Air, Feature, Freight News

Migrating birds inspire scheme to transform air cargo capacity

[ July 5, 2024   //   ]

Texas-based start-up company Aerolane is claiming that its system of gliders towed behind a powered aircraft could reduce airfreight costs by 65%. The company, founded in 2021, is currently testing a system of automated tow gliders, dubbed Aerocarts, towed behind powered turboprop light aircraft that, it says, mimics the formations adopted by migrating birds to reduce aerodynamic drag.

The tow gliders are fitted with electrically powered propellers that allow them to take off and land automatically and can boost payload significantly, while only marginally increasing fuel consumption in the lead aircraft.

So far, the tests have used a Beechcraft turboprop and a converted Pipistrel as the tow glider but Aerllane’s graphics suggest a rather larger tow glider, about the size of a medium-sized commercial freighter. It also envisages that multiple gliders could be towed behind a single powered aircraft.

Aerolane says that towed cargo gliders could be towed behind any powered plane, making it a ‘drop-in’ increase to the capacity of existing fleets of aircraft.

As well as the technical challenges that Aerolane faces, it would also need to convince regulators that towing heavy unpowered gliders would be safe in all weather conditions and that the te4chnogolgy could be counted on to land the gliders in every circumstance.