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Cargo Drones: Disrupting Industries and Delivering Solutions

With notable e-commerce companies taking a deep dive into the scope of unmanned aerial vehicles for cargo movement, recent developments in the UAV and drone industries are hard to miss, cargo drones being the most notable of them all.  


Cargo drones are unmanned aircraft capable of carrying loads to preprogrammed destinations, often with varying capacities based on range and total load weight. These drones utilise minimal airspace with reduced flying units and are capable of remote flight control, which reduces costs and risk of damage as they transcend geographical barriers with minimal need for extensive infrastructure.  


Large automobile manufacturers are expanding small cargo drone applications to include assembly lines where these automated drones move parts using sensors. However, decentralising smaller cargo drone operations may prove to be a challenge as the development of launchpads and charging ports in surrounding areas is a prerequisite to account for the short range and challenging weather conditions.  


Parimal Kopardekar, director of NASA’s Aeronautics Research Institute in Mountain View, California, said, “these aircraft will need periodic maintenance of some kind, like a car, so it will need access to parts and quick access to technicians because nobody wants to wait around for an aircraft sitting on the ground doing nothing”.  


While last-mile delivery is more familiar with smaller drones, middle-mile logistics are certain to make the most of the opportunity of using larger cargo drones with higher payload capacity. These drones are disrupting current cargo distribution methods to ships and offshore platforms with the potential to reduce costs by 30%.  


Autonomous cargo drone manufacturer Natilus, also claimed that cargo drones would reduce the cost of air freight by 60% and carbon emissions by 50%.  


However, there are numerous challenges and regulatory hurdles to surpass, with current drone operations being subject to general aviation regulations, limiting flight. Infrastructure development, economic feasibility to support and facilitate a network or an ecosystem, and cargo security are essential factors to consider when assembling a cargo drone ecosystem. 


Brookfield believes that with a collaborative effort from policymakers, manufacturers, and, of course, civilians, establishing a decentralised cargo drone ecosystem will soon be a success. 


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