35 airports in 11 countries will be participating in a pan-European drone network to offer same day connectivity. Provider of the “Black Swan” drones is Bulgarian entrepreneur Svilen Rangelov, Founder and CEO of Dronamics Global Limited (UK).
According to Mr. Rangelov, the drones can uplift a load of 350 kilograms and cover a range of 2,500 kilometers. This would enable nonstop flights between Liege and Athens, or Copenhagen to
Madrid. In comparison to traditional air freight, deploying Black Swan drones is between 50-80% cheaper and saves nearly the same amount of greenhouse gas emissions, according to Dronamics.
So far, all this is only on paper. Operations will be kicked off in 2022, the announcement reveals. “We are looking forward to further expanding our network of distribution centers to serve the increasing demands of customers for fast, reliable, and cost-efficient air deliveries. Our goal is to power a pan-European network of droneports that will enable same-day air deliveries at the cost of road freight,” the manager states.
Drones and planes are different animals
Among the airports participating are Brescia, the hub for the Italian Postal Service, Skoevde in Sweden, Seinaejoki (Finland) and Osijek (Croatia). The most prominent name among the participants is Liege Airport in the Belgian Walloon province. “Unmanned air freight will be an important part of the future of the logistics industry. With the capabilities of the Black Swan, Dronamics taps into the growing segment of on-demand, same-day delivery in e-commerce, pharma, and time-critical cargo,” VP Commercial Steven Verhasselt of Liege Airport, states.
The manager goes on to say: “Innovation is key in our industry to meet the current and future challenges, and developing LGG as a drone hub is part of our strategic plan.”
Further clarifications are needed
However, all drone initiatives must be safely integrated with manned traffic on and around airports, as Dominique Dehaene, Communication Manager & Spokesperson of Belgian air traffic controller skeyes, points out. In most EU countries, UAVs are not allowed to fly within a radius of 2 km around an airport to avoid collisions between drones and aircraft. Under controlled circumstances, coordinated exceptions can be granted.
With the new EU legislation coming into place, there will be specific zones where operating drones is not permitted. “We from skeyes will manage and meticulously monitor the zones we are responsible for,” Mr. Dehaene says.
In the meantime, skeyes’ subsidiary SkeyDrone, is further developing knowledge and expertise on and the implementation of regulatory, technical, and operational issues relating to UAV traffic in Belgium.
Many still unresolved issues
Yet, other critical points need to be straightened out before the announced Droneport network becomes a reality. For example, it needs to be clarified as to who will monitor and control cross-border traffic. Will there be a transnational solution, or will each EU state insist on retaining this right? Another still open question is what kind of areas might be closed for drones to prevent conflicting encounters with air traffic. Also, overflying nuclear power plants and crossing military restricted zones might be taboo. Hence, it will take some time to set up a regulatory framework and turn the vision into a real project, offering the market cross-border cargo transports by drones as planned by Svilen Rangelov and his Dronamics team.
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