The Lake Victoria Challenge (LVC) held in Mwanza, Tanzania is the first-ever international symposium on drones and their possibilities in Africa. The World Bank estimates the global demand for drone infrastructure to surpass USD 130 billion in the near future confirmed Bella Bird, World Bank Director for Eastern Africa. The LCV was held in Tanzania’s second largest city on the shore of Lake Victoria, where the opportunities for development that leapfrogs the need for physical infrastructure were abundant and compelling.
Sustainability – and especially sustainable construction – is at the heart of the Droneport concept that enables rapid development in rural areas of Africa where traditional means of transport are challenging, frequently time-consuming and sometimes dangerous. Durabric and other locally-produced building materials of LafargeHolcim and 14Trees are well suited to meet the demands of the infrastructure hubs for drones (Droneports) to be constructed in Eastern Africa and beyond. Architecture icon Lord Norman Foster and leading thinker on emerging economies Jonathan Ledgard initiated the Droneport project with the idea to build modular ports that would serve as a base for drones responsible for delivering cargo and medical supplies quickly and cost effectively, in particular for communities in Africa.
The hubs to receive the drones in remote areas are not single Droneports, but describe a network of focal points to be developed alongside the introduction of unmanned air-borne transportation. The hubs must include means to produce solar electric power, which is needed to charge the batteries of the drones, and could enable additional innovative approaches such as digital manufacturing labs as well as services enabling further development such as lighting, shelter, public spaces, sanitation facilities, medical care centers, repair workshops, and market spaces. The hubs are to be built with locally available materials by locally-trained artisans and have the lowest possible carbon footprint over their lifetime.
Led by Jonathan Ledgard and Aerial Futures, possible blueprints for functional, sustainable and scalable modular Droneport infrastructure hubs are being designed. The first hubs are to be built for a drone connection between Mwanza and Juma Island in Lake Victoria to coincide with the next Lake Victoria Challenge (LCV) in mid-2019. The island’s 10,000 inhabitants are currently separated from services on the mainland by a boat trip of several hours using the simple vessels available. The island’s subsistence income is generated by selling the daily fish catch to brokers who then sell to the markets in the city.
In parallel, the outcome of the working groups on drone technology, regulations, and flight control are being prepared for this symposium which will be enabled by the World Bank and supported by numerous international governmental and non-governmental organizations, and local authorities. By enabling a drone infrastructure, the lower skies are unlocked as a resource for mobility and development, and offer ample opportunities for future-driven infrastructure projects to be realized in Africa.
Lord Norman Foster will be a keynote speaker at the 6th International LafargeHolcim Forum to be held in Cairo, Egypt in April, 2019. Keynote speeches, workshop presentations, topical excursions in the vicinity of Cairo and discussion sessions in plenary or workshop groups will focus on strategies to “re-materialize” construction by reducing consumption throughout the material cycle from extraction to processing, transport, installation, maintenance, and removal – contributing to a leaner industry: one with a smaller ecological footprint and not driven by the long-standing pretense of infinitely available raw materials.