Drones have become more significant to people’s lives during the last year. Technology has advanced, and there has been a renewed urgency to develop new methods to obtain goods and services throughout the pandemic.
Drones delivered 13 percent of Ghana’s inaugural COVID-19 vaccine shipment in just three days. Wing, an Alphabet-owned drone delivery startup, saw demand for its services increase in the United States as customers sought frictionless ways to obtain consumer products.
As a result, numerous regulators throughout the world have expressed an interest in assisting this industry in expanding its activities. They’re issuing more approvals under existing rules, as well as adopting more comprehensive procedures to allow for larger-scale drone operations. Drones were previously only capable of conveying little things. However, depending on the aircraft, a new class of system is emerging that can transport loads weighing 70 kg to 500 kg.
This means that new delivery models may be more efficient and cost-effective than existing helicopter, truck, or ferry-based infrastructure, particularly for commodities with high social or economic value that are delivered to places where current infrastructure is inadequate. If the correct rules are in place, autonomous aerial systems can deliver crucial products to remote, rural, and offshore communities.
The technology for heavy-lift drone delivery has recently matured to the point that the systems are ready for certification by civil aviation authorities. Because the technology is similar, approving heavy freight operations could also serve as a bridge to platforms that transport people, such as Advanced Aerial Mobility (AAM) and Urban Aerial Mobility (UAM). AAM platforms have experienced a surge in funding. Joby Aviation, Lilium, Archer, and Elevation Aerospace have all declared plans to go public later this year in the previous six months.
Saudi Arabia has the potential to be a global leader in heavy lift cargo solutions as well as a hub for future drone technology. Despite Saudi Arabia’s outstanding transportation infrastructure, several localities still lack access to critical medical, consumer, and industrial goods due to the country’s difficult mountain, desert, and water topography.
According to Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030, the government has a “substantial backlog across the road network, resulting in inadequate transport infrastructure,” as well as a strategic goal to “promote ease/possibility of living across [the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia].” Heavy-lift drone delivery offers a way to meet these problems and achieve these goals.
Regulators and business models, on the other hand, are lagging behind, and in some cases intentionally preventing businesses from achieving the potential of this technology. To guarantee that cargo drones grow in a way that safeguards public safety, ensures community interests are reflected, and analyzes how to integrate new technology into supply chains in a cost-effective manner, public-private collaboration is required.
A heavy-lift drone project is being launched by the World Economic Forum and the Saudi Arabian Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution. This will aid the Saudi Ministry of Transport and the General Authority of Civil Aviation in developing a regulatory framework, drawing on previous successful partnerships on this topic with Rwanda, Switzerland, India, and other countries.
The Forum also collaborates with Saudi Arabia’s main corporate and public sector stakeholders to develop socially beneficial uses for heavy-lift drone delivery and ensure that policies are in place to support them. Saudi Arabia may be a model for the rest of the world while promoting its own economic development and social aims by combining these two mutually complementary components of regulatory transformation and pilot experiments.
The Saudi Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution will hold its first ‘Saudi Forum for the Fourth Industrial Revolution: Harnessing 4IR’ on the 28th and 29th of July this year in Riyadh. The meeting will bring together a diverse group of senior international policy experts and leaders from the region’s public and business sectors to examine, among other things, how we might use the 4IR to enhance efficiency, sustainability, and economic growth.