The Urban Institute and University of Cape Town teams had a great and productive kick-off workshop in Cape Town 6 – 7 February. The project team from UI and African Centre for Cities (ACC) met in the 2-day workshop, which included presentations, round-table discussions, and composing fieldwork research plans. The project ‘Drones/Robotics and Development Priorities in Africa: Transformative infrastructure or digital colonisation?’ is a one-year research project funded by the British Academy, Knowledge Frontiers scheme. Africa is emerging as a critical site for experimentation with drones in the creation of new infrastructural systems to support national developmental priorities, including healthcare and social and economic welfare. Our project explores a variety of issues arising from constituting African countries as medical drone delivery networks.

On the first day, Prof Barry Mendelow joined us from Johannesburg to share his decades-long medical and drone experience and knowledge. As a medic, Barry pioneered the idea to use drones for medical delivery in the 1980’s. His insights were extremely helpful and he will continue to contribute to the project as an advisory board member. In the afternoon, we visited the Drone Clouds lab, an agricultural drone start-up based in Cape Town that uses satellite and drone imagery to assist farmers.
The second day of the workshop consisted of a series of round-table discussions, developing the project proposal and framework, and outlining the field research. Fieldwork will take place from April to June in Malawi, Tanzania and Rwanda, and from July to August in California, where Zipline, the commercial drone provider in sub-Saharan Africa, is based. We look forward to updating you on this project later in the year!