Six pioneering prototypes set to change the way we fuel logistics.gallery
Soon, it will be the 50th anniversary of mankind’s first ‘giant leap’ onto the moon’s surface. At the time, the lunar landing was the culmination of over a decade of development and innovation. It was that perfect moment when pioneering and technology came together to give us an enticing glimpse of the future. The day’s when we would be travelling to work with a jetpack strapped to our back and a pair of hover boots for weekends were just around the corner. Sadly, they failed to materialize.
However, the last five decades have given us a plethora of transport ideas that have come to fruition. From bullet trains to Segways to the International Space Station, every generation has seen a new step forward driven by the consumer demand for efficiency and sustainability.
As we head deeper into the 21st Century, it is logistics that is powering our transport thinking. The imperative for cheaper, cleaner and smarter solutions to our global cargo needs is delivering a number of concepts. Here we look at six that could be set to reframe the conversation on Future Transport…
Imagine. You’re trapped on a mountain, it’s -3 degrees, you’ve lost all your supplies down a crevice – and the roads are unpassable. Who you gonna call? Interestingly, the correct answer is DHL. Their third generation of autonomous ‘parcelcopter’ looks more like a drone aircraft than a helicopter, but last year it successfully flew around the mountains of Bavaria delivering sports equipment and medical supplies from the valley to the Alm Station on the Winklemoosalm Plateau 1200 meters above. With a payload of up to 2 kilos and a range of 8 kilometers, DHL Parcelcopter 3.0 flew more than 100 sorties with each journey taking just 8 minutes (the same delivery by car takes around 30 minutes). More trials are expected soon – so, keep a look out for one coming to a mountain near you!
We’ve had solar powered watches, solar powered garden lights, so why not a solar powered aircraft? That’s surely what pioneers Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg were thinking when they created Solar Impulse 2. With a wingspan as wide as a 747’s but weighing just 5000 lbs, it took off from Abu Dhabi in March 2015 on a voyage to circle the world - fuelled by 17,000 solar panels. The original circumnavigation was scheduled to last five months but after a disastrous trip across the Pacific during which it fried half its batteries, SI2 eventually returned to the UAE 16 months after take-off. However, the case for energy efficient air transport was proved. So long as you don’t mind missing the welcome party at your holiday hotel. Or your holiday.
It may look like the aeronautical version of Kim Kardashian but the Airlander 50 could revolutionize freight transport. It can float aloft for up to 4 days and take off or land vertically even at sea (perfect for remote locations). Its hull is filled with 3.5 million square feet of helium (not just for kid’s parties then) and at 390 feet, can land on a football pitch – just. With a range of 2000 miles, top speed of 195 kph and a cargo capacity of 50 tonnes, you may well see bright yellow DHL versions one day.
When your job title is ‘Space Rocket Inventor’ then the sentence, “Hey guys, let's build a 1000 mile an hour train!” is probably not that unexpected. Elon Musk first mooted the idea of a ‘Hyperloop’ - a pod using electro magnetism to levitate above a rail inside a vacuum tube back in 2011. The first successful trials took place at his Space X lair/plant in 2016. And the first full scale model has just been tested. Expect your commuting time to be drastically reduced by 2050.
About 90% of the stuff we love from wine to fidget spinners to flat pack furniture is brought to us by ocean freighters. But the latest breed of superliners can consume up to 380 tonnes of fuel each day. (That’s enough to keep the average family car running for about 440 years!) And that’s why the world needs the Dykstra WASP. Look – it’s a freighter with a diesel electric engine for powering across the North Atlantic. Then, the wind picks up and… POW! It’s a sailing ship with masts that double as cranes to offload the cargo. It’s 138 meters long, 8000 tonnes and could cut fuel consumption by 60%. OK, it’s only a concept at the moment but just imagine a fleet of these sailing into New York. Wonder if the crew are paid in doubloons?
When you operate a fleet of 70,000 vehicles and your aim is to reduce your greenhouse gases to zero, sustainable fuel-efficiency is kind of important. You can either start buying electric vehicles like crazy, or, as DHL did in 2014, buy the company that makes them. Adventurous? Kind of. Pioneering? Definitely. With a top speed of 85 kph, a range of 80 km and a 650 kg load, 10,000 of these little yellow DHL street scooters will be appearing across Germany every year.
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