Drones in­stead of phar­macy bikes

The Witness - Wheels - - BIKING - NICK LAVARS — Giz­mag, com

IN the last cou­ple of years, drones have emerged as a very promis­ing tool in the ef­fort to pro­tect Africa’s wildlife, and now they are set to come to the aid of the con­ti­nent’s hu­man pop­u­la­tion as well. The govern­ment of Rwanda is im­ple­ment­ing a drone de­liv­ery pro­gramme that will see fly­ing ro­bots carry med­i­cal sup­plies, such as blood bags, to ru­ral ar­eas in need.

The prospect of drone de­liv­ery has gar­nered its fair share of pub­lic­ity in de­vel­oped coun­tries, with Ama­zon and Google, along with star­tups like Flirtey all work­ing to de­ploy com­mer- cial ser­vices in spite of tight govern­ment reg­u­la­tions.

But in Africa, where paved roads and in­fra­struc­ture to move cargo by land aren’t so widely avail­able, it is a dif­fer­ent propo­si­tion al­to­gether.

Just as mo­bile phones ar­rived to con­nect the dis­jointed land­scape lack­ing in land­line in­fra­struc­ture in all kinds of new ways, some imag­ine that drones can have the same revo­lu­tion­ary im­pact.

Rwanda is al­ready plan­ning to con­struct a Droneport, as a pi­lot phase for a bolder scheme to have drones carry ur­gent sup­plies from a cen­tral hub to ru­ral ar­eas around the coun­try.

Mean­while, a non- profit called La Fon­da­tion Bundi is work­ing to es­tab­lish a net­work of drones car­ry­ing 20 kg loads around Kenya by 2020.

The lat­est ini­tia­tive sees the Rwan­dan govern­ment en­list­ing the ser­vices of an Amer­i­can ro­bot­ics com­pany called Zi­pline, with the aim of car­ry­ing blood and ur­gent med­i­cal sup­plies to ru­ral ar­eas.

It will start with the con­struc­tion of three drone ports in Muhanga District, with test flights slated to be­gin in Au­gust this year. De­tails are scarce on the tech­ni­cal ca­pa­bil­i­ties of the drones, but Zi­pline says it will be cheaper than mak­ing the same de­liv­er­ies by mo­tor­bike.

PHOTO: GIZ­MAG

The Rwan­dan govern­ment has en­list­ing the ser­vices of an Amer­i­can ro­bot­ics com­pany called Zi­pline to re­place bikes like this to de­liver ur­gent med­i­cal sup­plies to ru­ral ar­eas.

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