Bulgaria’s Dronamics has taken a major step toward its goal of launching middle-mile automated drone delivery service later this year by obtaining what it says is the first operational certificate by a UAV airline for activity across the European Union (EU).
Dronamics made the announcement at the European Business Aviation Conference Exhibition on Wednesday, saying the company had obtained the EU’s Light UAS Operator Certificate (LUC) from civil aviation authorities in Malta – the company’s main European base. Under EU rules, certification extended by one member state is applicable to all others, opening the way for Dronamics to launch middle-mile drone delivery across the 27-nation bloc planned for later this year.
The LUC permits Dronamics self-authorize flights of its Black Swan aircraft across EU countries, including beyond visual line of sight operation required for the kind of longer distances that – until now – have been considered too remote and costly for drone deliveries. The company’s automated UAVs are designed to carry 350 kg over distances of up to 2,500 km.
By extending air transport of goods to middle-mile distances, Dronamics is betting it can stimulate increased business from consumers currently being served by longer ground transport. It also believes that can transform supply chains by using drones to make deliveries more efficient, faster, less expansive, and lower in carbon emissions.
The company was among the first to begin developing a UAV and network to operate those longer routes – winning business from global freight companies like DHL and Hellmann Worldwide Logistics as it did. It now seems poised to build on that head start by beating rivals to obtain EU certification that should enable its launch of delivery services soon.
“Becoming the first cargo drone company to obtain LUC certification is a huge milestone for us and validates years of hard work in developing our unique and market-leading solution,” said Sergio Oliveira e Silva, Dronamics chief operating officer. “We are continuously impressed with the world-class professionalism and expertise of Transport Malta, coupled with a pro-innovation mindset. With the support of such a sophisticated and technologically advanced regulator, and with Malta as our European operations base, we are well placed to progress our operations and start serving key routes across the Mediterranean later this year and continue our future expansion so that we can achieve our mission to enable same-day delivery for everyone, everywhere.”
The decision last year by Dromatics to chose Malta as its European HQ struck some observers as curious, given the island’s location over 4,000 miles off Italy, and even farther distance from other continental destinations. But the support it has gotten from Maltese officials has now clearly paid off.
Air transport and government authorities on Malta have been active supporting aviation innovation in Europe, basing that in part on the country’s past role as a global aviation hub linking aerial traffic around the Mediterranean.
Now Dromatics plans to extend that history through its own operation, scheduling its first commercial flights out of Malta and Italy later this year, and scaling up from there.