ILA PART 3: The iViation project

Perhaps the small players of today will be the big ones of tomorrow? A promising example appears to be the iViation’s autonomously operating freighter. The unmanned aircraft has a range of 2,000 km and offers a payload of up to 500 kg. This aircraft is targeting the rapidly growing market for parts logistics and express. Players such as Siemens and Thyssenkrupp are reducing local spare parts storage capacities, replacing them with 24/7 air freight services.

iViation has identified 60 potential customers such as FedEx, DHL or UPS, who are looking for flexible, small, short-haul capacity offerings given that many regions of the world are not properly connected to express parcel and parts logistics.

Connecting the unconnected. Image: iViation freighter

iViation management expects rapid certification of its aircraft
The company has embarked on the fast lane to shorten the usually very long official certification and approval procedures. 90% of the required flight tests and checks are carried out using simulation in a closed test system with automated certification documentation. This saves time and expenditures. The autonomously flying drones consist of converted, approved small aircraft in which the weight distribution has also been taken into account. Only a flight computer and several redundant sensors have been added so that certification can be made considerably easier as time progresses. Currently, the aircraft still fly with conventional engines, but these can also be replaced on a modular basis in the future. This will speed up lengthy approval procedures.

First flight is scheduled for 2028
According to Lufthansa pilot and iViation Co-Founder, Rolf Bauer, the next step after approval will be to convert the propulsion system to hydrogen. There are already concepts for this in his company’s filing cabinet.
As far as the timeline is concerned, the initial flight of the freighter is scheduled for 2028. Series production is set to begin a year later, following the delivery of iViation’s cargo aircraft right after. There are also plans for 2029 and the decade beyond for a larger version capable of transporting up to 3 tons. Overall, the company has a family concept in mind to cover different market requirements.

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