President Paul Kagame has inaugurated on Friday, the first ever remotely piloted drop-off drones in a bid to make delivery of health supplies in the country much faster than it has previously been; the official launch took place place in Muhanga District.
The drones which are a product of Zipline Incorporated, an America based Robotics Company will fly automatically to specific destinations and release small packages attached to parachutes without having to land at the delivery points.
According to Zipline Inc. officials, the drones will fly below 500ft (152m) to avoid the airspace used by passenger planes. They have an operational range of 150km (93 miles) but have the capability to fly twice that distance.
They are powered by a nose-mounted battery and guide themselves using GPS location data while sending information to both their base and to Rwandan air traffic control via a cellular connection.
The introduction of the drones is expected to reduce on the waiting time in service delivery, as compared to use of motorcycles on the road.
Speaking during the launch on Friday, President Kagame said that “this use of unmanned commercial drones to transport essential medical products is a milestone for Rwanda in many respects.”
“It demonstrates the possibility of transforming business models in many industries beyond healthcare,” he added.
Kagame observed that Rwandans have learned to embrace innovation, especially when it can help solve the challenges that the country faces adding that the attitude has enabled them to overcome great odds in the last twenty-two years.
He called upon the populace to work together and support the partners in the new innovation saying that there is much that the country could achieve.
“I hope that this project will inspire more innovation and entrepreneurship in commercially viable technologies in Rwanda. We want to do faster and do it in a way Rwandans will be part of it, learn and be trained because technology becomes relevant and meaningful when it works for people & addresses challenges they face in different fields,” Kagame said.
Drones have been used for humanitarian purposes elsewhere in Africa to deliver blood and stool samples in Madagascar, and a Red Cross initiative to monitor a refugee camp in Uganda although they had not been made commercial.
The Rwandan government will pay Zipline Inc. for every delivery made.
The company says the cost per trip is roughly equivalent to that of the current delivery method, by motorcycles or ambulances.