Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Freight Forwarding and Logistics Latest Partnership Ships in the Air Transport of the Future

Who Fancies an Autonomous Air Taxi to the Office?
Shipping News Feature
AUSTRIA – CHINA – Newly merged global freight forwarding and logistics company DSV Panalpina is transporting some futuristic freight - autonomous aerial vehicles (AAVs) for moving people or goods efficiently in cities. Under a partnership between Austrian aerospace group FACC and Chinese technology company EHang, the transport specialists shipped the first prototypes by air freight between the two countries, also taking care of customs brokerage and last-mile delivery in Austria.

In a futuristic vision it seems flying to work could apparently become a reality in the coming years, thanks to autonomous aerial vehicles (AAVs) or air taxis that help relieve traffic congestion in cities by using airspace as a ‘third dimension’ for transport in urban areas.

AAVs are environmentally friendly being electric-driven using high-performance batteries with short charging times. EHang, the Chinese technology company specialising in air mobility that built the world’s first electric AAV, offers one-seat and two-seat models. Weighing between 300 and 360 kg , these can take maximum payloads between 440 and 620 kg, and reach speeds of up to 130 km/h.

AAVs need minimal space for take-off and landing. Besides transporting people or general cargoes, these auto-pilot vehicles can be used to fly emergency goods or to perform high-risk operations in the event of environmental catastrophes. Paired with fast computers and big data, the proponents say they promise a smart and viable solution for low-airspace, short-distance urban mobility within and between cities.

EHang entered into a strategic partnership at the end of 2018 with leading Austrian aerospace group FACC, under which the AAVs will be optimised and made ready for serial production. A total of 300 aerial vehicles will be produced until the end of 2020 at FACC. DSV Panalpina has been tasked with transporting the first prototypes by air freight, including customs brokerage and last-mile delivery.

The business relationship between the former Panalpina with FACC go back more than fifteen years. The first AAV prototype was transported in October 2018 and the freight forwarder’s teams have been helping to move them from Hong Kong airport to Linz, Austria.

The partners insist the outlook for air mobility is promising. As the population of the world’s cities keeps growing, it is projected that 5.2 billion people will live in urban regions by 2050, about one billion more than today. The proportion of urban dwellers will then be 68% of the world’s population, meaning that people will be affected by space constraints and traffic congestion on the roads each day even more than now.

Already executive helicopter travel is becoming an accepted form of commuting and taking to the air and flying to work could be the next smart and sustainable solution for urban mobility. Demand for aerial vehicles is projected to soar to €32 billion over the next decade, according to the Aerospace & Defense Radar report by consultancy firm Roland Berger.