A community for those looking up to the sky and into the future...
Issue #7 (202307)
The Unmanned Cargo Update highlights developments related to air cargo delivery in the unmanned middle-mile air cargo (UMMAC) sector, an industry yet to exist.
The Jump Aero - JA1 Pulse is an interesting concept and revolutionary design. We will be looking forward to the cargo version as it seems this platform has a very small footprint with inherent stability and safety built into the design.
In our estimation converting this aircraft into an uncrewed cargo platform could unlock an additional payload capacity of 300 - 400 lbs by eliminating the pilot seat, manual flight controls, cockpit displays, and windows. We could also reasonably predict the “JA2” to be a scaled-up version specifically designed with cargo transport in mind.
An ideal mission profile for a converted JA1 aircraft would be servicing oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico where quickly receiving supplies or parts weighing <600 lbs would be repeatable and cost-effective. There are several predicted specs listed on the Jump Aero website however range is not one of them.
Zeroing in on Lawerence’s comment around creating opportunities and expanding the pool of pilots, “you take an injured military vet, for example, somebody lost a leg or something like that in combat”. From our point of view, this is some serious virtue signaling and assumes there is a large enough population in this demographic that can be employed to ease the cargo pilot shortage. Given the U.S. is no longer involved in sustained combat operations (and hasn't been for a long time), this population is most likely shrinking from its height 10 - 15 years ago.
An interview with Lawrence on the Airplane Geeks Podcast was featured in Unmanned Cargo Update #5 earlier this year. He was making the same argument in that conversation. We believe the key to easing the pilot shortage is beyond just hiring disabled veterans. The FAA can facilitate growth in this sector and further expand the pool of pilots for uncrewed cargo through policy changes to skills and medical qualifications. Policy change will be the key to moving this industry forward and reducing shortages.
We would like to ask our readers; What do you think the qualification requirements will be to command pilot a middle-mile cargo aircraft? In other words, what does the community anticipate the FAA to set as policy for unmanned cargo pilot qualifications and experience? Leave your comments below.
This article is featured under the infrastructure category as we think it's apt to view pilots and maintenance technicians as part of the infrastructure ecosystem that will need to be in place for aviation to progress into the next era of flight. Like traditional infrastructure, pilots and technicians won't spring up overnight. It will take significant investments as well as planning, training, and experience to prepare them for operating next-generation aircraft and systems. Lack of regulations, vertiports, charging stations, and investment are irrelevant issues if competent technical professionals do not exist to staff the technology.
We agree with CAE’s assessment that “it takes three years from starting to understand what is needed for a training programme to actually being able to develop a curriculum, simulation and then get it operationally evaluated and approved by a regulator”.
Concerning pilot and technician qualifications and pay discussed in this article, we do not foresee the same challenges in uncrewed middle-mile air cargo (UMMAC) operations. We see advantages when the overall operating cost is calculated. Ab initio pathways and certifications will almost certainly need to be created for uncrewed cargo pilots and operators thus new careers and compensation baselines can emerge. This will enable lower operating costs as compared to traditional crewed regional cargo operations. If part-time flying and/or eliminating overnight stops will attract more pilots to AAM passenger transport, what if they never had to leave the ground?
Supernal’s second-mover approach resonates with our organization as we also understand the benefits of waiting and watching for those with deep pockets to learn first-mover lessons. First-mover lessons can be expensive and those who strive for pole position are primarily doing it for the sake of capturing early market share and brand awareness. In many instances, first-mover problems result in the death of a company which can be avoided by exercising a bit of patience and waiting for industry & technology to mature.
Time On Target Solutions' roots are firmly planted in, and grow from, our experience and understanding of traditional crewed aviation operations and business. Thus far it is very clear to us that many companies developing uncrewed aircraft technology (small and large) underestimate several aspects of how the aviation ecosystem operates in the U.S. Specifically, the relationships between design, testing, certification, full-rate manufacturing, training, and sustained operations.
Share your content with our community by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to featuring you and your thoughts about what is interesting, applicable, and relevant to the future UMMAC industry.