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Norman Foster proposes African Droneport to save lives and build economies

Who needs roads when you can fly? Norman Foster's latest project aims to support cargo drone routes that could deliver "urgent and precious supplies to remote areas on a massive scale." The scheme has significant potential in some of the barren heartland areas of Africa which are severely lacking in infrastructure, something that has proven a hindrance to the health and socio-economic well being of the region. Utilizing drones in such a way could change all that by connecting stranded communities and bringing valuable resources which are desperately needed. Unlike cars or trains, drones can easily (and cheaply) bypass the need to traverse across mountains, rivers, and lakes. Medical supplies are the main priority for Foster. He has teamed up with Afrotech, École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL); and the Norman Foster Foundation. Drones here have the potential to disperse a variety of life-saving packages within a range of over 60 miles. This would work by using two drone networks called the Redline and the Blueline. The Redline would carry smaller packages and would primarily be for emergency medical supplies. The Blueline would be more commercial and would be able to carry "larger payloads such as spare parts, electronics, and e-commerce." A drone port would be a new typology for Foster + Partners, adding to its growing list of aviation-based buildings that includes various airports and "lunar building studies conducted in association with the European Space Agency." The firm aims for the project's design to be very simplistic and able to be assembled by locals. The port could also be a manufacturing site for drones which would potentially give locals greater employment opportunities. To give some scale of the issue Foster wishes to address, currently "just a third of Africans live within two kilometers of an all-season road." With this in mind, Africa's population is set to double by 2050 and so a solution such as this will be necessary to cater for the growing demand of Africa's people. Africa is a continent where the gap between the population and infrastructural growth is increasing exponentially," Foster said in a statement. "The dearth of terrestrial infrastructure has a direct impact on the ability to deliver life-giving supplies, indeed where something as basic as blood is not always available for timely treatment." With a pilot project set to be built by 2020 in Rwanda, "a country whose physical and social geography poses multiple challenges," the drone service hopes to send supplies to "44% of Rwanda." "Rwanda’s challenging geographical and social landscape makes it an ideal test-bed for the Droneport project," Foster said in a statement. "This project can have massive impact through the century and save lives immediately.”