This week, in an exciting technological step for the islands, testing of Malta’s first delivery drone is underway. The project, which is a collaboration between international technology company HandsOn Systems, local aeronautics company QuAero and German Phoenix-Wings, which provides solutions in the field of Unmanned Aircraft Systems, could be a gamechanger.
“We’ve been working in the logistics sector from the tech side for about 11 years – we’ve seen it develop, and the changes bring about new challenges,” explains HandsOn Systems CEO Geoffrey Farrugia in exclusive comments to MaltaCEOs, affirming that while much work is being done on the islands’ infrastructure, the speed with which the logistics sector has been growing is hard to match, making exploration into other modes of transport a necessity.
Revealing that one of HandsOn’s strategies has always been to develop new, alternative means of transport, he explains that the journey started just before COVID. “We sought to develop a proof-of-concept to show that a drone can transport certain types of cargo from Malta to Gozo in the fastest and safest manner,” he explains.
This led them to seek strategic partners which could help make this possible, and the decision to develop the project together with QuAero and Phoenix-Wings. And this week, after more than a year of hard work, the team is at trials stage.
“It took us about a year to get the necessary approvals and coordinate with the respective authorities,” says Geoffrey, who is currently on location in Comino. “We have received a lot of support from the aviation community and the authorities involved, and today is our third day of trials just before the official maiden flight this Friday,” he says.
The drone, which flies autonomously and is fully electric, can carry cargo of around 10kg for about 70-80 kilometres based on weather conditions, making it perfect for a trip between Malta and Gozo’s hospitals. More impressively still, it can make the trip in between 20-30 minutes.
The next step, the CEO says, apart from proving the concept, will be getting the permits to operate from the locations the team has earmarked, and then, it’s all systems go to validate and commercialise the idea within the local logistics community. “We have already received a couple of requests,” he reveals, explaining that cargo carried by the drone could be anything from urgent court documents and valuables that need to be transported quickly to lifesaving medicines and blood for transfusions.
“The main objective is to connect our islands through newer, smarter technology,” says the CEO, who is focused on addressing the accessibility issues that exist between Malta and Gozo and build a use-case to potentially export the service to other islands around the world.
“The idea will portray Malta as truly at the forefront of this technology,” he says, championing a pro-innovation approach. “My dream is to see Malta as a technology island whereby such concepts push the envelope within the regulatory framework – to push us forward in the technology arena and the services industry.”
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