A third of freight forwarders foresee cargo drones by 2029

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More than a third of freight forwarders believe drones will be used for the future distribution of cargo and 42 per cent of logistics carriers believe their business will use such robot aircraft in future.

The drones, also known as Unmanned Air Vehicles (UAVs), are expected to provide cost savings for logistics companies in the long term because they are expected to use less fuel than manned aircraft. The survey of freight forwarders and carriers, carried out by theNational Aeronautic Centre (NAC) from 28 July to 11 August, also found that companies believed they would witness the introduction of drones in the next fifteen years. It is a survey by the Freight Transport Association that identified fuel as a major drive behind interest in drones. The NAC has facilities in the UK regions of West Wales and Cornwall.

Architect of the NAC and West Wales Airport managing director, Ray Mann, says: “This research shows that there is identified, tangible demand in the marketplace for UAVs capable of facilitating the transportation of goods with significant tonnage internationally.”

In the survey, the the highest ranking concern from logistics firms and freight forwarders was that UAVs would not be able to transport sufficient tonnage to replace typical sea, road and air freight distributions. 

NAC offers test facilities for companies developing large unmanned systems that can evolve into vehicles capable of transporting significant payloads. West Wales Airport has a 1200 metre runway and is located inside segregated airspace, 500 square miles (1,294 square kilometres) over land and 2,000 square miles over the sea. In Cornwall, the NAC’s Newquay Cornwall Airport has a 3,000 metre runway that has access to 3,000 square miles of segregated airspace. Mann adds: “The challenge for those involved in the design, manufacture and testing of UAVs is to leverage this demand to help secure the required resource investment to ensure the delivery of commercially viable applications.”

On 26 September, a scale-model of the Versatile Vehicle (VV)-Plane cargo UAV being developed by 4×4 Aviation at London Ashford Airport is to be flown publicly. The VV-Plane drone uses electrically powered ducted fans for vertical take-off and landing. It uses gimbals to angle the fans for forward flight. 

The full-scale VV-Plane has a 15 metre wingspan and an 800 kilometre range with a 20 foot standard container with a mass of up to 30 tonnes, including cargo. The VV-Plane is designed to carry a standard 20 foot container. The scale-model has a one metre wingspan.

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