Black Swan: World's first 'cargo drone airline' aims to fly in early 2023
The "Black Swan," a drone approved to transport cargo in the European Union (EU), will make its debut early in 2023.
Konstantin and Svilen Rangelov, two brothers from Bulgaria, who run Dronamics, a drone manufacturing company, are the minds behind the idea.
"It can cover the continental U.S., the diagonal in the Caribbean, the South China Sea, and all of Europe," Rangelov told Business Insider, referring to the cargo drone.
"So the size fits neatly into the global geography."
The two began researching the business in 2013 when Amazon started experimenting with drone delivery, according to multiple media reports quoting the brothers.
The brothers thought there was a better way to deliver courier packages to each client, but they were discouraged by the logistical challenges involved in using small drones like Amazon's to carry goods directly to houses.
Merchandise is flown into Sofia in Bulgaria, loaded onto a large truck, and then driven hundreds of miles before being unloaded onto a smaller van that transports the delivery to specific locations, which according to Rangelov, is a costly affair.
"We said let's map the size of the vehicle to fit exactly what you can fit in a delivery van in the last mile," said Rangelov.
"This way, we get to cut a step from the process."
Cheaper and quicker cargo delivery
With the support of approximately 3,000 airstrips located around Europe, the final product, which has about half the capacity of a U-Haul moving van, may provide consumers with quick and inexpensive cargo shipment, allowing for same-day delivery, as per the 'drone airline' company.
Many of the airstrips are closer to consumers than the primary distribution centers, making them even more practical for same-day delivery, feels Rangelov.
Additionally, the design sets Dronamics apart from other cargo drone operators that frequently carry smaller loads for shorter distances.
"Most small delivery drones are an attempt to solve the last-mile problem," Dronamics told Drone DJ news in 2018.
"They are the bike messenger, we are the cross-country truck."
The company claims that Dronamics's shipment drone may reduce prices by up to 50% when compared to rival cargo planes, in part because of its carbon fiber structure, making it attractive for the "middle-mile market."
The Black Swan can go 2,500 kilometers (1,550 miles) in one flight, cruise at 20,000 feet, and carry up to 350 kilos (770 pounds).
BRP-Rotax, an Austrian firm owned by Bombardier Recreational Products, constructed the single-propeller Rotax engine that powers the drone shuttle.
Rangelov claims the plane will be able to penetrate the low-density e-commerce industry since it will be able to carry individual shipments in addition to single pallets of one item.
Black Swan runs on sustainable fuel
Dronamics intends to use Black Swan as the first freight drone airline when it is ready for use, beginning with flights over water and in the Mediterranean, such as in Greece or Cyprus.
The Black Swan can access small, remote settlements more easily than other drones due to its carrying capacity as well as its ability to land on short runways, including unpaved ones, claims the company.
The airplane, which will be made in large quantities in Germany and Australia, is powered entirely by sustainable aviation fuel.
The "fastest and greenest" method of transporting freight will be promoted, and the resulting emissions will be 60% lower, claim the manufacturers.
"Initially, we want to start with lower-risk routes," Rangelov said. "As we gain acceptance and confidence, we'll fly over land as well."
The remotely piloted uncrewed aircraft won't bring items door to door; instead, they'll use a network of "droneports" to provide same-day cargo delivery between major gateways or warehouses and distant communities.
Future of Dronamics and the beards
The German logistics giant Hellmann, which called Dronamics' Black Swan a "game changer," and DHL, among others, are already partners with the business, according to Rangelov.
Early drone delivery concepts, in Hellmann's Kleine-Lasthues's perspective, were "a dead end."
"I never believed in the idea of parcel drones. That's why we're working with Dronamics, it's not an Amazon delivery type idea," Lasthues told BBC.
A quarter-sized prototype was originally made available by Dronamics earlier.
Meanwhile, the full-scale Black Swan is anticipated to make its inaugural flight in the upcoming months, at which point the Rangelov brothers announced they would finally "shave their eight-year-old beards."
The Konstantin brothers pledged that they wouldn't shave until the drone they had been building in their native Bulgaria made its maiden flight.
The beard dates back to the formation of Dronamics when they founded the company.
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