And it will all be happening in the near future. CargoForwarder Global met with Svilen Rangelov, Co-Founder & CEO of DRONAMICS, and Hendrik Bender, Vice President Group Sales, Business Development and Marketing at Sovereign Speed GmbH, at the TIACA air cargo forum in Miami on 08NOV22, for an exclusive interview on their soon-to-be-announced partnership for time-critical deliveries across Europe.
Most people especially in road logistics will be familiar with the acronyms FTL (full truckload) and LTL (less than truckload). Sovereign Speed’s Hendrik Bender has now called variations on this
theme into play: FDL (full droneload) and LDL (less than droneload), and his company will be focusing on the latter in future: “Sovereign will act like a GSA for drones,” he tells
CargoForwarder Global in an exclusive interview, differentiating his business model from that of Hellmann (DRONAMICS’ first official launch partner – CFG reported) which
will be centered more around FDL. “Together with DRONAMICS, we plan to develop a European LDL (less than droneload) drone network across Europe, so that different customers can benefit from
one route,” he explains.
Changing the overnight game
Building on its company vision of “being the most reliable and respected transport company in Europe in the B2B sector for customers, employees and business partners alike”, Sovereign Speed will officially be announcing its partnership with DRONAMICS, “Europe’s first licensed drone cargo airline and IATA’s first strategic partner for drones worldwide,” next week, and adding a unique third element to its transport model. Next to a road fleet of more than 350 units and its own Businesswings airline, the European logistics provider will soon be offering DRONAMICS’ Black Swan cargo drone transportation in its service portfolio. “DRONAMICS will complement the Sovereign Speed network and service portfolio for time critical solutions, essentially turning Sovereign from an overnight provider to a same-day provider,” Hendrik Bender elaborates. “For time-sensitive deliveries such as pharmaceuticals, aerospace and AOG business, this solution could be a game-changer, enabling same-day delivery that is affordable and environmentally friendly.”
Commercial kick-off in 2023
So, when will we see the first Black Swan in the sky, CargoForwarder Global wants to know? Svilen Rangelov tells us: “We are working towards running first the commercial flights in the first half-year of 2023. We won't have certainty on exact dates until our test flight program is completed. Once we do, we will be excited to share the full details!”
The test flights are due to happen by the end of 2022, he adds. And where? “Initially, the partnership will focus on the Mediterranean, which is the launch market for DRONAMICS.” The joint goal is to expand the partnership reach across Central and Western Europe, where Sovereign Speed has an established customer network, “therefore bringing the DRONAMICS innovative solution for the middle-mile to Sovereign's extensive customer base,” he concludes.
Slowly, surely, and above all, safely
Hendrik Bender points out: “We are realistic that initially we won't have 100% coverage across Europe. It has taken Sovereign Speed over twenty years to build its network across Central and Western Europe,” but is positive regarding the many opportunities drones offer for faster and cleaner transport solutions. The two companies are working on a clear roadmap, with stepwise expansion. Originally looking at Malta and Italy, it could then move to certain other central and western European countries. One important issue DRONAMICS emphasizes, is safety first, also underlining the wide scope of application: “We will do this step-by-step, ensuring our operations satisfy the regulatory requirements - and bringing the benefit of same-day delivery to people that didn't have that access previously. Since we set out to develop our cargo mobility solution, we knew we could make a difference to remote and underserved communities. Over 20 million people in Europe live in island communities often disregarded by major commercial routes. We know we can make a difference,” Rangelov says
Efficient in both time and environmental impact
Since the Black Swan is a middle-mile transport solution, it could replace some of the road feeder journeys taking place today, and “offer time savings of up to 80%-90%, in addition to up to 60% CO2 emissions savings,” Rangelov reveals. “Our model also brings cargo closer to local communities and businesses, therefore shortening but not replacing the last-mile.”
What about a tangible business example of what this partnership could mean in future? The major gain is in time crucial deliveries, the two parties concur: “Imagine shipping a fresh fish catch of the day from the coast of Italy to restaurants across Europe, within hours, and at 50% less cost than current air cargo. The benefits both for hospitality businesses as well as for the fishing sector can be immense. DRONAMICS will enable Sovereign to grow its network across Europe with a same-day approach and to reach regions in Europe, where Sovereign are not present today,” he illustrates.
Bender adds another example in line with a key aspect of Sovereign’s express expertise: “This new transport solution is also very interesting for medical studies and samples, which have to be shipped in a fixed time-critical schedule between different international laboratories.” He goes on to detail the share of responsibilities in the supply chain: “The partnership will see Sovereign Speed covering the first and last-miles of the journey, and DRONAMICS the middle-mile, offering the final customer an end-to-end, premium service same-day delivery solution.”
Pilots and fuels
“Has DRONAMICS established a network of ground stations across Europe taking care of loading processes and technical issues, including supplying fuel?” CargoForwarder Global asks. Rangelov explains: “An important part of our cargo mobility solution is our droneport network, which will not only allow for aircraft take-off and landing, but will also host mobile cargo-handling and remote-control operations.” He details that a droneport team will usually consist of two pilots, two ground handlers and one mechanic for maintenance issues, while a central Network Operations Center will be based in Malta. “Our remotely piloted aircraft is flown by experienced pilots with background in commercial aviation. Each flight will be operated by pilots on the ground at the origin and destination, via our mobile control centers. Initially, we will start with 1:1 pilot to flight. As our operations progress, the goal is to reach 1:12 pilots to flight.”
And fuel? “When it comes to fuel supply, we will be working with our local droneport partners to leverage existing infrastructures. In addition, we are exploring alternative fuel supply agreements through our zero-emissions synthetic fuel partnership with Zero Petroleum, and have also just announced that we will be working with Cranfield Aerospace Solutions to develop and integrate a hydrogen fuel-cell solution into our Black Swan aircraft. This would allow us to adopt an alternative, zero-carbon emissions source of fuel,” he concludes, along with the information that the goal is to make Black Swans’ engines fuel agnostic, so that the only necessary adaptations would be the drone’s tanks.
It will be interesting to see how the partnership has developed by this time, next year!
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