Composites manufacturer Quickstep is to manufacture an initial run of drone cargo aircraft for European cargo airline Dronamics.
The Bankstown, Sydney company announced a contract worth up to $5.5 million to manufacture 10 of Dronamics’ Black Swan fixed-wing aircraft which are able to transport 350 kg at a distance of 2,500 km
The unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are able to transport cargo at a cost which the company claims is up to 80 percent faster, 50 percent cheaper, and with 60 percent less emissions than other transportation methods.
The aircraft allow autonomous operation, and come with a ‘droneport’ system which require minimal infrastructure and can be installed at unused airfields and factory lots.
Quickstep operates a large composites factory at Sydney’s Bankstown airport, formerly owned by Boeing and Hawker de Havilland.
While Quickstep supplies parts for the manufacture of other drone systems as well as for the F-35 jet fighter and C-130J Super Hercules transport plane, the Dronamics deal is believed to be the first that will see Quickstep manufacture complete aircraft.
This initial contract, which could lead to follow on contracts, will see 10 aircraft delivered, split into deliveries of three aircraft by October, 2023 and a further seven by July, 2024.
The initial low-rate production comes after several months of funded engineering work by Quickstep which led to finalisation of the design.
Dronamics will audit the first 10 aircraft and Quickstep has first right of refusal to manufacture follow on aircraft.
Both companies will market the aircraft which will comply with various aviation quality standards and come with a five-year guarantee.