It's always interesting to examine the future of the Air Freight industry and while typically we tend to focus on the next few years we don't often hear about how the sector could possibly change a few decades from now. A new article that I read this week suggests that there just might be a future for large unmanned cargo aircraft by the year 2030 or 2035 if the financial backing is found.
If we reflect on the technology available twenty years ago we didn't know that regular drone flights in the military arena and now the commercial sector were viable and look at how GPS and the internet have changed how we do business. It's not hard to imagine much larger air cargo only unmanned flights operating fifteen or twenty years from today. In Europe, a number of organizations are pushing the envelope for the development of such technology and it will be fascinating to see whether real progress is made.
The Platform for Unmanned Cargo Aircraft (PUCA) represents a diverse group including shippers, forwarders and researchers who are examining the potential of such a project from a development and technology standpoint. Cost savings drive the research with the proposed smaller aircraft, with a maximum payload capacity of about 20,000 lbs, being less expensive to develop and operate than piloted aircraft.
The organization hopes to attract investment for research and the development of technology that they feel can alter the air freight market dramatically in a gradual move away from larger aircraft, thus opening up markets with smaller demands. The cost and weight benefits of developing unmanned aircraft are they believe substantial enough to make attractive a huge number of air cargo markets that are currently either under-served or anything other than cost efficient.
Only time will tell how viable the project may be of course, but the fact is that the rapid advances in technology mean that it's entirely feasible.