Drones, Development, and Discovery
Originally published in Georgetown Journal of International Affairs
Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), or drones, offer significant potential benefits for development. This is especially true in environments where transportation is costly, such as mountainous regions or areas with poor infrastructure. Throughout Africa, people currently use drones to address diverse challenges. For example, in Rwanda, mountainous “remote areas…are difficult to reach, especially during the rainy season.” This prevents healthcare providers from obtaining blood in a timely manner. Blood has a short shelf-life, so slow deliveries can result in blood going to waste. With patients’ lives at stake, the Rwandan government hired Zipline, a Californian start-up, to deliver blood using drones. Ghana’s government pursued a similar strategy by hiring Zipline, also to deliver blood. The country now uses drones to deliver a range of cargo including birth control and medical supplies. As these examples illustrate, drones serve multiple functions that improve people’s lives and, as a result, the commercial drone market in Africa is predicted to continue to grow. According to one projection, the commercial drone market in the Middle East and Africa will generate $218 million in revenue in 2022, up from $82 million in 2020. Given this, it is crucial that governments adopt regulatory frameworks that incentivize innovative uses for drones.