Following on from our drone article last month, it has recently been announced that a drone the size of a Boeing 777 airliner could soon be launched by a start up firm in California.
A prototype will be tested this summer after which all being well a full scale version will be launched in 2020. It could lower the cost of shipping cargo by almost half due to eliminating the need for on board staff and maximising efficiency. The drones are designed to take off and land on water so that they don’t need to fly over populated areas. They will unload their cargo in docks rather than airports and will combine air and sea transport. It should when finalised be able to carry up to 200,000 pounds of weight.
Chris Connell, president of the global perishable goods transporter CFI, said: ‘Air cargo is all about speed at high price. Ocean freight is longer transit times at lower pricing. With certain goods – be it perishables, or goods that are looking for that middle ground – that idea of middle price for middle transit times is the sweet spot. Planes aren’t going to slow down and boats aren’t going to go faster. The drone concept adds something new. It adds to the intrigue.’
Connell says he’s used to end-to-end transit times of as much as seven days to send cargo from the West Coast to Hawaii by ship. He has the option to pay a premium to send it by air cargo for same-day arrival. But in many cases, there could be an argument for the middle ground that Natilus is aiming for, where cargo can be delivered to its destination in about three days, once loading and unloading is taken into consideration.
With the likes of Amazon and UPS testing their drones out on a much smaller scale, Natilus are hoping to bridge a gap in the current shipping market and use a resource that up until now has been out of reach. With technology expanding at a large rate, drones may be a new interesting concept, but at the moment they are just that. So called ‘old fashioned’ shipping methods will continue on as they always have, and companies will look for innovative and price effective ways of making sure that their customers still use people rather than just technology.