Turning drones into doves

By Robert Hickson 07/11/2013

A quick, somewhat tangental, follow-on from yesterday’s post. I came across this quote by  Simon Johnson in a FastCompany article:

“The Nokia 1100 is the Kalashnikov of telecommunication–a complex technology in a simple device,”

Now that’s a powerful image. He is of course referring to the extra-ordinary benefits and influence mobile phones are bringing to many African communities. The AK47 is considered by some one of the inventions that changed the world, or at least re-wrote the rules of modern warfare.

But the article Simon Johnson features in is about re-tooling drones for commercial service deliveries in Africa. He wants to make drones, through La Fondation Bundi’s Flying Donkey Challenge, the next technology leapfrog for that continent. No roads, no problem.

As I noted a few months ago, it pays to keep an eye on what is happening in Africa. Commercial drone services are a different type of challenge than delivery of mobile phone networks, but such African experiments (or more particularly, their consequences) if they succeed could have important ramifications for the rest of the planet as well. Many thought the early plane delivery services in America, Europe, and NZ a century ago were crazy, but look what happened.

Throw in cheap 3D printing capabilities, simple water supply and treatment technologies, and imaginative redesigns of health-care equipment and some under-developed parts of the world could have spectacular improvements in health and local economies without needing much of the infrastructure we take for granted.