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DHL to pilot use of large cargo drones in Europe

Developer Dronamics is establishing 39 droneports across continent

The Black Swan unmanned aircraft. (Photo: Dronamics)

(Correction: This story has been updated to better reflect that Dronamics will operate drones for DHL under a new partnership that eventually could see DHL book shipments on several thousand drones in the Dronamics network.)

DHL said Monday it could use up to 4,000 heavy-cargo drones operated by Dronamics for its logistics and parcel network in Europe. The Black Swan unmanned aircraft can carry 770 pounds up to 1,500 miles.

It’s the second large customer Dronamics has signed in three weeks after announcing a partnership with Hellmann Logistics to develop a cross-border cargo delivery service by early next year.

DHL (DXE: DPW) said Dronamics would support same-day cargo delivery by covering the middle mile of a shipment’s journey in select industries and markets with time-critical requirements, such as e-commerce and pharmaceuticals. The companies will work together to establish the dedicated drone-delivery network.

The partnership includes mutual exclusivity in selected industries, a joint announcement said. DHL, one of the Big Three integrated logistics companies, will handle the first- and last-mile connections.

Dronamics estimates it will build and operate up to 4,000 cargo drones by 2030 to support DHL’s express delivery needs. The contract has the potential to generate $2.1 billion in revenue for Dronamics, the company said.

Dronamics, which is headquartered in London and Sofia, Bulgaria, will provide technology and expertise to operate the unmanned aircraft. It claims the Black Swan drones can make  same-day deliveries at up to 80% less cost than any other aircraft. The first commercial flights are expected to begin next year.

The drone developer plans to eliminate carbon from its operations by using sustainable biofuels by 2027, helping DHL achieve its sustainability goals.

Last week, Dronamics signed Bodensee-Airport Friedrichshafen as its fourth airport partner in Germany, bringing its droneport network to 39 airports in 12 countries. The airport is located in the industrial state of Baden-Wuerttemberg, which has heavy concentrations of automotive and aerospace companies.

Dronamics was founded in 2014 by the Rangelov brothers, an economist and an aerospace engineer, and has won the International Air Transport Association’s Innovation Award.

Click here for more FreightWaves/American Shipper stories by Eric Kulisch.


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One Comment

  1. Carl

    Please explain how acquisition cost, infrastructure, operation and maintenance to support these from loading to unloading is more cost effectivce

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Eric Kulisch

Eric is the Supply Chain and Air Cargo Editor at FreightWaves. An award-winning business journalist with extensive experience covering the logistics sector, Eric spent nearly two years as the Washington, D.C., correspondent for Automotive News, where he focused on regulatory and policy issues surrounding autonomous vehicles, mobility, fuel economy and safety. He has won two regional Gold Medals and a Silver Medal from the American Society of Business Publication Editors for government and trade coverage, and news analysis. He was voted best for feature writing and commentary in the Trade/Newsletter category by the D.C. Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. He won Environmental Journalist of the Year from the Seahorse Freight Association in 2014 and was the group's 2013 Supply Chain Journalist of the Year. In December 2022, Eric was voted runner up for Air Cargo Journalist by the Seahorse Freight Association. As associate editor at American Shipper Magazine for more than a decade, he wrote about trade, freight transportation and supply chains. He has appeared on Marketplace, ABC News and National Public Radio to talk about logistics issues in the news. Eric is based in Vancouver, Washington. He can be reached for comments and tips at [email protected]