Automated middle-mile cargo drone manufacturer and service company Dronamics has announced it has chosen the island of Malta as the initial European operational base for its automated uncrewed delivery business.
Dronamics, which has already struck partnerships with global freight companies DHL and Helmann Worldwide Logistics, chose Malta to operate its same-day, medium-mile drone cargo delivery service flown by its Black Swan fixed-wing craft. The company selected the Mediterranean island after a lengthy consultation with multiple national civil aviation authorities across Europe, as well as its main customers. Dronamics says it plans to launch its automated, beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) missions next year.
At face value, Malta might seem a curious choice for centralizing the company’s first main base. That position in the Mediterranean sea adds 166 miles to any flight from Maltese capital Valletta to Palermo on Sicily, and 341 miles to Naples. Roughly the same distances will be added on to any drone flight to Europe north of there.
But the island has also been a historical stepping stone for air transport of goods, mail, and other cargo between Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. Now Maltese authorities are hoping to extend that 20th century activity to this era’s emerging drone businesses. Just last week, long-range uncrewed helicopter company SwissDrones conducted an extended series of BVLOS trial flights over and around Malta, with a view to developing use of its craft in the region.
Dronamics says it’s convinced Malta’s history as an aviation transport hub connecting the surrounding regions and continents – and the country’s eagerness to adapt its airspace and control systems to UAVs – will make it an ideal setting to base and build its drone cargo delivery service to Europe and beyond.
“Malta has developed into a thriving hub with a strong aviation cluster that can support our expansion as the world’s cargo drone airline,” says said Svilen Rangelov, Dronamics CEO. “We are very excited that Malta is going to be the first country in Europe that we will service, and its strategic position and great trade heritage make it the perfect location for our European base.”
“Malta is the perfect operational and strategic location for our first flights of the Black Swan,” adds Dronamics COO Sergio Oliveira e Silva. “We aim to connect Malta first with Italy, where the Italian Civil Aviation Authority has established testbed airports for remotely pilot aircraft system trials. Transport Malta and the Civil Aviation Directorate have given us a clear path to establishing our first commercial routes and we aim to do the first demonstration flights in 2022.”
The support of Maltese officials will also be helpful in facilitating the certification of Black Swan drones in the country. Dronamics says the craft – which can carry up to 350 kg of cargo over maximum distances of 2,500 km – operates at between 50% and 80% lower costs than existing aircraft.
In July, DHL partnered with the company in launching future medium-distance, cross-border, and inter-city drone cargo delivery missions. The month before, German freight forwarder Helmann Worldwide Logistics announced it would operate longer delivery flights spanning the entire European Union.