Unmanned aircraft are the future for air cargo – ‘but we need time to get it right’
More than 30 mostly European organisations are pressing for the development of unmanned cargo aircraft (UCA). Forwarders, shippers, universities and aircraft manufacturers, grouped under the name Platform for UCA (PUCA), are researching technological and regulatory issues and hoping to attract investment. UCAs are expected to be cheaper and more efficient than piloted aircraft, and PUCA sees commercial possibilities in those with a 10-tonne payload, to cover thin traffic routes. “We don’t believe there’s a market for big aircraft,” said Hans Heerkens, assistant professor of the University of Twente and chairman of PUCA. “There are many areas where you can’t transport cargo efficiently, and we think these aircraft would be especially good for areas without high volumes of freight or passengers – like Wales, or Eastern Europe.” The group’s plans, which could take 15 to 20 years to come to fruition, are backed by the European Shippers’ Council (ESC).
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