- Dallas-based cargo airline Ameriflight signed a letter of intent to purchase 35 air cargo drones from Sabrewing Aircraft Company as it grows its expedited supply chain services, the carrier announced Feb. 15.
- Sabrewing’s medium-lift Rhaegal-A cargo drone, called “Alpha,” has a payload capacity of more than 2,000 pounds and can be powered through a blend of traditional and sustainable aviation fuel.
- The Alpha aircraft can move cargo between facilities faster than a vehicle and also “land in locations other aircraft cannot, eliminating the added cost of airport transfer of cargo,” according to the release.
The purchase agreement with Sabrewing marks Ameriflight’s second drone deal this year, as the company looks to diversify its aviation services and explore new business opportunities in distribution center logistics.
Ameriflight, which counts UPS among its top customers, intends to use the aircraft’s vertical landing and takeoff capabilities to quickly transport cargo to off-airport alternative landing zones. That will help shippers develop a more efficient warehouse distribution network, according to the statement.
“Warehouses don’t often have small-payload needs,” Ed De Reyes, CEO of Sabrewing, told Supply Chain Dive in an email. “More often than not, warehouses ship 1,500 to 2,500 pounds of cargo at one time.”
The Alpha’s cargo bay is also easily accessible from the ground and doesn’t require special loading equipment, making loading and unloading the aircraft quicker and more efficient, according to the company’s website.
Aircraft delivery is expected to follow Type Certification, De Reyes told Supply Chain Dive.
“That will be about 18 months following our award of a Type Inspection Authorization from the FAA,” the CEO said. “If all goes to schedule, that could be as early as December 2024.”
Earlier this year, Ameriflight announced an agreement to purchase 20 Kona cargo drones from U.S.-based Natilus. The short-haul feeder cargo aircraft, equipped with a 3.8-ton payload, aims to provide more diverse e-commerce solutions for customers.
Cargo drone companies have been capitalizing on opportunities presented by carriers and other supply chain stakeholders looking to build out their last-mile and express logistics networks.
In January, for instance, San Francisco-based drone developer MightyFly unveiled its second generation aircraft designed to transport consecutive deliveries, complete with a cargo bay large enough to hold 96 small USPS packages.