Cargo Drones in Africa: The Next Great Leap(frog)?

Afrotech at EPFL is pioneering high intensity cargo drone routes flying the middle mile in Africa and other emerging economies, thereby improving health and economic outcomes. Join Afrotech founder Jonathan Ledgard for a presentation on the Redline drone project and its plans for a pilot to be launched in Rwanda in 2016.

Event Details


swissnex Boston
420 Broadway, Cambridge , Massachusetts 02138 United States


March 10, 2016 from 6:30 pm to 9:00 pm America/New York (UTC-05:00)


Free, RSVP required

Credits for Header Image: Afrotech-EPFL/Norman Foster Foundation

How cargo drones can change the way emerging economies think about transportation networks

On February 11th, 2016 the Rwandan government signed a deal to carry human blood across Rwanda – by using cargo drones. Previously, in September 2015, Lord Norman Foster announced his plans for the world’s first drone ports to be built in Kigali, Rwanda.

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), also known as drones, are a rapidly maturing technology. And it is not only tech giants, like Google and Amazon, that are working on spearheading UAVs to take over the last mile delivery of goods.

Afrotech at the École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), Switzerland seeks to pioneer high intensity cargo drone routes flying the middle mile in the lower sky in Africa and other emerging economies, thereby improving health and economic outcomes. It has created the Redline: a medium-sized payload cargo drone route for medical and emergency use in remote locations. Next to the Redline, the project is working on a Blueline for larger commercial cargo drone routes.

Image: Afrotech-EPFL / Norman Foster Foundation

Image: Afrotech-EPFL / Norman Foster Foundation


Join Afrotech founder Jonathan Ledgard for a presentation on the Redline drone project, its plans for a pilot to be launched in Rwanda in 2016, and the broader implications of cargo drones for distribution in Africa.

Following Jonathan Ledgard’s presentation, panelists will discuss the potential of cargo drones as a competitiveness strategy for emerging economies, the regulatory environment for civilian and commercial drones, and the technological challenges of moving cargo in the sky.

Event Agenda

6:00 PM: Doors Open

6:30 PM: Red Line Presentation

7:00 PM: Panel Discussion

8:00 PM: Networking Reception

9:00 PM: Doors Close

Speaker Bios



Jonathan Ledgard is director of Afrotech. He is a leading thinker on risk, nature, and technology in near future Africa. A British citizen, he spent the last decade as Africa correspondent for The Economist and reported Africa’s mobile phone revolution. A founder of The Economist’s Baobab blog, he continues to contribute to leading journals.


Helen Greiner, CEO of CyPhy Works, commands a presence in the field of robotics. Co-founding iRobot in 1990, Ms. Greiner served as President until 2004 and Chairman until 2008. During her tenure, Ms. Greiner guided iRobot into its position as a global leader with the release of the Roomba™, the PackBot™ and SUGV military robots. She built a culture of practical innovation and delivery that led to the deployment of 6,000 PackBots with American troops. In addition, Ms. Greiner headed up iRobot’s financing projects, raising $35M in venture capital for a $75M initial public offering. Greiner holds a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and a master’s degree in computer science, both from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.


Konstantin Kakaes is a program fellow with the International Security Program at New America. He is working on a project analyzing the evolving uses of drones. He is the author of “The Pioneer Detectives”, an e-book about space exploration. Before coming to New America, Mr Kakaes was a Knight Science Journalism Fellow at MIT. Mr Kakaes was The Economist’s bureau chief in Mexico City from 2005 to 2009, and before that covered science and technology for The Economist from London. He has a B.A. in Physics from Harvard. You canread more about Konstantin’s work on drones here.




Clare Akamanzi is currently a Mason Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. She is the former Chief Operating Officer of the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) a Government institution in charge of accelerating economic growth and development of the country. Prior to this, she was the Deputy Chief Executive Officer in charge of Business Operations and Services at RDB where she was in charge of investment promotion, export promotion, enterprise development as well as business facilitation through, inter alia, investment climate reform, company registration and environmental clearances. Prior to this Ms Akamanzi was the Deputy Director General at the Rwanda Investment and Export Promotion Agency (RIEPA), a position she held from 2006-2008. She was also Rwanda’s commercial Diplomat in London and a Trade Negotiator in Geneva for the Government of Rwanda at the World Trade Organization.




Jason Pontin – Moderator
Since 2004, Jason Pontin has been editor in chief of MIT Technology Review, and publisher since 2005. With dual titles, Jason oversees everything from editorial direction to business strategy. Under his guidance, the more than 100-year-old publication has grown into an international digital media company.


This event is supported by swissnex Boston, EPFL, Afrotech – EPFL, and the Business & Government Professional Interest Council at Harvard Kennedy School.


Event Photos