PETALING JAYA: DHL Express Malaysia sees opportunity in the first-to-last-mile port logistics segment with its partnership with Pen Aviation to demonstrate the commercial viability of time-critical cargo drone delivery for port logistics missions.
The two have entered into a memorandum of understanding to commercialise time-critical goods deliveries with unmanned aerial vehicles, leveraging on Pen’s unmanned automated solutions.
Along with Raya Airways as the designated cargo drone operator, the partnership will embark on a proof of commercialisation (POC) which starts with a certification exercise with the Civil Aviation Authority of Malaysia, followed by three months of shore-to-ship delivery trials.
DHL Express Malaysia and Brunei managing director Julian Neo elaborated that the aim of the shore-to-ship drone delivery is to address the problems of high cost of such delivery, port congestion as well as addressing the sustainability issues.
“This port-to-vessel delivery is something new for us but we’ve been looking at this market for the last 18 months and we’ve spoken to quite a few potential customers,” he said at a virtual media briefing today.
“The market demand has increased in terms of complexities and technology due to unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), representing the future of the industry. Hence we see a huge demand in this segment.
Neo also pointed out there are other similar POC exercises being undertaken in the neighbouring countries at a smaller scale and much lighter load.
“We expect to capitalise on drone technology for more on the new growth sector, enhancing our offering to a new level of service to customers,” he said.
The POC will test the capabilities of Pen Aviation’s drone, the PEN55V which can carry a payload of up to 15kg with a maximum speed of 110kmh and an endurance of 2.5 hours.
Beyond addressing issues relating to speed, savings and safety, the managing director pointed out that the drone is environmentally sustainable and it consumes low amount of energy and emissions, in line with the group’s sustainability efforts as well.
Pen Aviation managing director and founder Jean-Bernard Boura explained that it opted to tackle every single pain point that hinders UAV-based businesses today, starting with UAV designs that can meet aviation certification standards.
“But above and beyond the UAV design, we are excited to confront our overall ecosystem to DHL’s demanding cargo environment and demonstrate our business enabling logistics solutions, whatever the mile, whatever the mode of transportation.”
Apart from the model being tested in the POC, he revealed that Pen Aviation is currently developing another model, the PEN1360V which can carry a max payload of 800kg with a maximum range of 600km.
Boura stated that initially, the drones will be manufactured in France but it is looking towards bringing the manufacturing activities to Malaysia.
On the whole, Neo believes cargo drones will be the next generation of transportation in logistics.
“This POC comes in the wake of the recent 12th Malaysian Plan announcement where the government of Malaysia highlighted the importance of seamless connectivity and reliability in transport and logistics,” he said.
“The use of drone technology will enable us to reach rural communities especially in East Malaysia, where critical items such as vaccines, medicines, and medical devices are needed while allowing us to fulfill our purpose of connecting people and improving lives.”