Avy goes to Rwanda: Emergency Delivery Challenge

The Avy team heads down to Rwanda in preparation for the Lake Kivu Challenge. They recount the days leading up to the flight of the Avy Aera VTOL drone performing a BVLOS flight, to deliver an emergency package of 1,5kg.

Avy Aera VTOL medical delivery drone BVLOS flight Rwanda

Avy goes to Rwanda

Last week the Avy team landed in Kigali, Rwanda in preparation for the Lake Kivu Challenge that will take place on the 9th until the 14th of February, as part of the African Drone Forum. 

The team representing Avy down in Rwanda all have critical roles and in a snippet they are: 

  • Chris, our Avy pilot making sure the wing drone flies 
  • David, our software and controls engineer making sure the wing drone is in check  
  • Renee, our flight operations controller making sure the wing drone flies according to the flight plan 
  • Patrique, our founder and spokesperson making sure that the “Avy story” is told

In addition to this awesome team, Auterion our software partner, sent Roman, a software and controls engineer to support our BVLOS flights. He was in fact one of the original programmers for the first VTOL code for PX4!

Landing in Rwanda

The last few days have been a wild one for Avy, full of new experiences and insights. The team has had to quickly learn to be a professional drone operator in the real world, and this does come with logistical hell - shipping batteries that are way too high in voltage and that need to get through customs clearance. 

However, once the batteries had safely arrived in Karongi, the team was ready to fly, and it quickly became clear that the hard work put in the past few months had definitely paid off: being a fully licensed operator in the Netherlands, mandatory internal training programmes and maintenance procedures, meant that every team member knew their role and were able to make the wing drone ready for flight.

It did also came with practical challenges that were out of our control:

  • The LiPo batteries got stuck in Nairobi on transit to Kigali, delaying the team with flights.When they finally arrived, the team had to get used to the different wall sockets, that may cause LiPo chargers to blow up.
  • Flying at higher altitudes and in a different temperature. However, Roman was of great support and helped with adjusting the aircraft for the specific operational conditions for Lake Kivu and higher altitudes.  
  • A 3,5 hour scenic bus ride turned into a 7 hour trip because the bus broke down. This only meant that there was more time to interact with the locals and bond with the other teams. 

Aside from the practicalities, let's not forget to mention the new flavours the team experienced:

  • Grilled jackfruit, who knew it could be used as a vegetarian option?
  • Mango juice, everything is so fresh over there!
  • Skol beer, brewed in Rwanda and a fresh change

To sum it up, it's been great so far, meeting amazing people on the ground who are the best in their industry, eager to share their knowledge and experience, with one goal in mind: making drones happen.

Avy pilots in Rwanda with VTOL drone prepping for BVLOS flight
Chris & David prepping the drone for BVLOS flight

VIP demo day

With Avy not originally scheduled in for the VIP demo day, the team woke up at 6:30 determined to squeeze in a flight for the VIP’s. There was no chance, the Avy Aera wasn’t going to be showcased in front of African ministers, donors and African civil aviation regulators. Well, strong determination paid off when the organisers put us on the schedule for the demo!

The flight was short, smooth and successful. 

Also turns out that we were one of the 6 drone companies to have performed in front of such a crowd! Alongside Bamboo, GermanDrones, HojungSolutions, Phoenix Wings and Wingcopter, the biggest game changers in the drone industry. 

Avy Aera VTOL medical delivery drone BVLOS flight over Lake Kivu, Rwanda

African Drone Forum

Aside from preparing for the competition in Karongi. Avy had a booth at the African Drone Forum, which was happening at the Kigali Convention Centre from 5-7th February. 

A lot of exciting things happened during that first day: 

  • Meeting the President of Rwanda: Patrique had the honour to meet His Excellency Paul Kagame and briefly present the Avy Aera and its medical box that will be used to deliver an emergency package during the Lake Kivu Challenge
  • Sharing our booth with Auterion: Sauming, their Head of Go to Market also joined for the symposium. This meant the team had the skills and resources to share how the integration of Auterion’s software helps to make our wing drones safe, reliable and efficient for operations.
  • Ignite Presentation: Patrique gave an Ignite talk as a Lake Kivu Challenge finalist. He presented the purpose behind Avy and the impact that we want to make with our wing drones that we develop for the sole purpose of saving lives. 
Avy lifesaving drones founder with his excellency from Rwanda
Patrique & His Excellency holding the Avy medical payload

Lake Kivu Challenge

We’re excited for next week to come, the Lake Kivu Challenge! We’ll be in the emergency delivery competition. Our mission?

Safely deliver an emergency package weighing a minimum of 1kg from the droneport on the mainland to Bugarura Island in Lake Kivu and then return and land safely at the starting point. The distance between the droneports is around 20km. No battery swap is allowed at the drop-off location.
Official ADF rules

This won’t be an easy flight, but we’re excited to compete alongside the biggest players in the field: Phoenix Wings, Wingcopter and German Drones

Stay tuned next week and be sure to look out for our Instagram stories during the Lake Kivu Challenge, happening 9th-14th of February 2019.