Svilen Rangelov, a Bulgarian aviation engineer, and his brother took eight years to construct the first pilotless cargo plane, dubbed the Black Swan. The drone, which resembles a conventional light aircraft but lacks a pilot’s cabin, combines cell phone economics — inexpensive electronics — with the ability to land on short runways.
Air cargo refers to a huge aircraft unloading cargo onto a truck, which then drives to a sorting facility to be deconstructed for the next leg of transportation to various locations.
Svilen believes that shifting a lighter consignment to a minor airport closer to the receiver will save costs and free up vehicle capacity.
Europe contains 3,000 airstrips, which is a considerable number of locations.
Black Swan is comprised of a range of lightweight composite material combinations with a gasoline-consuming piston engine, yet its long, fuel-efficient wings allow it to fly efficiently. This entire shipment will travel at a height of 20,000 feet, away from the majority of passenger flights. In addition to testing a new synthetic aviation fuel that Dronamics claims will enable carbon-neutral flights, this height range is considered unoccupied airspace. Black Swan’s cargo weighs around 350 kg (770 lb).
Instead of connecting doors, we’re connecting cities.
Black Swans, Europe’s first drone cargo airline, will be operated as an airline by Drononmics. It will charge by weight or charter, minimizing the expense and time required by trucks that cross Europe to transport essential supplies and parts.
German logistics giant Hellmann is preparing to begin deploying these drones. Jan Kleine-Lasthues, the project’s leader, has vast experience in airfreight.
According to Mr. Kleine-Lasthues, the drones will enable Hellmann to deliver goods that were previously transported by road. He does not foresee that these new designs would put conventional air freight at a competitive disadvantage.
According to Mr. Kleine-Lasthues, one of Hellmann’s current objectives is to connect Greek islands using cargo drones.
Because they will be more prevalent than ferries, we can use drones to divide goods into many parcels and increase delivery frequency. They provide speed and adaptability and constitute a substantial change.
According to Dronamics, any EU-based freight hub can reach the entirety of Western Europe with the aircraft’s claimed range of 2,500 kilometers (1,500 miles). By the beginning of 2023, a full-scale prototype of the drone should be in the air, but smaller versions are already in flight in Bulgaria.
According to Dronamics, the European aerospace regulator has granted the company a restricted operating license and is aware of its operations. Hellmann proposes they begin flying in 2023.
According to Mr. Kleine-Lasthues, early drone delivery proposals were a dead end. I have never supported the concept of package drones. We are cooperating with Dronamics because this is not an idea comparable to Amazon shipping.
Bristow, a global helicopter operator based in the United States, is interested in freight drones. Bristow has announced its intention to acquire up to 100 freight drones from the California company Elroy Air. In contrast to Electric Vertical Take-Off (Evtol) designs, the Elroy Air cargo drones will utilize a hybrid electric engine, a little turbine that generates electrical power and burns aviation fuel.
As a result of its hybrid design, the drone is not reliant on docking stations for power and can refuel in-flight. Additionally, it has a lower fuel consumption than a helicopter.
According to David Stepanek, a former US Marine Corps helicopter specialist who is now a Bristow executive exploring cargo drone operations, pure electric power limits you to the location of the charging station.
In regions like West Africa, where the offshore oil industry needs to move equipment but wants to minimize the expense of deploying helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft, Bristow is considering employing the Elroy drones to assist in its operations. This would be especially helpful in areas like West Africa.
Elroy Air is developing a massive, multi-engined, vertical takeoff drone capable of transporting a 100 kilogram (225 lb) payload up to 480 kilometers (300 miles).
Kofi Asante of Elroy Air did research for Uber’s freight business on autonomous trucks. The concept of a cargo pod being attached to the chassis of an autonomous truck and then released also applies to cargo drones, according to him.
According to him, a test flight of a full-sized drone is anticipated for the end of 2022, and relations with the US aviation regulator, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), are quite positive.
The drone, Chapparal, has a width of roughly 8 meters (26 feet) compared to other unmanned civil drones. However, Mr. Asante maintains that size is crucial.
It operates at a fifth of the cost of a helicopter and can carry a hundred times the payload of a tiny unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) with a similar weight to a small airplane.