The Norman Foster Foundation has launched a plan to build droneports in parts of Africa that are inaccessible due to the lack of infrastructural or natural barriers.
Foster-designed airports are among the world’s largest, such as Hong Kong, Beijing and the new airport for Mexico City. Norman Foster is often hailed as the inventor of the modern-day terminal-style airport with his design of London’s Stansted. And now, his new plan is to build the world’s smallest airport. For drones. The dynamic, futuristic technology of drones is still mostly associated with the military. But the endless opportunities of the speedy and compact air vehicles are quickly being discovered as their use is expanding in commercial, scientific, recreational and other applications. It is estimated that over a million civilian units were sold in 2015.
The Norman Foster Foundation’s concept is taking it to the next level by utilizing drones for humanitarian purposes. The idea is that drones can deliver and exchange basic essentials like medicines, food, or tools in places that are hard to reach. The plan is aiming to kick off in Rwanda, but the eventual ambition is that every small town in Africa, and other developing economies, will have their own droneport by the year 2030. Rwanda’s central location in Africa will allow for easy expansion to neighboring countries, and the country’s challenging social and geographical landscape makes it an ideal test-bed. Using a combination of high and low technology, the modular building is designed to be made out of bricks of local material, capable of being constructed by local communities.
Africa is a continent where the gap between the population and infrastructural growth is increasing exponentially, and this issue requires immediate bold, radical solutions to address this issue, according to Foster. It would require unprecedented levels of infrastructural investment to catch up with the continent’s growth, while drones could move goods faster, cheaper and are able to transcend geographical barriers such as mountains and lakes. For this reason, the utilization of drones is viewed as an important factor in Africa’s development.
Other than the capability of being constructed by local communities, the droneport could incorporate a health clinic, a digital fabrication shop, a post and courier room, and an e-commerce trading hub, allowing it to become an integral part of local community life.