While major integrators and e-commerce giants are navigating the potential use of unmanned aerial vehicles (or drones) for cargo delivery in North America , Europe and China, Kenya-based drone start-up Astral Aerial Solutions, an affiliate of Astral Aviation, is pursuing drone projects of its own from the company’s base in Nairobi. Astral Aerial Solutions and Japanese drone manufacturer Yamaha Motor Company are partnering to provide last mile air cargo delivery and crop spraying drones throughout Kenya.
Under the new agreement, which was signed last week at the Tokyo International Conference on African Development, Astral Aerial Solutions will began using Yamaha’s FAZER R G2 automated helicopter drone developed for a variety of uses including remote deliveries, crop spraying, and overhead structural inspections.
The Yamaha FAZER R G2 drone is a commercial drone for automated flight to uninhabited areas out of visual range. The UAV is capable of carrying a maximum payload of 35 kg, and can fly at a maximum altitude of 2,800 m with a cruising range of 90 km.
The move serves Astral Aerial Solutions’ larger aims to provide drone services across Africa for a variety of sectors including humanitarian cargo air transport, medical deliveries, aerial mapping and imagery, aerial surveillance and security, agriculture, oil and gas services and emergency response.
For Yamaha, the agreement expands the reach of its expanding drone operation. The FAZER model is Yamaha’s latest helicopter drone to receive FAA approval in the U.S., following its RMAX drone model. The company’s drones are already utilized for agricultural applications in Japan where last year they carried out pest control for 35% of the country’s rice fields. Last year, Yamaha Motor Corp., USA applied for an FAA exemption to begin using the FAZER R G2 drone model for select commercial agricultural spraying operations in the U.S. Agricultural applications are seen as a stepping stone to future cargo operations.
Although drone companies and users will need to navigate regulations that vary from country to country regarding use of the tech, the growing number of exemptions allowing for the commercial application of drones suggests there may be a place for the use of larger drones for cargo in the not-so-far-future.