Nigerian aerospace technology and mobility startup Arone is to launch two of what it calls its “Micro-AVports” this year as it begins to build what it hopes will become Africa’s biggest aerial logistics network.
Arone has been building and testing its platform facilitating the on-demand delivery of parcels intra-state and inter-state using drones, and secured funding back in November 2019.
The company, which last year took part in the MAN Impact Accelerator for global mobility startups, successfully conducted tests for its 2.5kg and 20kg payload capacity delivery drones with semi-autonomous flight capabilities in November.
Emmanuel Ezenwere, founder and chief executive officer (CEO) of Arone, said this was a first for Nigeria, and that the startup would be following it up with the launch of “Micro-AVports” – or drone airports – this year. These will be located in Enugu State, where Arone is headquartered, and Lagos State.
“These are physical infrastructure where our delivery drones land and take off from. They are also locations for parcel collection and delivery in addition to Arone courier agents,” Ezenwere said.
“They are powered using solar energy. So besides offering a faster, more affordable and reliable delivery service, we are providing a more eco-friendly solution, which at full operation and over the years will significantly reduce carbon dioxide emissions from current road-based alternatives.”
Arone will provide on-demand access to its drone delivery service to individual and corporate users as well as existing logistics companies.
“Our delivery service management systems can be offered as a SaaS for any third party companies venturing into drone delivery,” Ezenwere said, adding it would also make available APIs for e-commerce companies to integrate its service into their platforms.
Arone, which is still in the pilot stage, said it is not revealing the exact date of the drone airport launches, but Ezenwere did say the startup has signed partnerships with the Nigerian Military Defence Research and Development Agency (DRDB) as well as medical supplies and logistics companies.
“We are starting with medical supplies deliveries within a 50km radius,” he said.
“When a request comes from any registered hospital or primary care provider we dispatch a drone from the nearest micro-AVport to the nearest available medical supplies provider in our network, pick up the requested item, and navigate to the hospital for drop off.”
For general parcel deliveries under 5kg, users will be able to walk to the nearest Arone courier agent or the micro-AVport and send parcels to recipents, who do the same to pick them up. Arone will initially be running three drones from each micro-AVport.