Vaulted brick “droneports” are planned for erection by dispersed communities using locally available materials. Only the curved frameworks and brick-making equipment would need importing.
Three landing-site buildings are planned for Rwanda by 2020 in a pilot program starting next year, co-sponsored by the Foster Foundation and Switzerland-based Afrotech, at the École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne.
Initially, the project is planned to deploy drones with 3-meter wingspans. Each would be capable of carrying a payload of 10 kilograms over a distance of 50 kilometers. Wingspans are set to double in size by 2025, raising the payload to 100 kg and also doubling the range.
Drone use is sure to proliferate, and Foster’s building kit aims to create landing sites “engineered to be tough and cheap enough to serve poorer communities,” according to Jonathan Ledgard, founder of Afrotech’s proposed Redline emergency cargo-drone network for remote locations.
In Africa, “the dearth of terrestrial infrastructure has a direct impact on the ability to deliver life-giving supplies,” notes Norman Foster, the design firm’s chairman. “The droneport project is about doing more with less, capitalizing on the recent advancements in drone technology … to make an immediate life-saving impact in Africa.”