Charis UAS dreams of a drone manufacturing plant in Africa
Kigali, RWANDA – When people hear about drones and Rwanda, the first thing that comes to their mind is… not Charis UAS.
It is Zipline actually, the American medical drone logistics company that slipped virtually unknown into the east African country in 2016, with nothing but a few drones and an idea; and then ballooned into a $1,2billion dollar company in just three years – just because they saved a young girl’s life, who needed emergency blood transplant and got it, thanks to the intervention of a new unmanned air medical transport called a Zip.
Well; Charis UAS does not do Zips. It is a fully Rwandan industrial drone services company, founded by a Rwandan and based in the capital Kigali. The company offers drone services to industries that include agriculture, construction, mapping and surveying – even doing some consulting work for Zipline, like mapping out new frontiers that the American company will be looking to push.
But Charis’ dream is to emerge out of Zipline’s shadow, and make an impact of Zipline proportions in Africa – but on the industrial drone space. The start-up wants to establish an industrial drone manufacturing plant in Rwanda, which its founder says will employ at last 100 highly skilled employees at its inception.
On January 27, that dream got closer to being real.
Charis UAS announced that it had received a major cash injection from a British moving camera systems provider, XM2 PURSUIT, which investment Charis will use to water and accelerate its drone manufacturing and dream across Africa.
Sadly, if you have a really curious bone like us and are eager to know the exact figures the investing company poured into the Charis expansion project, then you are going to be disappointed.
“The exact size of the investment is confidential at the moment,” Charis UAS founder Eric Rutayisire Muziga told CNBC. “But what I can tell people is that it is a reasonably big investment, which is going to help us start up our manufacturing initiative, which will be the first in East Africa.”
And it could be only the second drone manufacturing plant in Africa too, after AerialMetric, which has been making medical delivery drones in Madagascar for almost six years now. Then there is the drone Africa Service in Niger, West Africa, which manufactures its own drones, but not at a scale that Charis is dreaming of right now.
“Our ultimate goal is to serve the whole of Africa with locally made drones. We have discovered that there is a supply gap on the continent, so we are quite excited about our project.”
Founded in 2014, Charis UAS is Rwanda’s first-ever licensed UAV company and owes its growth in the rapidly developing drone industry in Africa to friendly and progressive legislation by the Rwandan government. Through its advanced data analytics, the start-up has supported multiple governments and private organizations in optimising their business operations as well as creating a powerful social impact within their communities such as using drones to fight against malaria and advance local energy programs.
In February 2020, Charis launched the first locally manufactured drone in Rwanda.
Now, it wants to build industrial drones for everybody in Africa, and the XM2 PURSUIT chief operations officer, Aidan Kelly, thinks the company is really onto something ground-breaking.
“Whether its designing solutions, integrating workflows, utilizing automation or delivering data in meaningful ways, our investment into Charis UAS is part of our plan to partner with leaders in their field around the world, to unlock the true potential that aerial and remotely sensed data can provide,” said Kelly.
Charis UAS’ CEO did say establishing the manufacturing plant will be a love affair that will run into tens of millions of dollars, and the hope is they got enough to get the project off the ground.
“Africa is rapidly adopting new technologies and open to new innovations,” said Rutayisire. “Having the investment, support, and expertise of XM2 PURSUIT will help us execute our vision to support intelligent decision making and scale up the manufacturing of drones on the African continent. This will also create thousands of high skilled jobs for the youth on our beloved continent.”