Foster + Partners has unveiled plans to build what is essentially an airport for cargo drones in Rwanda. Designed as a row of vaulted brick structures, the Droneport will act as a hub for drones delivering medical supplies to remote parts of Africa where travel by road would be slow or, in some cases, impossible.
In Africa, only one third of the population live within two kilometers of a road that is functional year round. And with a population that is set to double to 2.2 billion by 2050, building what the country lacks in basic infrastructure to meet the growth would require an unprecedented amount of time and money. That’s where delivery drones come in–the project will deploy a fleet of specialist drones that can carry over 10 kg and fly over 100 kilometers at low cost, unimpeded by rough roads or geographical barriers.
The pilot project is slated to begin in 2016 in Rwanda, before expanding to other African countries. The Droneport will operate two separate services: a Redline that uses smaller drones for delivering medical and emergency supplies and a commercial Blueline that would transport larger loads like spare parts and electronics.
Drones are slowly starting to shed their reputation of being merely killing machines (or Amazon delivery fleets) thanks to the efforts of organizations like Ideo, OpenRelief using them as vehicles for disaster relief. As the humanitarian uses for drones continue to increase, a place to store, re-stock and fix up drones will become a necessity. Foster + Partners hope that their Droneport will become as ubiquitous and recognizable as gas stations.