DHL has partnered with drone company Dronamics to develop “middle-mile” cargo drone solutions.
Dronamics’ Black Swan unmanned aircraft would be used for urgent deliveries. The two companies are still in discussions over a mutual exclusivity deal that would cover select industries.
Typically the emphasis on efficiency and cost-cutting in logistics is on “last mile” delivery—the transportation of goods from hubs to the final destination. Transport costs and carbon emissions both soar as demand rises for residential deliveries, for example, and companies look to reduce vehicle mileage and fuel consumption through solutions such as route-mapping, designated drop-off points, or alternative green vehicles.
The “middle mile” refers to the leg of the journey from warehouse to retailer. Under the new partnership, Dronamics would run middle-mile operations, providing the operating staff and technical expertise, in combination with DHL’s first and last-mile services.
The unmanned Black Swan cargo plane enables same-day point-to-point flights on demand, even to remote locations, while remaining fuel-efficient. It can carry up to 350kg and travel up to 2,500km, costing 80% less than any other aircraft. It also doesn’t need airports, capable of using short and unpaved runways.
Currently the aircraft uses gasoline, but Dronamics aims to become carbon-negative by 2027, using sustainable biofuels, which may also help DHL achieve its sustainability goals.
The first commercial flights on behalf of DHL are expected to take place in 2022.
Header image: Josh Sorenson