build the planet's first drone airport in Rwanda. The idea behind the so-called "droneport" is to support cargo drones delivering medical and emergency supplies to remote areas of Africa. Since the road networks and transport infrastructure on the continent isn't sufficent to reach many villages and people, drones could be a cost effective way to resolve this.
"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 firm said in a press release. "The specialist drones can carry blood and life-saving supplies over 100 kilometers (62mi) at minimal cost, providing an affordable alternative that can complement road-based deliveries."
The Droneport hub will not only be a place where drones can land, and be manufactured, but will also inclue a health clinic, a digital fabrication shop, a mailroom, and be a place for e-commerce. Inititally the project will deploy drones with a 3-meter (10') wingspan capable of carrying a 10kg (22lb) load, but by 2025 this will also hopefully include drones with a 6-meter wingspan and 100kg loads capable of carrying electronics and spare parts.
Work on the Droneport is due to begin next year and Rwanda has been chosen for the pilot project, with potentially as many as 40 being built in the country in the future if the pilot is a success—and possibly expanding into neighboring Congo too.
The building will feature a valuted brick structure to be built by locals. It will use locally sourced materials, clay and boulders, to make the bricks and foundations—only the brick-press machinery and formwork will be brought in externally to make it more sustainable. And the vault structure means it can be extended when needed with additional vaults if the hub needs to expand.
“Africa is a continent where the gap between the population and infrastructural growth is increasing exponentially." Norman Foster said. "The dearth 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. The Droneport project is about doing ‘more with less,’ capitalizing on the recent advancements in drone technology—something that is usually associated with war and hostilities—to make an immediate life-saving impact in Africa. 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.”
Click here to learn more about Foster + Partners' droneport proposal.