Headline August 21, 2016/ ''' DRONE : THE FLYING DONKEY '''


''LAND OF A THOUSAND HILLS '' is an apt nickname for Rwanda. The tiny, landlocked country ripples with steep, terraced hillsides.

Under its single-minded president, Paul Kagame, it is determined to become a technology hub for Africa.

It is not, therefore, surprising that  Rwanda  will soon be a laboratory for one of the most hyped technologies around.

Zipline, a Silicon Valley startup,   will start testing delivery drones [otherwise known as  Unmanned Aerial Vehicles]  at a site  40 minutes drive south-west of the capital, Kigali, in August.

If deemed safe by the government, a month or two later the fixed wing ''Zips''  will be dropping off  blood for transfusion  in small boxes with parachutes at   21 hospitals   and health centres within a 75 km -40 mile- radius. 

The aim is to open a second hub in the east to cover the rest of the country within a year, and to start delivering vaccines and other medicines as well as blood.

If all goes well,  drones could cut a  3.5 hour trip by car   to and from one of the country's five blood banks to less than 45 minutes, a potentially life-saving difference for a mother hemorrhaging after giving birth.

Even more time could be saved during the rainy season, when many of Rwanda's roads become impassable, Zipline's co-founder, Will Hetzler.

Another firm, Mobisol, wants to use drones to deliver spare parts for its pay-as-you-go  solar-power systems in Rwanda and Tanzania. the quadcopters it is developing would land on roofs, where they would be recharged using customers' excess solar energy.

Perhaps, the most ambitious idea comes from Redline, a  40 person company founded by Jonathan Ledgard, a former journalist for The Economist.

Mr Ledgard envisions  fixed-wing drones, for less than  $3,000  carrying up to 10 kg  -22 pound-  loads between small cities and towns that are poorly connected by road. 

A  'droneport'   designed by  Norman Foster,  a British architect,  could be built for   $300,000    -less,  Mr Ledgard claims, than a new petrol station, Rwandan ministers are supportive, and Redline hopes to start test flights by the end of the year.

There are plenty of  potential pitfalls  Mr Ledgard's  Flying Donkey Challenge, a competition for drones to carry loads around Mount Kenya, was shelved around in 2014, after a series-

Of terrorists attacks  meant that a nervous Kenya government was unwilling to give the go-ahead`. 

In South Africa drones have been used to track-poachers and tested out as a crime surveillance tool. But strict regulations imposed in July, 2015 mean you have to pass skills and theory tests, and be medically examined by a doctor, to get a license to fly one.

Malawi's leaders were keener on a recent study by the  UN Children's Emergency Fund  [Unicef]  into the feasibility of using drones to transport the  HIV  samples of  newborn babies.

But although all  93 flights  in the  two-week period in March passed off without a hitch, the cost of the drones from Matternet, another Silicon Valley startup, tends to be more than using  motorbikes, thinks Judith Sherman, Unicef's  HIV/AIDS  chief in Malawi.

''The technology is still immature,'' she says.

Nonetheless,  Unicef is working with Malawi's government to come with a better way to support lab samples. Drones may turn out to be the best option for islands in Lake Malawi, for example.

The country is also interested in using drones for agriculture, forestry and conservation, as well as, disaster surveillance.

No one pretends that drones can ever be a complete substitute for good roads. 

But as drones become cheaper, they could help countries with patch infrastructure and tricky terrain shift light, valuable goods more quickly. 
With respectful dedication to the Inventors, Scientists,  Students, Professors and Teachers of the world. See Ya all on !WOW!  -the World Students Society and !E-WOW!  -the Ecosystem 2011:

''' !WOW! '''

Good Night and God Bless

SAM Daily Times - the Voice of the Voiceless


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