Africa has one of the biggest advantages in the world right now due to the ability to leap directly into the future. For example, Africa went straight to mobile payments with no need to convert from traditional banking because many regions were unbanked. Africa went straight to renewal energy and smart energy grid solutions because they had no existing energy infrastructure. So as you see, Africa is really one super huge land of opportunity and potential in the 21st century that is literally wide open for those who are bold, daring and not afraid to imagine future solutions for brothas and sistas in Africa. In this article we are going to talk about one of the biggest opportunity in Africa and that is drone-based transportation. Because Africa does not really have a transportation system to move goods across the lands, African can once again leap into the future with semi-autonomous or fully autonomous drone transport solutions. However, one of the things we would like to propose in this article is to consider anachronistic design patterns of over 100 years of engineering solutions from steam-powered to rocket-powered and railed-guided to laser-guided to create solutions to help establish these transport drones by air, land and sea. After reading this article, you are going to wonder why the hell you still living in America as an African-American and not back in the motherland creating solutions with all the potential and possibilities out there. The Opportunity Before the news hit mainstream, we have already covered in the Global Urban Collective Secret Facebook Group there is a “drone port” being built over in Rwanda by UK architect firm Foster + Partners. Project will begin in 2016 and expand to 40 drone ports when all is said and done. We recommend you watch the following video explaining their design approach and how they plan to create the drone port around the 50:00 mark: As you saw in the video, the concern was transporting blood to deal with sickle cell anemia and malaria in Africa. Also in the image above, you also see the capability to transport chickens and also a human being in a medical emergency. This is a great vision and the video presentation talks about the challenges and how they want to use drones to overcome these challenges. So if you look at the opportunity for greater Africa, you see the ability to transport chicken and fish to remote villages and create markets. You can also move goods and produce to open local stores and fulfill deliveries enabling African villages to engage in trade. But you also should see a huge industry of building drones, building drone ports, maintaining drones and parts and logistics establishing internal economic activity throughout African nations. However, the opportunity for drone transportation solution is actually a very larger scale that what is proposed here and can be done right now, today, like right now. What we want you brothas and sistas to do is look at expanding the possible solution using anachronistic STEM patterns along with Afrofuturistic concepts and we are going to discuss how to look at opportunities for drone transports by air, land and sea. Infrastructure Concepts When designing future transportation solutions, you have to look more at potential instead of looking at trying to emulate the status quo. True Afrofuturism requires out of the box thinking and looking at solutions from the past and the future as well as the present. So you cannot look at large corporations and their solutions, what you have to look at is what had the most raw power, what is the most efficient and how to deal with the reality of the current state of affairs. Establishing Traffic Routes. You have to look at where and how you will establish drone traffic routes. If by sea, do you have a shipping route and can you pass safely through waters of countries without issue? If by land, do you build a tunnel for drones to pass through on a road, underground or elevated above ground? Just like oil pipelines and FAA traffic routes, you want to quickly establish market-to-market routes as Africa is just wide open right now. Analyzing Energy Options. It would be cool to have a solar-powered battery bank to power the batteries of drones that fly each way two and from destinations. But remember that steam-powered engines have done the job last century and was effective. And we don’t necessarily need to boil water to produce steam, we can create hydrogen-based gels so this is just a point you have to think futuristic in your design but also look at easy to implement ideas from the past that can just make things work. Regional Conflicts and Instability. You have sea pirates and roving tribes of bandits and rebels running throughout Africa. How are you going to protect your drone transport and cargo and your transportation lines? For example, do you build submarines and underwater sea ports? Do you fly drones above the effective range of assault rifles? Do you avoid routes where military-grade equipment like AA-guns are in the hands of rebels? You have to know the regions and stability and see if there are ways to get around them or avoid them. One with Nature. Make sure you solution does not impact the animal kingdom in Africa. Make sure your sea drones does not disrupt sea life and your air drones does not scare off populations of birds. Keep the motherland in mind as you build out your Afrofuturistic solution that Africa is more than man, it is the entire animal kingdom. Air Drones To establish drone transport by air, cats have to re-think the entire paradigm or flight and air travel and think both futuristic and anachronistic. Drone transports will not be carrying humans so there is less design considerations and overhead to create systems to protect human lives. What we are asking Afrofuturistic engineers and architect is to totally rethink the concept of takeoff, flight and landing as well as payload management. If you look at the drone that is being considered in Rwanda, it has a long wing span and a propeller in the rear – I do not believe this design can handle a good payload as well as sustain constant hard landings on the drone port runway in the video. Anybody with a R/C airplane experience know what I’m talking about. I actually have an R/C with the design above in my garage right now and it is more of a glider and stunt vehicle than long-range transport. So let’s look at the aircraft we need to consider and the drone port that can accommodate the goal of transporting goods to hubs throughout Africa. I want to consider swaggerjacking design elements of the WW2 German V1 rocket. There are several things you should notice about the V-1 rocket that I find attractive. First, the jet propulsion is separated from the main body, making it reusable. You can see people on YouTube all over the world now making jet propulsion similar to the V-1 engine you see here – some really crazy videos especially the jet bicycles. And if you will also see on YouTube R/C jets that use miniature turbine propulsion instead of propellers. Those R/C are expensive because they are one-off but if you look at the opportunity to start mass-produce those parts, the parts are cheaper and you created an manufacturing economic boom to transport goods the same way the first world create economic booms creating military aircraft and other weapons. This is one of the known benefits of the drone program in Africa is the boost to GDP and STEM jobs. I do not believe in 100% jet propulsion during flight which is only use to quickly get the drone up to a nice cruising altitude and would consider a hybrid propeller to continue the flight. It does not have to be an external propeller but an enclose propeller system similar to a turbine. However, what would be a consideration is the swing-wing concept to handle both high-speed flight and low-speed short landing the same way naval carrier-based planes are designed. Keep in mind that swing-wing is a patented design and you don’t see too many civilian planes using this concept. Many use forward-wing designs but the goal is to design the aircraft wings to handle high-speed launch and high cruising speed but have control for a soft-landing but that is the next topic. For the drone port, my question is do we really need to have an “airstrip” to land these things on wheels? Aren’t we just not thinking hard enough and trying to mimic traditional airfields with landing runway and wheels? Afrofuturism requires out of the box thinking and looking at concepts that can be in science fiction or in natural wildlife. Instead of landing a drone on a runway, we may need to look at “capturing” or “catching” a drone safely. One concept I considered was a magnetic levitation catch where the drone enters a “wormhole” tunnel and the magnetic field can slow and suspend the drone mid-air and allow it to softely drop to a net below which is a moving conveyor belt to the hanger area. Another concept is similar to many space starship movies is to have an overhead rail the space ship attach too and the drone becomes a monorail being moved to the destination. These are not far-fetched concepts and will keep the drone intact as I believe landing strips are outdated and will cause eventual damage to drone crafts trying to land each time. Now for launch, use a rail ramp like the V-1 rocket, not an airport strip. Place each drone on a rail that pointing north south east and west and they are lined up on the rail and launch off quickly in a serial succession. Separate the drone launch pad from the drone landing – they do not need to share the same location and both have different techniques. Besides, after landing, a drone will need to be inspected, prepped with a new payload and refueled and then launched again to a new destination. If you are really thinking, you can have drones fly like a jetliner from one African locale to another non-stop increasing trade among nations with back and forth traffic. Sea Drones Drones can transport goods via sea throughout Africa and can move pretty quickly as opposed to land. Routes can be setup to ship food and supplies from productive parts to developing parts of the continent. Most of Africa cities are along the cost and a good drone shipping operation can get the products up and down Africa. Now the first and obvious thing is pirates and they have serious pirates in Africa so are you going to have a drone ship just cruising on top of the water? No, the smart ideal is to create a fleet of submarine drones to ship the goods. By using submarine drones, you can bypass all of the pirates out there looking for something to snatch up so I don’t even think there is any other option out there better than a drone submarine for cargo transport. While there are many submarine formats such as the propeller driven design that turns up and down, I really like the design of the Nereus submarine as it is more modular to add cargo. If you look at the Nereus, there is a bay underneath where you just slide the payload externally and let the submarine just carry the payload and no need to insert anything inside the submarine. This allow a lot of re-use just like the drone aircraft so remember to use true Afrofuturism engineering where the design has to be modular. This is the design I would base a cargo drone submarine off. To have the submarine navigate on the correct route, I would borrow the same concept as underwater mines and use the container to hold a beacon that can only transmit underwater for the submarine to communicate with. These beacons can also relay back to the station the current location of the submarine and how far they are from the next beacon point. So as you see, another field of STEM to track the location of these submarines going up and down the coast of Africa and reporting in real-time the location and expected arrival time. Underwater domes that lead up to land transport hubs is very realistic to move the goods from the submarine to the mainland. It does not have to be a huge dome and similar to the image above, the submarines can dock and the cargo is offloaded and moved up to the land. Energy can be created using ocean-based solar farms and windmills to establish a battery bank for the submarines in lieu of using oil to prevent ecological disasters with oil spills. The submarine would be good to move cargo up and down the coast line which is more efficient than travelling through many nations in Africa and the vast terrain that one has to crisscross. Land Drones You have to be honest and look at reality as an Afrofuturist when designing solutions for the African Diaspora. The land in Africa is very dynamic and unpredictable and even if you built out a road, that road may not last long. In addition, conflicts can easily cause an RPG to hit a hyperloop transport pipe or a cargo truck to be commandeered by AA guns mounted on back of a truck. So you have to be smart about land-based travel in your approach. It is going to be frankly unrealistic to build road-based solutions at this stage or in the near future until Africa become more stable through good leadership and understanding of intra-trade pacts between each other and the long-term benefit. But right now, we still got dictators and greedy corruptions and civil wars and rebels and uprisings so it will take a delicate chicken-and-egg battle to balance everybody seeing economic benefits first or the fighting stop first. The only realistic solution is going to be the use of high-speed rail from a hub such as a seaport to another major city port in a stable region of Africa. But right now, China is developing these solutions with Africa in mind and the infrastructure cost is just way too expensive and maintenance is going to be way too high. And if you really look at the other solutions such as air drones and sea drones, the return of investment on a land-based solution is simply not attractive. But one consideration is the use of steam-powered drones to transport goods on private roads at a high speed. Now, steam-powered was raw power from 100 years ago but today, we can use anachronistic designs and use other forms of liquid to generate the steam power. To steady the speed on a steam engine, you just release the valves to only allow the right pressure and this can be done with technology. Now what cool is the raw power is powerful enough to transport goods with unchecked raw torque. At 20:40 in the video you hear Jay Leno talk about using glass crystals and how this can be improved with modern technology and computers. Batteries can be used to run electric coils to heat the water to steam level instead of burning coal and polluting the environment. So it is likely we can refurbish many of the steam engine design and replace the coal or log oven with a battery bank that can quickly heat up water to power the steam engine and pull cargo. But all of this can be automated and allow drones to control the flow. So with that said, it is possible to build a light rail steam engine drone that utilize battery power to create the steam to do heavy transport from point to point in a stable country or to help stabilize a region like Central Africa to serve as a hub between all of the coastal African nations. The railway and hubs can be just a lighter frame and of course, use checkpoint monitors to track the cargo and the train distance from the destination. Understanding the Impact If you look at what we described so far as drone-based transportation solutions, you should notice the huge impact this can create for the African continent and propel the whole area into first world and a futuristic society for the African Diaspora. Jobs will be created by establishing transportation infrastructure and manufacturing jobs will be created for the demand of drone trucks, drone aircrafts and so on and the economy will be like a war-based economy in Africa due to the lack of existing infrastructure. It is likely these African nations will experience triple-digit GDP growth as a result if they setup manufacturing of drones. Import/Export will increase allowing African nations to trade with each other creating peace and stability as regions will have economic opportunity and access to resources. Not only will African nations will be able to trade with each other but with the entire world and have their products moved from South Africa to North Africa to East and West with ease. Quality of life will increase as the solutions are ecological friendly with little pollution and carbon footprint. The movement of medical supplies and other materials will provide better access to resources and Africans can now grow in terms of STEM jobs making them a new middle and upper class that will rival China in size. Biggest Opportunity to Date For brothas and sistas, we are looking at the biggest opportunity we all seen in our lifetime with Africa right now. From mobile money to now creating future models that are not easy to replicate in first world nations that will give African a 100-year forecast advantage by leaping directly into the digital and autonomous age. Think about the drone cockpit for example – someone can operate those drones remotely from a cockpit to manually handle the docking of a drone submarine or the landing of a drone aircraft and once that drone land or is dock, switched to another drone to land and dock and operate dozens of landings and dockings in an hour. And this is a job that can be done anywhere. Even further, the cockpit person has the digital key and verification code to open the item to the receivers if they present their digital key to validate they are the true recipient of the cargo. We are talking establishing trade routes and charging to transport products on those trade routes like a mogul or a tycoon! We are talking about manufacturing drone parts and maintenance of drones with major contracts with big firms! We can even go further such as using blockchain and distributed ledger to track each payload and track the drone where the drone can land at one drone port then fly to another drone port across Africa before coming back to basecamp. This is billion dollar operations at all multiple levels and opportunities that can be done leapfrogging directly into drone-based transports. Afrofuturist brothas and sistas can start looking at these opportunities and in some cases, worth repatriating to Africa to take advantage and pursue these opportunities. If you are an African-American, you can actually start software modeling of airport traffic and trade logistics with open source software and code out there. You can also test technology – too bad HBCUs are clueless but you can create your own innovation lab to pursue these solutions for Africans and invite heads of African state to your conference here in America.