ROHACELL® Foam and the Black Swan
The mission at DRONAMICS is to democratize air freight, enabling same day delivery for everyone, everywhere. To achieve this, they’re developing a new type of cargo aircraft – small, remotely-piloted
and extremely fuel efficient. This special delivery drone can transport up to 350 KG (772 lbs) over 2,500 KM (1553 miles) for a cost that‘s 50%+ lower than traditional modes of transportation. It is monitored and managed remotely via satellite, and it’s designed to move cargo quickly and efficiently. It’s called the Black Swan and Evonik’s ROHACELL® foam is part of the project.
The Black Swan can land on short and unpaved runways, enabling on-demand point-to-point flights and a speedy same-day delivery even to the most remote locations that would otherwise take days to reach over ground or sea.
They are starting with air networks in Europe and beyond with fleets of the Black Swan, taking advantage of the multitude of small airfields that are often unused, training local personnel as drone and logistics operators, and partnering with local industry to provide a valuable lifeline of getting goods in and out of small, remote, mountainous and/or island communities within hours at a cost that is often below road transportation.
We had a chance to talk with Konstantin Rangelov, Co-Founder and Chief Technical Officer of DRONAMICS, to learn more about the Black Swan, their international drone delivery network and the future of this rapidly-evolving industry.
WHAT IS HAPPENING IN THE DRONE DELIVERY MARKET TODAY AND WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD? HOW IS DRONAMICS POSITIONING ITSELF IN THIS EMERGING MARKET?
The global drone economy is still in its early days – Levitate Capital estimates that the still-nascent $15B global drone economy has the potential to more than double in the next five years and it is expected to further grow up to $90B by 2030. Drone logistics is predicted to become the fastest-growing segment after 2025 reaching $47B by 2030. We have seen a number of success stories from the cargo drone market in emerging economies and now more and more pilot projects are gaining traction for specific use cases in the US, Europe, and Asia.
DRONAMICS operates in the middle-mile cargo drone market which means we are an alternative to the delivery truck or van – but we can cover distances faster, at lower cost and with better fuel efficiency which results in lower environmental impact. Our solution works for e-commerce as well as for any time-critical cargo, such as perishables, health products like blood or vaccines to remote locations, to spare parts for offshore platforms. It also has the potential to unlock economic opportunities in remote, previously under-served locations.
CAN YOU TALK A BIT ABOUT THE DRONAMICS IMPLEMENTATION PLAN, GIVING INSIGHT INTO HUBS, REACH/DISTANCE, APPLICATIONS, TIMELINE, AND VOLUME EXPECTATIONS?
Our proprietary aircraft, the Black Swan, is a long-range large drone built for cargo, which means it has higher capacity volume and better energy efficiency than alternative aircraft. It can cover distances of 2,500 km (1553 miles), carrying up to 350 kg (772 lbs). We are in the process of building our network of droneports by partnering with airports in Europe and Australia – we currently have a total of 42 locations in 14 European countries and more in the pipeline.
THE BLACK SWAN HAS A DIFFERENT APPROACH COMPARED TO OTHER DELIVERY DRONES CURRENTLY AVAILABLE ON THE MARKET. WHERE DID THE IDEA COME FROM AND WHAT IS THE BACKGROUND THAT GAVE LIFE TO THIS OUTSTANDING PROJECT?
Our goal was ambitious, even deemed impossible at first – to solve a problem by innovating an industry that, besides digitalization, has seen little innovation in the past century. Getting goods from A to B can be a lengthy process subject to disruptions, such as traffic or strikes, or if it’s fast, like in the belly of a passenger flight, it’s inefficient and costly, as well as polluting. We had a complex set of issues to deal with which is why we called
our aircraft the Black Swan. It is autonomous, its design results in supreme fuel efficiency, it has lower operating costs and can fly further than other drones. It can also land nearly anywhere.
WHAT IS YOUR EXPERIENCE WITH THE USE OF COMPOSITES, ESPECIALLY IN THE UAV BUSINESS? WHAT ROLE ARE COMPOSITES PLAYING IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE BLACK SWAN?
The Black Swan is constructed of composite materials. They give light weight, increased strength and ease of manufacturing for mass production. As we are looking to build a fleet of Black Swans, we are looking for the most efficient and quality materials to do that with.
WHAT IS YOUR EXPERIENCE WITH ROHACELL® AND WHAT MAKES IT STAND APART FROM OTHER MATERIAL OPTIONS IN THE CORE MATERIAL MARKET?
We use ROHACELL® in several key components. It gives us great structural integrity and durability. It’s lightweight, durable and the fact that it works well at high temperatures are the key benefits we like about the product.
WHAT TECHNOLOGICAL/TECHNICAL BREAKTHROUGHS HAS DRONAMICS BROUGHT TO THE MARKET? HOW WILL THESE BREAKTHROUGHS IMPACT THE FUTURE OF CARGO TRANSPORTATION?
Many other cargo drones are conversions from traditional planes or repurposed drones. Drone manufacturers do not operate them, they provide a tool, not a solution. DRONAMICS is a full-stack service, it provides the drone, the operation, and the control. In terms of competing with other modes of transport – our innovation
makes mass air cargo accessible through standardization, easy deployment and operation; essentially offering the speed of air at the cost of road transportation. Shipping within Europe averages 1-4 business days, and 1-3 days in the US, but same-day is reserved for urgent shipping only because of high cost. The solution we are proposing has the potential to redefine the traditional hub-and-spoke model by offering a flexible regional connectivity solution where the drone is not required to return to its base after completing a route but instead react to the customer’s demand. With our solution we can offer prices in Europe starting at €0,99 for a typical <1 kg parcel, disrupting existing same-day middle-mile delivery operators.
Keep your eyes in the skies, you never know when a Black Swan may be making a delivery in your area!