norman foster plans a droneport to assist in delivering urgent supplies
norman foster plans a droneport to assist in delivering urgent supplies norman foster plans a droneport to assist in delivering urgent supplies
sep 16, 2015

norman foster plans a droneport to assist in delivering urgent supplies

norman foster plans a droneport to assist in delivering urgent supplies
all images courtesy of foster + partners




building on his experience of designing vast airport projects, british architect norman foster has revealed a proposal for a ‘droneport’ to be constructed in the east african country of rwanda. the pioneering scheme would support cargo drone routes capable of delivering urgent supplies to the region’s most remote areas.


able to transcend geographical barriers such as mountains and lakes, cargo drones can access areas unreachable by road. with africa’s population set to double to 2.2 billion by 2050, it would require unprecedented levels of infrastructural investment to catch up with the continent’s exponential growth. consequently, the utilization of drones is viewed as an important factor in africa’s development.

norman foster and partners droneport project rwanda africa designboom
the first structure would be built in the east african country of rwanda




in foster’s design, a fleet of specialist drones could potentially carry blood and other life-saving supplies over 100 kilometers, providing an affordable alternative to road-based deliveries. parallel networks would operate two separate services, the ‘redline’ using smaller drones for medical and emergency supplies; and the commercial ‘blueline’, transporting larger payloads such as spare parts, electronics, and e-commerce — subsidizing the redline network.

norman foster and partners droneport project rwanda africa designboom
the project provides space for the safe landing of quiet drones




conceived as a new building typology, the terminus will present a strong civic presence, providing space for the safe landing of quiet drones. importantly, the scheme also includes a health clinic, a digital fabrication shop, a post and courier room, and an e-commerce trading hub, allowing it to become an integral part of local community life.

norman foster and partners droneport project rwanda africa designboom
the droneport would support cargo routes capable of delivering large scale urgent supplies




the droneport is imagined as a ‘kit-of-parts’ where only the basic formwork and brick-press machinery is delivered to site. the project’s raw materials, such as clay for bricks and boulders for the foundation, are locally sourced. the vaulted brick structure can be put together by members of the community, giving local workers important construction knowledge.

norman foster and partners droneport project rwanda africa designboom
the scheme is imagined as a ‘kit-of-parts’ where only the basic formwork and machinery is delivered to site




africa is a continent where the gap between the population and infrastructural growth is increasing exponentially,’ explained lord foster. ‘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.


we require immediate bold, radical solutions to address this issue. the droneport project is about doing ‘more with less’, capitalizing on the recent advancements in drone technology – something that is usually associated with war and hostilities – to make an immediate life-saving impact in africa. rwanda’s challenging geographical and social landscape makes it an ideal test-bed for the droneport project. this project can have massive impact through the century and save lives immediately.

norman foster and partners droneport project rwanda africa designboom
two parallel networks would operate services: the medical redline and the commercial blueline




with the pilot scheme slated to begin in 2016, subsequent phases of the project could see in excess of 40 droneports built across rwanda, with a possible expansion to neighboring countries such as congo. the scheme is a collaboration between redline partners led by afrotech, école polytechnique fédérale de lausanne (EPFL); the norman foster foundation; and foster + partners.

  • beautiful!!!

    Tom Cubitt says:
  • stunning, easily the most inspiring piece of architecture and a great example of simplistic beauty. Cant wait to see these up and running!!

    joe says:
  • As nice an idea as I think this project is, I think the actual buildings are not very practical, especially not to build.

    1) The parts needed are very large and difficult to manufacture. The stones are made locally, but the wooden support structure would need to be made elsewhere. How do they get their shape? Are they cut on a giant laser cutter/cnc mill? I dont really see a simple way of making these. This works well with small models that you can cut on a laser cutter, but on a bis scale is a massive waste of resources.

    2) They show that cute little drawing of assembly, where the bricks stay up magically in mid air whilst building the structure with no supports or scaffholding.

    3) No offence to norman foster, but not the most original design idea. This is like a beginners tutorial in several tools and could literally be done in under 2 minutes.

    So all in all I think it misses the point of being simple to build and use existing materials. They show that diagram with lots of (straight) trees around. There are many buildings with traditional straight walls, that are being built. Teaching people in rural africa how to build hanging shapes and domes using manufactured supports I dont see how that is helping them, when they clearly have all the technology and knowledge how to build traditionally with straight walls.

    A simple pavilion style building with supports and a more traditional roof would be much easier to build and universal. In my opinion this is trying to simplify something that isn’t the problem and ends up making it much more difficult.

    Armin says:

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