Hellmann Worldwide Logistics said Wednesday it is partnering with Dronamics to develop and commercialize a cross-border drone delivery network for transporting time-critical goods, with commercial unmanned cargo drones flying the first routes as early as next year.
Dronamics’ flagship Black Swan unmanned aircraft is able to carry 772 pounds up to 1,500 miles, enabling same-day shipping over very long distances, the company claims. The company, headquartered in London and Sofia, Bulgaria, initially plans to create a network of droneports at more than 35 airports in 11 European countries.
The drones can reduce delivery cost and emissions by 50 to 80% compared to traditional air cargo, according to the company. Its goal is to provide same-day air transport at the same cost as road freight.
Hellmann, a major third-party logistics provider based in Osnabrück, said the relationship with Dronamics will allow it to add on-demand air delivery at a competitive cost for shippers that rely on it for integrated logistics services. Last year Hellmann generated $2.8 billion in sales.
Hellmann said it is targeting companies with e-commerce orders, pharmaceuticals, spare parts and goods with speed requirements as potential network users.
The two companies are working to develop initial routes in Europe, where regulations permit drone operations across the European Union. Dronamics is aiming to be the first company to obtain operational authorization for international unmanned flights across the continent.
Dronamics says initial operations will likely be based out of Liege Airport in Brussels, which serves as Alibaba’s European hub, as well as Brescia Airport, the national hub for the Italian postal system. It plans to add droneports in cities such as Skövde, Sweden; Seinäjoki, Finland; and Osijek, Croatia.
“We believe this will be a game changer in logistics,” said Jan Kleine-Lasthues, Hellmann’s chief operating officer for airfreight, in a news release.
Under the agreement, Dronamics will provide equipment and expertise to operate the drone flights.