Pilots not in cockpits flying aircraft but maneuvering drones from their desktops on the ground – a scenario to likely become reality in the near future at Lufthansa. The carrier is currently evaluating potential business areas in logistics that are suited for customized transport solutions enabled by drones. It may well happen that they become the smallest air vehicles operated by the airline.
It seems that the deployment of drones is becoming an increasingly hot topic in the field of logistics and aviation, despite the many legal barriers and unsolved but pressing security issues that
need to be clarified prior to any commercial use.
The first drone initiatives have been taken by FedEx and DHL Express, China’s e-Commerce giant Alibaba, followed last April by Swiss WorldCargo together with the Swiss Postal Service and U.S. company Matternet, announcing a drone delivery project this summer on preprogrammed routes to test the technical and business capabilities of the unmanned vehicles, which are able to carry up to 20 kilograms per flight.
Now Swiss parent Lufthansa has also jumped on the bandwagon, putting this topic on the agenda, confirms speaker Thomas Jachnow. “It is fact that we are currently looking into this matter to obtain an unbiased valuation basis as precondition for further decisions.”
CEO Spohr confirms drone initiative
Prior to his claim, Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr spoke publicly of his airline’s interest in this up and coming business field that’s developing almost at the speed of light, offering unprecedented commercial prospects.
If given the green light, a drone division could add to Lufthansa’s diversified service portfolio comprising of the passenger airline, LH Cargo, LH Technik, LSG Sky Chefs, LH Flight Training among others.
Rending services on LH Cargo’s account
In his announcement, Spohr spoke of a multiple step approach, beginning with the training of operating personnel, followed by identifying different fields of application complementing the services offered by Lufthansa Cargo.
According to Spohr, another daughter company – LH Technik – could take care of the technical side of the project, being responsible for the proper functioning of the drones.
When asked about a time frame by LH to air the company’s first drone, speaker Thomas Jachnow warned of unrealistic expectations, omitting the many aspects that still have to be evaluated including the technical side, operational issues, the legal framework including questions of liability and security before any business models can finally be identified.
DHL Express is one step ahead
It is quite a list that has to be processed. The only thing Thomas confirmed is that until 31 December this year no Lufthansa operated drone will take to the air. So DHL’s drone aircraft linking the German coastline with an island in the North Sea to fly medication and pharmaceutical products to a drug store on the island will remain the only commercial drone operated within Germany for the time being.
Heiner Siegmund / Michael Taweel