Panalpina Urban mobility: first aerial vehicle prototypes for aerospace group FACC transported

Global freight forwarding and logistics company DSV Panalpina is transporting some futuristic freight ? autonomous aerial vehicles (AAVs) for moving people or goods efficiently in cities. Under a partnership between Austrian aerospace group FACC and Chinese technology company EHang, specialists transported the first prototypes by air freight, also taking care of customs brokerage and last-mile delivery.

Flying to work could become a reality in the next years, thanks to autonomous aerial vehicles (AAVs) or air taxis that help relieve traffic congestion in cities by using airspace as a “third dimension” for transport in urban areas.

AAVs are environmentally friendly: they are electric-driven using high-performance batteries with short charging times. EHang, the Chinese technology company specializing in air mobility that built the world’s first electric AAV, offers one-seat and two-seat models. Weighing between 300 and 360 kg, these can take maximum payloads between 440 and 620 kg, and reach speeds of up to 130 km/h.

AAVs need minimal space for take-off and landing. Besides transporting people or goods, these auto-pilot vehicles can be used to fly emergency goods or to perform high-risk operations in the event of environmental catastrophes. Paired with fast computers and big data, they promise a smart and viable solution for low-airspace, short-distance urban mobility within and between cities.

EHang entered into a strategic partnership at the end of 2018 with the leading Austrian aerospace group FACC, under which the AAVs will be optimized and made ready for serial production. A total of 300 aerial vehicles will be produced until the end of 2020 at FACC. DSV Panalpina has been tasked with transporting the first prototypes by air freight, including customs brokerage and last-mile delivery.

The business relations of former Panalpina with FACC go back to 15+ years. The first AAV prototype was transported in October 2018 and the freight forwarder’s teams have been helping to move them from Hong Kong airport to Linz, Austria.

The outlook for air mobility is promising. As the population of the world’s cities keeps growing, it is projected that 5.2 billion people will live in urban regions by 2050, about one billion more than today. The proportion of urban dwellers will then be 68 percent of the world’s population, meaning that people will be affected by space constraints and traffic congestion on the roads each day.

Taking to the air and flying to work could be the next smart and sustainable solution for urban mobility. Demand for aerial vehicles is expected to soar to EUR 32 billion over the next decade, according to the Aerospace & Defense Radar report by consultancy firm Roland Berger.

Panalpina partners with Plug and Play

Panalpina has joined the global innovation platform Plug and Play, the best known and most active accelerator program in the area of supply chain and logistics.

“This partnership will allow us to get access to digital start-up companies in Plug and Play’s global network and identify attractive pilot and investment opportunities,” says Luca Graf, head of the Panalpina Digital Hub. “We are particularly interested in cooperating with start-ups that create solutions in the fields of blockchain, IoT, asset tracking, advanced analytics and supply chain optimization.”

Plug and Play was founded in 2006 and is headquartered in Sunnyvale, California. They connect the largest corporations to the world's best startups through industry-focused accelerator programs in Silicon Valley and beyond, for example in Berlin and Shanghai.

With over 6,000 start-ups and 280 official corporate partners, the platform has created start-up ecosystems in many industries including supply chain and logistics (Logtech). Companies in Plug and Play’s community have raised over $7 billion in funding, and successful portfolio exits included Dropbox, PayPal and SoundHound.

This short video explains how start-up companies benefit from Plug and Play.

“Since Panalpina is a major player in the freight forwarding and logistics industry and known for their culture to drive innovation, the start-up ecosystem and our industry-leading corporate partners are very much looking forward to their participation in the Plug and Play accelerator program,” says Mike Zayonc, founder of Plug and Play Supply Chain & Logistics.

As an ecosystem partner for the Plug and Play Supply Chain & Logistics platform, Panalpina will join the likes of Maersk, CMA CGM, Lufthansa Cargo, DHL, Swiss Post as well as Ericsson, BASF and Panasonic.

“The new partnership will increase our visibility in the digital ecosystem and greatly facilitate connecting with start-ups. Our goal is to test, develop and validate promising start-up technologies before potential commercialization. Ultimately, we want to shape our industry’s future with innovative digital solutions that create new levels of value for our customers and accelerate growth for our company in the years to come,” explains Graf.

Earlier this year, Panalpina also joined the Blockchain in Transport Alliance (BiTA) and launched the Digital Hub to promote innovation in freight forwarding and logistics.