CAPE TOWN – Drones or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) could help to overcome poor transport infrastructure, as only one-third of Africans live within 2 kilometers of an all-weather road. Making sure that the remaining two-thirds have access to decent roads will cost more than $50 billion (R736.4bn) and take several years, which is why Africa has been a pioneer in using drones for peaceful civilian use.
Timothy Reuter, Head of Aerospace and Drones at the World Economic Forum was part of a panel discussion on unleashing the drone economy at the World Economic Forum on Africa in Cape Town.
“Increasing drone use in Africa does not only bring great benefits to business, agriculture and the health sector but quite literally save lives by taking deliveries off the roads and into the sky. To unleash this potential, new policies need to be put in place that safely open the skies to drones as most African countries do not yet permit the most beneficial applications,” he said.
Conor French, the General Counsel for Zipline International Incorporated said Zipline had already made 19,472 deliveries without a single accident after starting to make deliveries of blood products in Rwanda in 2016. A third of these involved emergency deliveries, where time was critical and drone flights were the only feasible way of getting the blood to the patient. Most of these patients were mothers after childbirth. Zipline have since expanded their service to Ghana. .
Valerie Guarnieri, the assistant executive director at the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) said drones has been a vital part of the disaster relief response in Mozambique after Cyclone Idai, as the UAVs allowed the WFP to assess which roads were still passable and which were not, so that they could plan their routes for the trucks taking food to starving survivors.