Juma Island, located in Lake Victoria, Tanzania, would soon be home to what may be Africa’s first droneport.
The little island was host to the Lake Victoria Challenge (LVC), organised by the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (Unicef), the World Food Programme and the World Bank. According to BBC, the conference was aimed at making commercial drone flights in East Africa common, especially for bringing goods and services to areas like Juma, which are cut off from the mainland.
Drones are generally not allowed to fly within 3km of a domestic airport or 5km of an international airport but an exception was made for this drone flight.
Thus, a test drone was allowed to fly to Juma from within 3km of a local airport in Mwanza. The airport is only 22km away. The flight was monitored by Tanzanian air traffic control systems and engineers at Swiss-based Wingtra (which made the drone).
A second LVC is also planned to take place this year, and will feature drone companies competing in a series of challenges. The challenges are likely to include deliveries of goods and medicines to Juma and other islands.
A Droneport in Juma
Beyond experimenting with drones, the LVC is also looking at building a possible droneport. Already, a piece of land opposite the Island’s school has been earmarked for this project.
According to Jonathan Ledgard, an African drone advocate who spoke to BBC, the futuristic airport would be more than a site for drones to land and take off.
“It would have a civic presence in the community and space for digital fabrication. It should be possible to have a droneport in every small town in Africa. By 2035 there could be a high density network of drones, making 20 to 50 flights a day.”
Jonathan Ledgard, an African drone advocate.
Such initiatives would help African drone efforts provide aid efficiently to rural areas. They will also ensure that drone delivery in Africa moves past provision of aids/reliefs and open up Africa’s e-commerce potential.
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