By Bruce Crumley

Europe’s middle-mile drone delivery specialist Dronamics is moving to make its flagship Black Swan UAVs entirely carbon neutral through a linkup with UK company Zero Petroleum to supply fossil-free fuel for future aerial cargo transport.

The partnership is the most recent in a series of deals Dromamics has revealed as it prepares to launch middle-mile drone transport of goods and medical materials across Europe as an option to existing road alternatives to destinations shorter-distance delivery UAVs don’t reach. Under the accord, Zero Petroleum will provide its ZERO SynAVGAS fossil-free fuel to power Black Swan craft on entirely sustainable, carbon-neutral flights of up to 2,500 km.

The companies describe ZERO SynAVGAS as a direct-drop replacement for traditional fossil-based fuels without any engine performance loss other synthetics can involve. It’s manufactured by extracting hydrogen from water and capturing carbon from atmospheric carbon dioxide, a process that emits the exact volume of carbon it burns. It becomes 100% sustainable when powered by renewable energy tech like solar or wind, and will be used in specially designed Rotax propeller engines that Dromamics will equip its delivery drones with.

Attaining carbon neutrality of its craft is no small detail or challenge for the company. 

In contrast to smaller last-mile delivery drones powered by batteries, Dronamics middle-mile Black Swans were designed to use hybrid motors strong enough to lift its 8 meter-long body, 16-meter wingspan, and up to 350 kg of payload up to cruising altitudes as high as 22,000 feet. By foregoing kerosene-based fuel, the company says it can lower estimated carbon dioxide emissions of 755g per ton-kilometer down to net zero.

That advance in its tech brings Dromamics closer to attaining early dominance in the middle-mile aerial delivery sector it created. It follows its success in becoming the first UAV cargo airline certified for service in the European Union, and more recent adhesion to Scotland’s project to develop what it says will be the first nationwide medical drone network in the world.

“Sustainability is a vital part of our plans, and as the first drone cargo airline in the world we are delighted to have secured an agreement for Zero Petroleum to supply their fuel for Dronamics’ future drone network,” said Dronamics CEO Svilen Rangelov. “Not only is the fuel entirely sustainable and fossil-free, the modular manufacturing process has a small footprint so it fits perfectly into our future droneport plans, potentially enabling the fuel to be produced on site. We are very excited to work with the team at Zero Petroleum as we move towards commercial operations in the coming year.”

Its tie-up with Dronamics, meanwhile comes in the wake of Zero Petroleum’s deal in July to work with the UK’s Royal Air Force on the development of its fast jet fuel. Last year the duo set the Guinness World Record by completing what was called the first-ever aircraft flight powered exclusively with a synthetic alternative to fossil-based fuels.