Lake Kivu Challenge: Emergency Drones

Avy heads down to Rwanda for the Lake Kivu Challenge. A flying competition organised for VTOL drone manufacturers and operators to help advance the safe implementation of drone solutions for last mile delivery, in the Lake Kivu Region of Rwanda.

Avy Aera VTOL medical delivery drone at Lake Kivu Challenge

February was a wild month for us. The Avy team landed in Kigali, Rwanda for the African Drone Forum (ADF), the biggest event of its kind on the African continent and probably first in the world! 

The aim of the African Drone Forum was to bring together engineers, regulators, government users, entrepreneurs, academics, development partners and drone organisations, to create a stakeholder platform to advance equitable and safe development of drone economies within Africa. Read more about the forum in our blog about ADF 2020, this blog is about what went down in Karongi, Rwanda during the Lake Kivu Challenge (LKC). 

The Lake Kivu Challenge brought together 10 drone teams from around the world to the serene and remote Lake Kivu. We all took to the skies in challenges that were created to test the drones and us as operators, with real-life scenarios. Three weeks full of scrutineering, demonstrations, test flights and challenges.

Flying competition for VTOL drones

Avy took part in the Emergency Delivery competition alongside German Drones, Phoenix Wings and Wingcopter. The distance between the drone port in Karongi and the droneport on Bugarura Island, was 20km. 

Our mission? Safely delivering an emergency package from the Karongi droneport to Bugarura Island in Lake Kivu and then return and land safely at the starting point - no battery swap allowed at the drop-off location.

Avy Aera VTOL drone BVLOS flight in Rwanda
Avy Aera flying over Lake Kivu

Results are in

Avy got the safety award! We’re proud that our safety protocols were recognised during the Lake Kivu Challenge - well done Wingcopter for taking the first prize in the emergency delivery challenge.

Our milestones throughout the trip:

  • 2 BVLOS missions
  • 23 flights
  • 201 km flown

Want to see the routes we took? We’ve set up a simulation of one of our BVLOS flight logs, simply click here

Lake kivu challenge safety award
Official certificate from all sponsors

BVLOS flights over Lake Kivu

Altitude Angels made autonomous flight over Lake Kivu possible. They were the UTM (Unmanned Traffic Management) Service provider for the Lake Kivu Challenge and provided the Flight Information Management System for all the missions. They were able to demonstrate that the possibilities of commercial drone use in remote areas are limitless.

Interested to know what made Avy’s BVLOS flights reliable, safe and possible?

  • We used LTE (a 4G mobile communications standard) for continuous two way communication with the aircraft 
  • Our dynamic Auterion mission planning software allowed us to plan the BVLOS missions the way we wanted
  • The Avy Aera has onboard algorithms that allowed the team to maintain automatic control and navigation throughout the BVLOS flights
  • Our sophisticated failsafe modes enabled the drone to automatically recover or select the safest flight mode based on a range of potential errors
  • We maintained long range RF, to allow the safety pilot to take over during takeoff and landing if necessary - which it wasn’t
  • We have a high accuracy GNSS system that allowed the aircraft to land safely on the drone pad 20km away from the ground station
Avy VTOL drone engineer ground station Rwanda
David, our tech engineer monitoring the BVLOS flight

The sky has no limit

The 3 week event involved challenging and collaborating with the biggest players of the VTOL healthcare drone industry, which meant that the teams had to adjust themselves and forget about the commercial aspect. These real life drone scenarios made the teams realise they were in it together - an intense and fun learning environment, where every team was helping each other out. Some highlights recounted by Renee, our flight operations’ captain, include:

  • Soldering a new connector for Uhuru Labs, so that they could fly with one of our batteries. 
  • During one of the flying competitions, one of the Involi trackers wasn’t connecting to the Altitude Angel UTM platform. Wingcopter went to tell the organisers to stop our time because we hadn’t started flying yet, which really showed sportsmanship. 
  • Phoenix Wings were on a flight when it started to rain and thunderstorm. All the teams were worried and huddled together hoping the Manta Ray would appear out of the clouds. It was a great moment of delight, relief and pride when the aircraft came into sight.
This competition allowed them to come here, to work together, to experience and come up with solutions
Olivier Defawe, Director of Health Systems for VillageReach & LKC judge

20km BVLOS flight in Lake Kivu, Rwanda

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Throwback Thursday

Looking back, the Avy team is already feeling nostalgic and looking forward to ADF 2021! We couldn’t have wished for a better organisation, which allowed us to put all our focus and energy on the Avy Aera. It was a great opportunity to demonstrate how drones can be a contributing solution to facilitating the access to healthcare in remote areas.

Just to compare, the Avy Aera took 11mins to fly across Lake Kivu to Island Bugarura whilst it would take 45 mins for a boat to cross the lake. With regards to emergency deliveries, it can be a matter of life or death when time is of the essence.

Lake kivu challenge teams and VTOL drones
Lake Kivu Challenge finalists

Curious to know more about drones for last mile deliveries?

Find out more about the Avy Aera and how our VTOL drone can be used to deliver medical goods while maintaining cold chain up, until the last mile.