In their latest project, Foster + Partners switches gears from large-scale airports to something much smaller and unexpected: drones. The international design studio unveiled plans for the Droneport, a transit hub to support unmanned flying vehicles in the delivery of emergency supplies to remote areas in East Africa. Foster + Partners developed the Droneport proposal in collaboration with Afrotech, and has plans to complete the initial three buildings by 2020.
Hundreds of thousands of Africans die every year from malaria and sickle cell disease due to a lack of access to medical supplies and aid. Poor transportation infrastructure poses one of the biggest obstacles to aid distribution. Many Africans live in remote areas and only a third of the population live within two kilometers of an all-season road. However, cargo drone routes can surmount these challenges by navigating airspace, rather than the ground, and can carry blood and life-saving supplies over a 100-kilometer distance at minimal cost.
The project will run on two parallel networks: a Redline that uses smaller drones for medical and emergency supplies; and the commercial Blueline to transport larger payloads, such as spare parts, electronics, and e-commerce. The Blueline proceeds would help subsidize the Redline network. The project will initially deploy 3-meter wingspan drones capable of carrying payloads of 10 kilograms. Drones with 6-meter wingspans, capable of carrying payloads of 100 kilograms, will be deployed by 2025.
Created with a minimal ground footprint, the Droneport’s modular vaulted building will be made from local materials like brick and boulders and is designed so that multiple vaults can be joined together for easy expansion. The pilot project is located in Rwanda and will begin in 2016. Once the three initial buildings are completed in 2020, the system will be able to send supplies to 44 percent of Rwanda. Foster + Partners hopes to see the growth of Droneports across Africa to service and save thousands more lives.
“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.”
Images via Foster + Partners