BY JOSHUA MOSES
In 2015, e-commerce platform, Yudala, led Nigeria’s first drone delivery during its Black Friday sales. It was a spectacle with massive coverage and talking points. An Unmanned Arial Vehicle, UAV, took off from the headquarters of Yudala at Redemption Crescent, Gbagada, Lagos, loaded with a Nokia Lumia smartphone and delivered successfully.
Before this, drones have been prominently used in Nigeria’s film and movie industry and for surveillance of oil installations. However, how to use drones for delivery services has been a bit of a conundrum. Like Yudala’s experiment showed these drones could not fly for long hours over relatively far distances. And they could only accommodate very light luggage.
Incidentally, the idea for Arone drones, according to Founder Emmanuel Ezenwere, a mathematical and intelligence engineer, started with a desire to find a faster way to deliver a friend’s sim card that he misplaced.
Instead of way billing it, through transport companies that offered courier services he wanted a personalized delivery system that could also be used during medical emergencies.
“Imagine for example medicine or blood being able to be sent very quickly to patients in rural areas. Or making fast deliveries of groceries in cities with traffic problems,” Emmanuel said.
With USD 5 K funding from two angel investors, tech startup company, Arone has delved fully into products delivery with their great range of 120Km and near supersonic speeds drone.
A large percentage of this funding has been invested in obtaining the inventory and equipment for building Arone drones, that includes a 3D printer for rapid prototyping. The company says that it is on track to demo its first prototype by the end of April.
Arone also has an idea to create a network of charging stations for drones in Nigeria in order to facilitate and increase the speed of deliveries in Nigeria.
Among those backing Arone’s innovation is external incubator manager, Jonas Michanek, a Swedish entrepreneur working for Ideon Science Park in Lundt, Sweden.
Michanek helped to set up the incubator Roar Nigeria, at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, where Arone is incubated.
“Arone has world-class technical ideas and knowledge, and their drone idea is one of those golden nuggets you seldom see. So smart, still relatively simple to understand and with a huge need in the market. I do not doubt that these guys will be creating groundbreaking things”, he said.
Arone’s major customers will be companies that are into Medical delivery, Online shopping, Grocery Shopping and Postal services. These companies will be required to subscribe to be able to rent a fleet of Arone’s, personalized delivery drones.
The startup has discovered what others have known for some time now, which is Innovating in Nigeria can be very daunting. Currently, it is battling with lack of a reliable on-grid power system which makes it expensive to run a startup.
“We need 24hrs power supply to keep our 3D printer printing components for Arone. We are building parts of Arone, in-house for maximum flexibility and customization. This has been a big challenge for us,” explains Emmanuel.
Despite its recent funding, the company is still on the watch for more funding both locally and globally.
“We’re constantly on the lookout for grants, and it would go a long way to get support from organizations and other Nigerian based Incubators and accelerators. We’ll be applying to Y-Combinator for the Winter batch incubation,” says Emmanuel.
Despite being incubated in Nigeria’s southeastern region, the startup wants to capitalize on the bubbling commercial value of Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital, by kicking off delivery operations there.
From Lagos, it hopes to expand to Major cities like Abuja, Port-Harcourt, Cross River and Enugu States and in two years expand to 5 major cities in each country in Africa.