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East Africa Leads The World In Drone Delivery (cnn.com) 59

"While plenty of countries have dabbled in drone delivery, no program has matched the scale and impact of what's unfolding in Rwanda and now, Tanzania." An anonymous reader quotes CNN: The drones will fly themselves, far from the view of humans -- a move that's not yet legal in the U.S... In early 2018, Tanzania's government will begin using drones to deliver medical supplies such as blood and vaccines to remote areas. The government expects to save lives thanks to faster delivery of medical supplies. Rwanda has already completed 1,400 similar deliveries. "Everyone has this paradigm that robotics and artificial intelligence starts in the U.S., made by rich people for rich people. It couldn't be farther from the truth," said Keller Rinaudo, CEO of Zipline, which is supplying the drones. "There's a major shift [occurring] where it's not about the country with the most resources; it's more about the countries with modern regulatory reform and a willingness to try new things."

Tanzania will open four drone distribution centers with Silicon Valley startup Zipline, providing more than 100 drones and 2,000 flights a day. It's also discussing a partnership with another drone company... Previously, the government delivered medical supplies only four times a year due to costs. Bwanakunu envisions several deliveries per week including for emergencies... This isn't the first time East Africa has been a step in front of the "developed world." "We were ahead with mobile money too," said Bwanakunu, referring to M-PESA, which allows for money to be sent through cell phones. "If today trying this technology will save a human life, why not?"

Each drone is equipped with "a parachute that deploys if that anything goes wrong."
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East Africa Leads The World In Drone Delivery

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  • by Solandri ( 704621 ) on Sunday August 27, 2017 @12:06PM (#55093179)
    The key here is lack of competing services (lack of landline phones for the cell phone case). Delivering something by drone is attractive when the alternative is in the backpack of someone hiking down a footpath. Not so attractive when a UPS or USPS truck will be driving by there every day anyway.
    • The key here is lack of competing services (lack of landline phones for the cell phone case). Delivering something by drone is attractive when the alternative is in the backpack of someone hiking down a footpath. Not so attractive when a UPS or USPS truck will be driving by there every day anyway.

      Lack of services and infrastructure, and in some cases higher safety risk, shift the cost benefit analysis toward drone use. Not that surprising.

    • by alvinrod ( 889928 ) on Sunday August 27, 2017 @12:20PM (#55093227)
      It's also a good thing that they can leapfrog over those things. If they had to develop landlines, motorways, and all of the same other types of infrastructure to get to where most western countries are at, they'd never catch up. It also lets them build some expertise that they can export which is going to go a long way towards helping them economically. I would assume that drone delivers will eventually make economic sense even in markets where alternatives exist and are inexpensive, but right now it's not enough to justify the investment to roll it out on a wide scale.
      • by Anonymous Coward

        Developing our infrastructure takes a toll on the environment as well. If these African nations can bypass the stage with modern technology, they might invent and evolve new forms of living with the nature and building developed economies and advanced technologies over a minimally disturbed ecosystem. Now if only human and societal development would be faster in certain countries, the things they could do. Even if the rules of physics or so called reality would say otherwise, the goal is worth pursuing.

        • If these African nations can bypass the stage with modern technology, they might invent and evolve new forms of living with the nature and building developed economies and advanced technologies over a minimally disturbed ecosystem.

          Sounds like Heaven - right here and now, in Tanzania did they say? I'm packing up and heading there - what are their immigration laws like?

          Oh wait, I just saw the "if" and "might" - are we in the future tense here?

          • I think its equally likely that Africa's land will simply get bought up and used by outsiders in neocolonial fashion. China recently bought up some huge percentage of the arable land in Madagascar, for example. With populations still increasing, and food availability to get more shaky due to climate change, nations will start putting pressure on Africa to get land deals in place to feed their own populations.
    • The key here is lack of competing services (lack of landline phones for the cell phone case). Delivering something by drone is attractive when the alternative is in the backpack of someone hiking down a footpath. Not so attractive when a UPS or USPS truck will be driving by there every day anyway.

      Competition is a huge part of it. I can Fedex something anywhere in the country overnight, so a drone system isn't much of an improvement. (It might get it to someplace very remote a few hours earlier or more cheaply, but that's it. So there's value, but it's not as huge a gap as from four-times-a-year to several-times-per-week).

      Regulations are another very real part. The more complex a regulation, the larger a barrier to entry for a new technology. Even if every regulation is there for a reason it takes a

      • by mikael ( 484 )

        Half a century ago, if someone was unemployed and had a flat-bed truck, they could make money simply by operating as a man-with-a-van moving company for anyone who needed stuff moved around. Now, you need a heavy-vehicle drivers license, to be a licensed haulage operator, have licenses to handle medical, chemical, biological cargo, maybe even airport parking permits and other licenses.

  • I cant' think of any sci-fi book or movie that anticipated our skies filled with mad buzzing drones flying around delivering stuff, and maybe killer drones shooting them down or pirate drones bagging them and making off with the loot.

    Closest I can think of was Dark Angel [wikipedia.org], but those were police surveillance drones, not commercial drones.

    That's the future for you, always pulling something out of its ass.

    • by sd4f ( 1891894 )
      South park kind of touched on it a few years ago, but it was in the perspective of privacy.
      • As delivery drones fly, they capture all they see on the ground, facial recognition, sell it to data aggregators and TMZ. That's what will get them going in the U.S., air-safety be damned. Money, money, money. Look! there you are, using your lunch break to visit a motel! To stop us from posting who you were with, just text $300 to blackmail of the future [youtube.com].

  • "There's a major shift [occurring] where it's not about the country with the most resources; it's more about the countries with modern regulatory reform and a willingness to try new things."

    A good news story from this part of the world this is very unusual. This is very welcome news.

    I personally thought that this part of the world was very desolate till I visited years ago. Good that Slashdot is highlighting an encouraging story as well.

    One thing I learnt is that life continues even in places where the likes of main stream media do not cover...or choose to cover negative aspects of - and folks there seem or apear to be happier.

    • A good news story from this part of the world this is very unusual.

      Maybe not that unusual, but very logical, Mr. Spock.

      It that area of the world, people bonk each other on the head with clubs for not being in the same tribe as themselves. Thus, if you work as a deliveryman, you might end up making a delivery to someone from a different tribe, and you might get bonked on the head with a club. So working as a deliveryman around those parts is a fatally dangerous job.

      So the lack of folks willing to work doing deliveries there drives the demand for drones!

    • I personally thought that this part of the world was very desolate till I visited years ago. .... One thing I learnt is that life continues even in places where the likes of main stream media do not cover...

      You did not think that life continues in places the media does not cover? You need to visit a place personally to know there is life there? That's ridiculous.

  • Each year about 1.3 million people are killed in traffic accidents, times more badly wounded: http://www.who.int/gho/road_sa... [who.int] . These are the figures consistent with a World War.

    Deliveries by RPAS could free roads and save millions of lives. It is much safer to move in a 3D space than in a 2D one.

    Documents, cash, small parcels, etc. could be well delivered by air right now if it were not for the prohibitive over-regulation.
    • by jedidiah ( 1196 )

      Most traffic accidents occur between non-professional drivers in personal vehicles. The bulk of that "world war" death toll is likely from roads clogged with commuters and other situations where people are avoiding public transit for some reason.

      It likely has very little to do with professional delivery drivers.

      • by mikael ( 484 )

        There there are some that don't believe in basic night-time car safety like headlights, seatbelts or even driving on the correct side of the road, because "if an accident happens, it is God's Will".

        Then ther are those who drink and drive. Just look at the accident in the UK caused by a drunk trunk driver who overturned onto a taxi carrying eight family members.

      • The bulk of that "world war" death toll .... likely has very little to do with professional delivery drivers.

        You obviously do not live in the UK. Professional delivery drivers are maniacs here.

  • What are the odds that all those drones will be intercepted/stolen in the first two weeks?
    • by tomhath ( 637240 )
      The drones have a chance of staying in service because they aren't worth much to a thief. On the other hand, the chance of something like medical supplies sent by courier being stolen is very high.
    • by scsirob ( 246572 )

      If the track record for any of the thousands of naïve aid projects are any indication, I'd guess the odds are about 100%

    • by dave420 ( 699308 )

      The charity is raising awareness among the local population as to the purpose of these drones. If the locals know that they're sending blood/medicine to help people, people are far less likely to mess with them.

  • We need to export our bureaucrats and lobbyists there right away, forming a Deep State that can tie down every technological initiative with an unbreakable mesh of monopolies and regulations that reinforce each other so that nothing gets done. Replace every flash of initiative with a California style treadmill of wheedling for permits.

    And if we find that some East Texas patent troll has not been paid its danegeld, we can send in the bunker-busters.

  • The US is a wonderful place for innovators... as long as they don't want to do anything too risky, or in any way even remotely derivative. The legal structure within the US has become so antagonistic towards anyone who experiments with technology, that the very second something goes awry, and (as an example) a drone randomly falls out of the sky, a dozen ambulance-chasing lawyers pounce out of the nearby brush and start screaming, "Lawsuit! Lawsuit! Wait -- can we make this a class action lawsuit? Even bett

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