Rwanda has become the first country worldwide to adopt an instrument that informs drone users on nature, quantity, and quality needed for a specific activity that can be achieved by an unmanned aircraft.
Rwanda has become the only country that has adopted performance-based regulation for all drones, allowing regulators to take into account the nature of the mission, in addition to the physical specifications of the drone.
This sets the stage to accelerate innovation in its budding drone ecosystem.
In February 2016, Rwanda Government hired Zipline Inc- a California-based robotics firm to build the drone port in Shyogwe Sector, in a bid to improve accessibility to blood and emergency medical supplies to remote parts of the country.
Since October 14, 2016, immediately after the launch of the first drone into the skies by President Paul Kagame, the turnout time between ordering and receiving blood was shortened from 4 hours to 15 minutes on average.
“Some hospitals would make more than 3 hours to make a round trip to the National Center for Blood Transfusion (CNTS) to access blood,” Dr. Saibu Gatare, Division Manager for Rwanda’s National Center for Blood Transfusion told KT Press on Monday.
Drones currently deliver blood to 12 district hospitals in South and West of Rwanda including; Gakoma, Gikonko, Gitwe, Kabaya, Kabgayi, Kaduha, Kirinda, Muhororo, Nyanza, Ruhango, Ruli, and Shyira.
The number is expected to grow to 21 hospitals in the first quarter of 2018.
According to CNTS, in 2017, drones made 3,246 deliveries and a total of 6,159 units of blood were delivered to these hospitals located in remote areas, difficult to access by vehicles.
“It only now takes 5 minutes for a drone to deliver blood to Kabgayi Hospital and 45 minutes to Kaduha Hospital,” Dr Saibu Gatare said.
“Building on the success of Zipline’s blood delivery technology, we are working to nurture a drone industry,” Jean de Dieu Rurangirwa, Rwanda’s Minister of Information Technology and Communication, said on Monday.
Rurangirwa further said that Rwanda will continue to put in place infrastructure and policy frameworks that accelerate adoption of emerging technologies to transform people’s lives.
A drone performance-based approach allows both regulators and operators to respond dynamically to technical challenges in socially responsible ways, including ensuring the safety of the public.
Rwanda’s drone regulation framework was developed in consultation with the World Economic Forum’s Center for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and this was regarded as a major step in creating an enabling environment for the development and deployment of drone technology.
The Center for the Fourth Industrial Revolution was opened in March 2017 in San Francisco to shape the trajectory of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, by co-designing innovative approaches to governance and policy with Government partners.
“Rwanda is one of the first countries to partner with the Forum in this space. The Government of Rwanda’s leadership in co-designing agile policy frameworks around the use of drones, could be a model for other countries that want to accelerate adoption of this game-changing technology,” Murat Sonmez, Head of the Center, was quoted as saying during the launch.
“Our vision is to help governments, like Rwanda, work alongside leading businesses, dynamic start-ups, members of civil society and academia to shape development and use of emerging technologies for the benefit of society,” he added.
Rwanda is currently working on other transformational initiatives, including Africa’s first air-traffic management system for drones, a Center of Excellence for training and certification, and the use of drones to fight poaching in national parks.