The need for infrastructure in Africa and the absolute impossibility to create one, given the lack of enough capital in the global economy system, leads to the thrive of new connecting methods. Drones create an alternative where the lack of land infrastructure is imminent. Capable to arrive to isolated areas where geographical conditions prevent access from other transports, Drones arouse as a possible solution a problem of massive dimensions, affecting a whole continent. Under the assumption that by 2023 cargo drones will be a feasible solution to deliver reasonable payloads a group of architects, engineers and experts on digital fabrication joined forces in 2016 to develop the Droneport project.


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Concept sketch, Droneport
Concept sketch, Droneport
Construction process, Droneport

Droneport was the first innitative assumed by the Norman Foster Foundation. Jonathan Ledgard approached in 2016 Norman Foster to develop the formal concept of what a Droneport should be. They had predicted that by the year 2023 Cargo drones flying from and to droneports will be able to transport 14 kilo payloads for 80 kilometres at close to motorbike prices by year 2023, opening a wide range of possibilities for this way of transport.


With an extreme urge to deliver medical supply to isolated communities, drones could easily arrive to remote areas, generating a vast network of delivery. Droneport project was innitated with the idea of generating a support for this delivery network. Modular and easy to assemble ports to receive medical supplies quickly and cost effectively. The Droneport, therefore, stands as a new architectural typology that aims to solve the an infrastructure problem that affects in a wider and smaller scale, ending with the isolation of many areas in Africa.


Hosting a mixed use programme within their infrastructure Droneports are places that inhabitants can feel a committed and belonging to, spaces to care for and that can be incorporated to the collective mindset as a common good. To fit into the community’s dynamics, it is capital to also involve the community in the making. Thought as a kit of parts, Droneports would be built with local materials and labour, through an easy assembly process and reducing delivery costs.



The idea is that the drone would deliver the basic infrastructure to build the Droneport: brick press machinery and light basic formwork to generate the timbrel construction. With these elements, and local resources, the community could later develop a timbrel vaulted system, flexible, so that the spaces that could adapt to the specific needs of each community. In order to generate the lightest structure possible, a high level of technology was applied on this process.



To stablish a basis for this new typology, The Lake Victoria Challenge (LVC) held in Mwanza, Tanzania was the first-ever international symposium on drones and their possibilities in Africa. During this symposium a group of experts elaborated the Mwanza Principles in, which state the first values that should configure the Droneport typology. Droneports shall be safe and secure, equitable, civic and communal, women centric, illuminated at night, sustainable, hubs for digital fabrication and home for robots, among others. The Droneport also looks to generate employment opportunities for the local population, from drone manufacturing, to building industry or a market for local farmers.



A first prototype was build during Venice Architecture Biennale in 2016, and will remain in its place as a permanent structure and gateway to a new public park at the Arsenale. This prototype was created by partnering with the LafargeHolcim Foundation and harnessing the commitment of professors and students from a mix of MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts, ETH in Zurich, EPFL in Lausanne, The Polytechnic University in Madrid and Cambridge University in the UK. The Pavilion will remain in its place as a permanent structure and the gateway to a new public park at the Arsenale, Venice.


Further information can be found from the Architecture, Design and Technology Unit of the Norman Foster Foundation.