Reuters reported on Monday that German aviation startup Volocopter entered a partnership with logistics group DB Schenker to operate heavy lift cargo eVTOLs. A key challenge that faces the aerial mobility industry today (and a hindrance from full scale implementation of commercial eVTOL flights) is obtaining substantial operational data for performance and safety that will pave the roadway toward full-fledged certification. Volocopter’s announcement of the VoloDrone unveiled the perfect system to being acquisition of this data.
The VoloDrone has a useful load of 200 kg, and supports light package delivery trips of not more than 40 kilometers. As UPS, Walmart, and Amazon continue their advancements with commercial deployment of logistics aircraft, Volocopter’s partnership with DB Schenker will also establish the German company’s infrastructure for data collection. However, the partnership is B2B oriented, as opposed to the B2C use cases that UPS, Walmart, and Amazon are hyper focused on.
In an interview with Reuters, Volocopter CEO Florian Reuter commented that “The logistics opportunity in the urban market is just as big as the passenger market. When people associate logistics with drones they always think of the 3 kg, last-mile delivery to the doorstep,” Reuter said. “It’s the middle mile, not the last mile, that we are serving.” Reportedly, Schenker selected Volocopter after suporting a portion of the company’s $103 million funding round in February. Volocopter has raised over 120 million euros from investors to date, and an operational VoloDrone prototype should be implemented some time during 2021.
Volocopter also recently announced commercial ticket sales for VoloCity airtaxi rides. Prices are currently high, at 300 euros for a 15 minute flight, but are intended to decrease as implementation of these aircraft expands.
Reuter commented that the certification timeline for the VoloCity from the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) is expected “towards the end of 2022”. The VoloDrone will follow with certification in 2023. While the VoloDrone might not receive certification prior to the VoloCity passenger version, special flight permits would allow for case by case use approvals for the VoloDrone. Such permits would require additional training for Schenker operators to ensure that safety protocols are adhered to, and the intent is to make the training relatively easy for employees.
Why it’s important: An increasing number of cargo logistics applications for aerial mobility companies are offering low-hanging fruit for data collection that will eventually be used for system certification. Fortunately, the lower risk exposure to conducting logistical operations will pave the way for a safer systems-based maturation and integration program for many manufacturers. However, Volocopter has established themselves as an outlier by selecting the business to business format, in lieu of B2C transactions. B2B use cases may benefit from easier of implementation than B2C: business will likely employ more routine and repeatable flight paths and delivery requirements than those of customer deliveries, which vary in frequency and location to a larger degree.
Source // Reuters