Garuda Indonesia (Garuda), the national airline of Indonesia, has announced plans to set up a fleet of 100 unmanned aircraft or drones for cargo transportation within the next five years. Garuda will set up a venture to procure the drones from China-based Beihang technology for an undisclosed sum. The drones with wingspan of 60-foot, a range of 750 miles and the ability to transport 2.2 tons of cargo will be assembled locally in Indonesia under license from Beihang. The usage of these drones could be 30% cheaper than the use of conventional cargo aircraft.
The drones will be operated from 30 logistics centers, each with a dedicated airstrip. With this in mind, the unmanned airships will be able to ship goods to across the country’s more than 18,000 islands, with special emphasis on remote areas including Maluku, Papua and Sulawesi.
Trial flights with three drones in the eastern region are set to begin September until the end of the year. Commercial runs are planned for 2020 in the Maluku islands, with drones transporting seafood to Garuda’s Makassar-based cargo hub for onward shipping.
The project will aid e-commerce development in Indonesia, where online shopping has increased demand for logistics and shipping companies and brought to the fore challenges in shipping across Indonesia’s vast archipelago. Concerns have been raised over the lack of Infrastructure needed for a drone-delivery ecosystem. Among other things, Garuda will need to have government support for routes planning and training for air traffic controllers, to successfully utilize drones for transporting cargo.
(Sources: CAPA; Thomas Insights; Business Times)