You may consider the idea of Rwanda becoming a tech industry leader somewhat of an odd concept, but boy have they been proving us all wrong. What is now considered the first commercial drone delivery service has begun, and is dropping off more than groceries.
Using catapult based fixed wing drones that monitor satellite signals to provide directions, these drones are able to drop off packages without landing. As Rwanda is filled with rocky and mountainous terrain, traditional delivery methods are complicated and slow.
The drones can go pretty far without a refuel, around 150km, and fly below the range of passenger planes to prevent any collisions. GPS tracking and constant feedback to Rwandan air traffic control centers ensures the drones keep on the path.
This exciting development is all thanks to US startup Zipline, created by experienced engineers who previously staffed at Space X, Lockheed Martin and more.
The use of fixed wing drones reduces the risk of harm for the public and recipients. However, the general public holds some concerns as indicated by a local worker interviewed by the BBC:
“Whether we like it or not, UAVs are confused with weaponised drones and are perceived by the general public as related to military operations and/or intelligence gathering,”
“In countries and contexts with conflict environment, it is illusory to imagine that the general public, authorities and the armed actors will make a distinction between good ‘humanitarian/civilian’ drones and bad ‘military’ drones.”
The first duty for the drones is the delivery of medical goods, such as blood, coagulants and plasma, in an effort to increase the productivity of medical centers.
In Africa the use of drones has been viewed skeptically by local authorities, who feel their use could be a threat to national security and public privacy.
However this hasn’t stopped Rwandan authorities from backing the project, and showing a great deal of faith in this as of yet untested program.