…but “the world’s leading middle-mile cargo drone developer and operator”, DRONAMICS has reached another important milestone in its pioneering journey to set up a pan-European drone network, eventually serviced by its Black Swan unmanned aerial vehicle (CFG reported: European Drone Network In The Pipeline and Arise Black Swan ) : it announced on 21OCT21, that it has chosen Malta as its first European UAV operations base.
That Malta should become DRONAMICS’ first European base, is thanks to a number of factors: it is an island and unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) operations are currently far less problematic over sea than land, when it comes to SORA (specific operations risk assessment) regulations governing drone operations – in this case, the SORA SAIL 2 authorization allows flights over water and sparsely populated areas. As Malta is close to a number of Italian coastal airports, it is a perfect starting point for initial operations. Malta, too, is highly progressive when it comes to UAV developments, and, above all, is one of the high-fliers (pardon the pun) on the European aviation scene, having seen explosive growth over the past few years: It not only counts almost 400 aircraft on the Maltese Aircraft Register and around 40 AOC holders, it, more to the point, has a very strong Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) sector – a factor that is of particular interest when it comes to the maintenance of the eventual DRONAMICS fleet.
Same-day operations to start in 2022
The choice of Malta was made following “a detailed selection process with multiple national civil aviation authorities and leading customers in Europe,” the press release states, and the plan is to commence same-day delivery services with DRONAMICS’ Black Swan drone (UAV capable of carrying 350 kg of cargo a distance of up to 2,500 km), in 2022. Sergio Oliveira e Silva, Chief Operating Officer of DRONAMICS, states: “Malta is the perfect operational and strategic location for our first flights of the Black Swan. We aim to connect Malta first with Italy where the Italian Civil Aviation Authority (ENAC) has established testbed airports for remotely pilot aircraft system trials. Transport Malta and the Civil Aviation Directorate have given us a clear path to establishing our first commercial routes and we aim to do the first demonstration flights in 2022.” After the first successful commercial flights from Malta to mainland Italy, DRONAMICS plans to branch out to other destinations in the Mediterranean and then all of Europe, he announces.
Ruth Sawers is DRONAMICS’ newly appointed Director of Business Operations Malta. Her strong background in HR and recruitment will facilitate the setting up of the DRONAMICS’ team which is currently hiring and looking to grow tenfold from an initial team of 3, depending on how soon operations get off the ground. The key to this is being awarded the light UAS operator certificate (LUC). “The LUC is an organizational approval certificate that drone operators should obtain by the respective National Aviation Authority of registration to have operators assessed that they are capable of assessing the risk of flight operations themselves.”
Ruth Sawers recently handed DRONAMICS’ LUC application to Transport Malta - Civil Aviation Directorate, (responsible for the safety and regulation of all aviation activities in Malta and member of ICAO, EASA, EUROCONTROL and ECAC), represented by Charles Pace, Director-General, and Analiza Abdilla, Flight Operations Inspecting Officer of the Civil Aviation Directorate. Once this is approved, DRONAMICS can go ahead with obtaining “flight authorization for the first flights with the full-scale Black Swan aircraft which are scheduled for 2022.”
Malta is an emphatic drone supporter
The environment for innovation in UAVs is fertile in Malta, as confirmed by Captain Charles Pace, Director General of Civil Aviation Directorate Transport Malta (TM-CAD) in his statement regarding DRONAMICS’ decision: “We are very proud of this milestone and are determined to continue into the UAV market. Special thanks to Neil Pavia and Analiza Abdilla from CAD, who were the driving force on this and other UAV projects.”
The sentiment is echoed in CEO of DRONAMICS, Svilen Rangelov’s words: “Malta has developed into a thriving hub with a strong aviation cluster that can support our expansion as the world’s cargo drone airline. We are very excited that Malta is going to be the first country in Europe that we will service, and its strategic position and great trade heritage make it the perfect location for our European base.”
What’s with the beard reference?
For those who perhaps to not know, the Rangelov brothers behind Dronamics, swore back in 2014 not to shave until they launch their first real cargo flight with a UAV. With the accelerated pace at which the company has been working in particular over the past year, that day is moving ever closer. The only question now is when will it happen in 2022, or is there a chance that they will come off before this year is out, already?
Those curious to see what DRONAMICS’ CEO, Svilen Rangelov’s beard looks like meanwhile, have the opportunity to do so at Malta’s Aviation Conference and Expo -MACE, taking place physically and virtually between 26-28OCT21, where he will be talking about the future role of unmanned aviation for cargo deliveries.
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