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A European planemaker built a pilotless aircraft to power the world’s first ‘cargo drone airline’ — meet Black Swan

Dronamics' Black Swan aircraft.Black Swan.

Dronamics

  • Bulgarian manufacturer Dronamics will soon debut a pilotless cargo aircraft the size of a delivery van, named Black Swan.
  • The plane boasts 50% lower costs than competing aircraft, a 770-pound payload, and a 1550-mile range.
  • The company will operate the aircraft as the world’s first “cargo drone airline” starting in 2023.
A new cargo aircraft is getting ready to hit the market.Dronamics' Black Swan aircraft.

Dronamics

European manufacturing company Dronamics will soon debut the Black Swan — a pilotless drone certified to carry freight in the European Union starting in 2023.Dronamics' Black Swan aircraft.

Dronamics

The concept is the brainchild of Bulgarian brothers Konstantin and Svilen Rangelov. Speaking with Insider, the latter said the pair started looking into the market in 2013 when Amazon began dabbling in drone deliveries.Svilen (left) and Konstantin (right) Rangelov.Svilen (left) and Konstantin (right) Rangelov.

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However, the brothers saw logistical difficulties in sending small drones, like Amazon’s, to deliver directly to homes and believed there was a better way of getting personal packages to each customer.An early version of Amazon Prime Air's drone.An early version of Amazon Prime Air’s drone.

Amazon

In Bulgaria, Rangelov said cargo is flown into Sophia, offloaded onto a big truck, driven hundreds of miles, and then offloaded onto a smaller van that delivers the package to individual sites.A city view of Bulgaria.A city view of Bulgaria.

Getty Images

The brothers saw the big truck as a costly step: “We said let’s map the size of the vehicle to fit exactly what you can fit in a delivery van in the last mile,'” Rangelov said. “This way we get to cut a step from the process.”Dronamics' Black Swan aircraft.

Dronamics

The resulting product — which is about half the capacity of a U-Haul moving van — can offer customers fast and low-cost freight transport, enabling same-day delivery with the help of some 3,000 airstrips across Europe.Dronamics' Black Swan aircraft.The pictured aircraft is a 1/4 scaled prototype.

Dronamics

Source: U-Haul

Many of the said airstrips are closer to customers than the main distribution centers, making them even more convenient for same-day deliveries, according to Rangelov.Dronamics' Black Swan aircraft.

Dronamics

Moreover, the design helps Dronamics differentiate itself from other cargo drone operators that typically fly lighter freight over shorter distances.Walmart is expanding its drone delivery network.Walmart is expanding its drone delivery network.

Walmart

Walmart is making moves into drones — here’s how they plan to do it

“Most small delivery drones are an attempt to solve the last-mile problem,” the company told news outlet Drone DJ in 2018. “They are the bike messenger, we are the cross-country truck.”Dronamics' Black Swan aircraft.

Dronamics

Source: Drone DJ

According to the company, the plane reduces costs by up to 50% compared to competing cargo aircraft, partially due to its carbon fiber materials, making it favorable for the middle-mile market.Dronamics' Black Swan aircraft.The middle-mile step in the supply chain is the part that transports cargo from a departure port to a distribution center.

Dronamics

The Black Swan can cruise up to 20,000 feet, fly across 2,500 kilometers (1,550 miles), and carry a maximum of 350 kilograms (770 pounds).Dronamics' Black Swan aircraft.The range can connect cities like Austin and New York City or Dubai and New Delhi.

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“It can cover the continental US, the diagonal in the Caribbean, the South China Sea, and all of Europe,” Rangelov told Insider. “So the size fits neatly into the global geography.”A rendering of the droneports that the airline will operate through.Black Swan will power a cargo airline operating via droneports (rendering pictured).

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Powering the routes is a single-propeller Rotax engine built by Austrian company BRP-Rotax, which is owned by Bombardier Recreational Products.Dronamics' Black Swan aircraft.

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Rangelov further explained that the plane will not only carry single pallets of one item, but also individual packages, allowing it to also enter the e-commerce, low-density market.Dronamics' Black Swan aircraft.

Dronamics

In addition to its carrying capabilities, the Black Swan can land on short runways — including unpaved — thanks to its fixed wing, so it can access small, isolated communities easier than other drones.Dronamics' Black Swan aircraft.Dronamics’ Black Swan prototype flying over Bulgaria.

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The aircraft, which will be mass-produced in Germany and Australia, runs on 100% sustainable aviation fuel. This will promote the “fastest and greenest” way of carrying cargo and result in 60% lower emissions.Zero Petroleum will fuel Black Swan to allow Dronamics "to deliver a carbon neutral operation."Zero Petroleum will fuel Black Swan to allow Dronamics “to deliver a carbon neutral operation.”

Dronamics

When Black Swan is ready for service, Dronamics plans to operate it as the world’s first cargo drone airline, starting with flights around the Mediterranean and over water, like in Greece or Cyprus.Dronamics' Black Swan aircraft.

Dronamics

“Initially, we want to start with lower-risk routes,” Rangelov said. “As we gain acceptance and confidence, we’ll fly over land as well.”Dronamics' Black Swan aircraft.

Dronamics

Piloted by remote operators, the unmanned aircraft will not deliver goods door-to-door, but rather use a system of droneports to offer same-day transport of cargo between main gateways or warehouses to distant cities.A commercial pilot manning the Black Swan drone.A commercial pilot manning the Black Swan drone.

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Each pilot has a background in commercial aviation, with Rangelov telling Insider that there will be two people stationed at the departure port, and two at the arrival.The van where pilots man the Black Swan drone.The van where pilots man the Black Swan drone.

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Rangelov said the company already has partnerships with companies like DHL and German logistics company Hellmann, with the latter calling Dronamics’ Black Swan a “game changer.”Dronamics' Black Swan drone.

Dronamics

“I never believed in the idea of parcel drones,” Hellmann’s Kleine-Lasthues told the BBC, also praising the aircraft’s speed and flexibility. “That’s why we’re working with Dronamics, it’s not an Amazon delivery type idea.”Dronamics' Black Swan aircraft.Black Swan.

Dronamics

Source: BBC

While Dronamics already rolled out a quarter-sized prototype, the full-scaled Black Swan is expected to take its first flight in the coming months, which is when the Rangelov brothers said they’d finally shave their eight-year-old beards.Dronamics co-founder Svilen Rangelov.Dronamics co-founder Svilen Rangelov.

Dronamics

Source: BBC

Read the original article on Business Insider