The commercial drone operations that have been in the pipeline for the last few months, finally, lifted off yesterday in Muhanga District in the Southern Province.
The commercial droneport, a first of its kind, will act as a launching pad to supply emergency medical supplies to remote areas in the country. The success of the operations will inform whether regional countries could be brought on board, and play a major role in enhancing regional cooperation.
There is a blood bank in place at the droneport, with blood ready to be distributed very quickly where it is needed in any part of the country. At a later stage, it will also incorporate delivering other needed medical supplies such as vaccines.
In places like Iraq or Afghanistan, drones have sinister connotations; they are carriers of death and destruction, but in the Rwandan context, they are seen in different light; lifesavers.
The programme is very audacious and groundbreaking and opens many opportunities for other uses. We have begun with delivery of emergency medical supplies, but there is no doubt that soon we will see it spread to others sectors such as agriculture, search-and-rescue and in the academic arena.
Unfortunately many African countries view drones with suspicion, as a security threat and are reluctant to take the step that could have life-changing impact on their populations.
To date, South Africa, Mauritius and Rwanda are the only African countries that have come up with regulations to allow operations and licensing of drones. Some countries have simply put a blanket ban on Unmanned Aerial Vehicles.
Maybe the step Rwanda has taken will open their eyes on the social benefits of operating drones in the interests of the population.