Kenya is the second country in Africa to launch a Cargo Drone service after South Africa with Rwanda following shortly if officials there get their way. Ethiopia is also drafting drone regulations so things are looking up in UAV land.
Astral Aviation based in Nairobi says it wants to become the largest operator of cargo drones and as Amazon and other digital companies compete internationally in this space, entrepreneurs are lining up.
At this stage, drones are heavily used in South Africa and in Kenya along with Mauritius, but many other countries remain drone-free, at least officially.
Astral’s offering includes three drones with the largest called the FlyOx which is a $1.5m behemoth that can carry 2200kg’s more than 1,300 kilometres. That means the drone could fly cargo between Johannesburg and Cape Town.
The FlyOx is manufactured by Singular Aircraft which is designed and built in Barcelona, Spain. It’s first flight was on May 16, 2015 at the airport in Hofn, Iceland and it is now signing with aviation companies worldwide. The name FlyOx is really ironic, considering that one of the main modes of transport in the olde days was the ox wagon.
Here are the FlyOx specs.
Wing span 14 Mts
Overall lenght 11.50 Mts
Tail height 3.60 Mts
Max. weight 4,000 Kg
Landing gear retractable tail-wheeler
Landing surfaces Sea and Land
Basic empty weight 2,200 Kg
Payload 1,850 Kg
Take off roll 750 Mts
Landing roll 540 Mts
Rate of climb @ Vy 2,000 Ft/min
Rate of climb 1 engine operating 440 Ft/min
VNE 142 Kts
V. cruiser at 75% power 126 Kts
V. cruiser at 65% power 103 Kts
Max. Operational altitude 24,000 Ft
The smaller drones will carry between 5 and 10kg objects for shorter distances.
In South Africa, drone companies have been targeting mines and agriculture, but the Kenyans are planning to offer services to gas and oil companies, along with these other two sectors.
With roads and railways in Africa still grappling with major underdevelopment, the Cargo Drone is another aviation solution that could escalate quite quickly.
With a price tag that is not for the faint hearted, but given its payload, this aircraft is expected to become a standard cargo carrier operating in East Africa – if certified by the country’s aviation association.