Italy-based Leonardo, the aerospace, defense and security company; FlyingBasket, a cargo drone designer, producer and operator; and Poste Italiane, Italy’s postal service provider, recently collaborated on a first phase of drone-based delivery tests in Turin. The trials were authorized by the Italian Civil Aviation Authority (ENAC), in line with ENAC’s National Airspace Strategy of enabling new concepts of advanced air mobility (AAM).
The trials are the next step towards a new, more sustainable model of air transport logistics, where heavy goods can be transported aerially across densely populated areas, operated remotely BVLOS.
The series of tests, part of the “Sumeri Moderni” trials, focused on “middle mile delivery”–delivery from a warehouse or distribution center to retail locations. The aircraft used was the electric FB3 VTOL cargo drone built and operated by Italian start-up FlyingBasket, which can carry up to 100 kilograms (220.5 pounds) and release its load via cable, enabling operation in areas that do not have dedicated landing infrastructure. The FB3 VTOL drone has been in commercial operation since 2020.
During the tests, the remotely piloted BVLOS cargo drones flew routes of 15–50 kilometers (9.3–31.1 miles). They carried heavy loads over urban areas of varying population densities–typical logistical requirements of middle mile delivery. This offers the potential to reduce consumer product delivery times and road congestion with an environmentally friendly approach.
The Sumeri Moderni tests come in preparation for EU legislation, expected to be implemented in 2023, to govern flying remotely piloted aircraft in U-Space, a dedicated airspace currently in development in partnership with Leonardo.
Sumeri Moderni is Leonardo’s successor to last February’s “Sumeri: Si Salpa!” (“Sumeri Sets Sail!”) experiment, the first carried out in Italy within the frame of AAM. Leonardo launched the Sumeri project in 2018 to encourage the development of the AAM market and explore the safe use of drones in the logistics field. FlyingBasket was founded in 2015 and specializes in cargo drones with up to 100-kilogram payload capability for drone transportation services. The start-up has experience operating drones across several European countries.