In their most recent project, Foster + Partners has unveiled plans to develop a ‘Droneport’: a transit hub that will be used to support unmanned flying vehicles in their mission to deliver urgent medical supplies to remote parts of East Africa.
With a poor transportation infrastructure, lack of aid results in hundreds of thousands of Africans dying every year from malaria and sickle cell disease.
Cargo drones can easily overcome these challenges by flying directly to a destination, rather than using the ground, and they are equipped to carry blood and life-saving supplies across a 62 mile (100 km) range at a very low cost.
Foster + Partners have partnered with Afrotech, a technology company, to develop the Droneport project, and the pilot phase is estimated to be ready for launch in Rwanda by 2020.
The Droneport itself will be a modular vaulted building designed to use a minimal ground footprint. Using local materials such as boulders and brick, the design also allows for easy expansion by connecting multiple vaults.
“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,” says Lord Foster, Chairman and Founder of Foster + Partners.
“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.”
With drones currently being used for things like filming and surveillance, designers and companies have been investigating ways the technology can be used for delivery services and medical aid. Both Amazon and Google are two major tech leaders who are now testing drone delivery systems.
With Africa’s population booming, it’s set to double to 2.2 billion people by 2050. The current infrastructure will need to quickly expand to deal with population growth, and there needs to be a significant leap forward.
The project plans to use two parallel networks: Redline, that will transport medical and emergency supplies using smaller drones; and the commercial Blueline, which will transport larger payloads, like spare parts, electronics, and e-commerce items.
The smaller drones will have a 3-meter wingspan and can carry a payload of 22 lbs. The larger drones will have 6-meter wingspans and will be capable of carrying payloads of 220 lbs. The larger drones will be ready for deployment by 2025.
“Africa is a continent where the gap between the population and infrastructural growth is increasing exponentially,” said Norman Foster.
“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,” he added.
“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.”
Work is set to begin on the project in 2016, with a completion year of 2020.
The Droneport itself will consist of a medical centre, post and courier rooms, as well as an e-commerce trading hub and a drone manufacturer.
A Droneport building prototype (above) was on display Venice Architecture Biennale this year.
Once all three buildings are completed in 2020, the system will be equipped to deliver supplies to 44 percent of Rwanda.
Foster + Partners are optimistic about the growth of Droneports throughout Africa to service and save thousands more lives.
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