The potential of other transport methods including drones, UAVs and airships in Africa provided an interesting discussion to end the Air Cargo Africa conference and exhibition.
The panel discussion, ‘Innovations in cargo delivery: from drones to UAVs to airships’ was moderated by BeCon Projects chief executive officer (CEO), Uwe Beck, who was joined by Astral Aviation founder and CEO, Sanjeev Gadhia, Hybrid Enterprises chief commercial officer, Brian Bauer, Dronamics founder and CEO, Svilen Rangelov, and Cargo iQ executive director, Ariaen Zimmerman.
Infrastructure is a problem across many regions in Africa, with few or no roads in remote areas and limited facilities for aircraft, so companies are testing different ways to transport cargo.
Astral Aviation founded Astral Solutions to test drones, which Gadhia expects to be the next big thing in Africa. Astral is testing drones including one capable of flying 1,200 kilometres with two tonnes of cargo on board.
He told delegates: “Our clientele are very keen. The aid and relief sectors are immediate takers. Aid and relief is about timely delivery to the final destination that may not have the infrastructure or logistics capabilities for commercial aircraft.”
Gadhia says African public awareness of drones needs to rise, but this was the same with mobiles phones, which are now part of life.
He predicts: “Drones will be widely adopted, they will be part of life for a lot of people and humanitarian work. Five per cent of Africans have a postal code, their mobile phone is their post code, they won’t need post office.”
Rangelov’s drones are aimed at e-commerce with one centralised warehouse to distribute products.
He explained: “Our plan is to work with domestic airlines, creating a product dedicated for e-commerce and using drones to serve communities in more remote places.”
Airships are another mode for areas with limited infrastructure. Bauer explained some of the advantages of the LMH1, like carrying up to 21 tonnes of cargo to remote locations and being capable of landing on any surface.
As he put it: “The future of airships is they will never see an airport and don’t need infrastructure, they can go from any field to any remote site.”