Last week, FedEx Express, in collaboration with Future Mobility Campus Ireland (FCMI) Air, announced completion of its first scheduled last-mile aerial drone delivery in Ireland. The delivery marked the launch of a trial service delivering goods from FMCI based at Shannon Airport in County Clare, to Foynes Port in County Limerick, Ireland’s second-largest port operator and largest bulk port company.
FedEx said the delivery demonstrates the benefits of drones for last-mile service and its commitment to exploring the latest innovations.
“We are always looking for new and innovative ways to deliver the world to our customers’ doorsteps,” said Mike Roche, operations managing director of FedEx Express Ireland. “I’m delighted that this drone delivery trial is under way and an example of how we, as an industry, continue to explore new technology to help meet our customers’ evolving delivery needs.”
Partners look to develop BVLOS operations
In May, FMCI, Skyports, Avtrain, and Shannon Group partnered to work toward launching an operational vertiport at Shannon’s FMCI campus in 2022. They said they plan to encourage research and development, as well as and investment in Ireland’s advanced aerial mobility (AAM) industry. This will lead to the establishment of Ireland’s first drone air taxi service and routine beyond visual line-of-sight (BVLOS) drone operations.
Skyports conducted the initial drone deliveries on behalf of the consortium. It is a global provider of drone delivery services and designs, builds, and operates take-off and landing infrastructure for air taxis. The London-based company has partnered with electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) passenger and cargo vehicle manufacturers to enable safe and efficient flight operations within urban and suburban environments.
Avtrain certifies drone pilots and operators for all fixed-wing, hybrid, and single and multi-rotor drones in all weight categories in Ireland. Shannon Group is a company looking to build business opportunities in aviation, property, and tourism.
FMCI is a nonprofit organization intended to stimulate research and development of mobility as a service (MaaS). Focus areas include smart city infrastructure, connected autonomous vehicles and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), big data management and analytics.
Demonstration for Ireland and beyond
The month-long trial of BVLOS flights in the Mid-West region will include deliveries made under 13 minutes. Clare County and the Limerick City and County Council have expressed their support for the project, demonstrating how local governments can support innovation, the partners said.
This proof-of-concept milestone will lead to validation of state-of-the-art UAV technologies and showcase their benefits in Ireland and beyond, according to the consortium.
“The calibre of the partners involved in this trial ensures its success,” said Julie Garland on behalf of the FMCI Air Consortium. “To test the incorporation of BVLOS drone freight deliveries into global supply chain logistics is the future happening now. The location of this trial from the FMCI base adjacent to Shannon Airport, in controlled airspace with full air traffic control services, demonstrates the integration of manned aircraft operations with simultaneous vertiport drone operations becoming the norm and paving the way for advanced air mobility.”
FedEx has also recently partnered with Aurora Innovation and PACCAR on testing autonomous trucks, Berkshire Grey for small package processing, and Nuro for delivery robots. It previously partnered with Alphabet's Wing Aviation unit on a drone-delivery pilot in Christiansburg, Va.
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