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Foster unveils plans for Rwandan ‘droneport’

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Foster + Partners has revealed plans for a new ‘droneport’ project in Africa which will support cargo drone routes delivering supplies to remote locations

The drones can be used to reach areas of Africa inaccessible by road, carrying blood and life-saving supplies over 100 kilometres ‘at minimal cost’.

Two parallel networks would operate the services: the Redline using smaller drones for medical and emergency supplies; and the commercial Blueline that would transport larger loads such as spare parts, electronics, and goods, complementing and subsidising the Redline network.

The practice hopes the ‘Droneport’ will ‘grow into a ubiquitous presence’ likening it to petrol stations.

The proposed building allows for the safe landing of drones alongside a health clinic, digital fabrication shop, post and courier room and an e-commerce trading hub.

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It will be built as a kit-of-parts where only the basic formwork and brick-press machinery is delivered to site, and the raw materials, such as clay for bricks and boulders for the foundations, are locally sourced.

The vaulted brick structure has been designed to be built by local labour and the structures can be linked together to form flexible spaces based on the demands and needs of a particular area.

The initial pilot project of three buildings will be built in Rwanda and is set to begin on site in 2016.

The buildings which are expected to complete in 2020, will enable the drone network to send supplies to 44 per cent of Rwanda.

Subsequent phrases could see more than 40 droneports across Rwanda with plans to expand to neighbouring countries.

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The project will be the first carried out by charity the Norman Foster Foundation and is a collaboration between Redline partners - led by Afrotech, École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) - the Norman Foster Foundation, and Foster + Partners.

The scheme has evolved from the AJ120 chart-topping practice’s previous work on airports and lunar buildings.

Norman Foster, chairman and founder of Foster + Partners, said: ‘Africa is a continent where the gap between the population and infrastructural growth is increasing exponentially. 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’, capitalising 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.’

Jonathan Ledgard, founder of Redline, added: ‘It is inevitable on a crowded planet, with limited resources, that we will make more intensive use of our sky using flying robots to move goods faster, cheaper, and more accurately than ever before. But it is not inevitable that these craft or their landing sites will be engineered to be tough and cheap enough to serve poorer communities who can make most use of them.

‘Droneport is an attempt to make that happen, and to improve health and economic outcomes in Africa – and beyond. We are proud to have Norman Foster – an architect with extensive personal experience of flying – as our partner on this project.’

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Readers' comments (1)

  • If Norman Foster eventually goes to Heaven, he'll get a pat on the head from Hassan Fathy.

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