In the same week that Volocopter publicly demonstrated how its autonomous VoloDrone eVTOL aircraft will deliver freight, the company has unveiled a specially designed trailer that will allow it to be operated remotely without the need for purpose-built ground infrastructure. Austrian company Schwarzmuller has produced what it calls a Mobile Vertipad that it says can be used as a takeoff and landing platform for the vehicle.
The Mobile Vertipad looks much like a conventional transport trailer, with a length of 39 feet, a width of eight feet, and a height of 13 feet. A loading container on the top of the chassis can support the VoloDrone, which can carry a payload of up to 440 pounds on trips of up to 25 miles. The fully loaded vehicle weighs about as much as a small car.
In a two-step process, the trailer can fold out into a platform that serves as both a launchpad and loading ramp. First, at the push of a button, a metal substructure is extended from the chassis. Then, a container unfolds its walls like a piece of origami to create a circular platform that is just over 65 feet in diameter. The equipment can be rapidly dismantled and moved to the next location where it is required.
“We want to offer our industrial customers an end-to-end solution that enables VoloDrone services by ensuring short lead times,” said Volocopter chief commercial officer Christian Bauer.
Schwarzmuller expects to be ready to start testing the multimodal Mobile Vertipad in operational trials in early 2023. “It connects roads, rail, air, and ships in the last mile of freight transport,” explained company CEO Roland Hartwig. “The cargo drone creates the connection, and Schwarzmuller provides the mobile infrastructure to enable the connection.”
On October 12, visitors to the Intelligent Transport Systems World Congress in Hamburg, Germany, were able to witness the VoloDrone’s first public flight. The German company is developing the all-electric, autonomous vehicle in partnership with logistics group DB Schenker and has previously conducted ground trials at its facilities.
The three-minute flight was conducted next to Hamburg’s docks on the Elbe river. The aircraft, which reached an altitude of 72 feet, carried a standard-sized freight pallet to one of DB Schenker’s human-powered Cargo Bikes, which then delivered the consignment to its final destination.