Some say they’ll never get off the ground as future cargo transporters and others are adamant that they have a bright future once almost all technical and regulatory setbacks have been ironed out. Unmanned Cargo Vehicles (UCVs) have been a point for discussion for over a decade and have started development in one form or another in various parts of the world.
Many prototypes - but still no real breakthrough
Who knows what Chinese developers are working on in this area!
Looking at the vast territory that China encompasses, it would make sense if a reliable UCV were put into action there in the near future in order to give the ever-growing number of express delivery companies a fast and reliable delivery inroad into the many outlying areas there.
But, that’s just one example.
On the other side of the globe, Amazon in the USA is making no secret about their interest in investing in future drone delivery vehicles. Their future aim may well be to eventually partly replace the present truck delivery modus with drone deliveries. However, that’s surely a long way down the road. Or is it?
Back to the present!
There are many companies around the globe who are developing all sorts of unmanned delivery vehicles, most of them for introduction into delivering in remote areas. These range from Switzerland to Africa, South America and of course China.
On the other hand, the billions of express package deliveries worldwide are already a big problem for cities and many rural areas. Express companies cannot deliver on time, get stuck in mile long traffic jams and are facing increasing costs in having to invest in surface infrastructure in order to guarantee same or next day delivery. A massive delivery ‘heart attack’ is going to be the result if companies such as FedEx, UPS, DHL, DPD and others, cannot come up with a long-term solution.
Are drone deliveries then the future answer?
San Francisco-based Elroy Air seems to be putting their cards on fast delivery unmanned vehicles. And they are just one of many to come. The company is working on a prototype of their own unmanned cargo delivery vehicle and reports show that they plan first flights already this year. The vehicle (see photo) is a vertical take-off version which will allow it to operate from almost anywhere. It is electric-hybrid powered and is being designed to carry almost 250 kilos of cargo over a maximum distance of 300 miles.
Elroy has obtained sufficient funding to get the prototype in the air and claims that they are working closely with the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on certifying the craft. A wise move! They already have a small-scale model of the end product in a testing mode. The end product is planned to be a so-called tandem-wing craft with a wingspan of more than 30 feet, powered by six battery driven rotors and be able to operate at a height of 10,000 feet. If that works, then this will be an aircraft in itself.
It seems that Elroy is looking at marketing this vehicle to the express operators. However, others are concentrating on outlying area transport as well.
Some will continue to laugh at the idea, but fact is that unmanned (drone) delivery on a large scale is only a matter of time considering the restrictions being faced on surface transport.
More to come, I’m sure!
John Mc Donagh