The deal, once realized, could be a breakthrough for the London-based cargo drone developer and provider following a recently announced partnership agreement with logistics company, Hellmann. Dronamics estimates that up to 4,000 of the company’s projected Black Swan unmanned arial vehicles (UAV) could be operated on behalf of DHL by 2027. Financially, 1.86 billion euros annually could be generated once the pact is in full swing, estimates Dronamics’ Mastermind Svilen Rangelov.
The drone partner’s mutual aim is to offer customers reliable same-day deliveries over distances of up to 2,000 kilometers, at prices that clearly beat air freight rates and even costs incurred
by road feeder services. Dronamics provides the UAVs while DHL pays for the capacity booked. “The entire set-up resembles a blocked space agreement, very common in the cargo industry,”
states Mr. Rangelov.
Asked about the specifics of the deal, he remains tight lipped, thus respecting partner DHL’s communications policy of publishing announcements only after the practical implementation of a given project has been accomplished.
Future fields of operation
Hence, much of the agreement between the two sides remains unclear, such as the routes where the satellite guided Black Swans could replace traditional air freight transports. This is easiest on routes across the British Channel, in northern Europe with its many water areas, and in the Mediterranean region, Rangelov hints at possible fields of operations.
“We are excited to pilot the use of the Black Swan in customer operations in the near future (since) cargo drones will be an element in the next generation of transportation in logistics. Dronamics is a pioneer and leader in the field of cargo drones and our collaboration will help to open up opportunities for urgent, sensitive, and time-critical deliveries,” comments Matthias Heutgen, Senior VP, Global Head of Innovation and Commercial Development at DHL.
Regulatory framework is being developed
Both parties see practical application possibilities above all in DHL’s first and last-mile services. Dronamics will provide the drones and technical expertise, while employing local staff to handle and operate the UAVs.
As far as the legal framework for drone operation is concerned, the course has already been set for a go, at least in Europe, although each of the EU member states still have to confirm the rules of use and operation drawn up by the intergovernmental Jarus Group***.
Given these rather encouraging regulatory signs, Svilen Rangelov, Co-Founder and CEO of Dronamics, expects to receive an AOC for his company’s Black Swan drones before the turn of the year. In this regard, he points to the example of an Irish drone provider, which already received a license from the local authorities in February.
The producer is not named yet
“We are still evaluating which company we will award the contract to build the drones to. At the top of our shortlist are well-known applicants from the aerospace and automotive industries,” he says.
Although no final decision has been made on the manufacturer, Rangelov is clear that Black Swans will be produced in continental Europe.
***The Joint Authorities for Rulemaking on Unmanned Systems (JARUS) is a group of experts from the National Aviation Authorities and regional aviation safety organizations. Its purpose is to recommend a single set of technical, safety and operational requirements for the certification and safe integration of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) into airspace and at aerodromes. The objective of JARUS is to provide guidance material aiming to facilitate each authority to write their own requirements and to avoid duplicate efforts.
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