Viking Drone Packaging’s specially developed Crash Protected Container is reportedly the world’s first to be certified by the UK government in line with the Civil Aviation Authority’s (CAA) test programme.
This development could significantly expand possibilities within the drone logistics sector, facilitating delivery operations that were previously unattainable.
In the UK and Europe, it has been possible in theory to carry items classified as dangerous goods by drone for some time. However, most dangerous goods have regulations requiring the use of a certified Crash Protected Container (CPC), and no such container existed for use with drones.
Aside from the challenges of designing and building a lightweight container capable of protecting its contents from the high impact forces following a drop from a typical drone operating altitude (400ft), a significant challenge was the lack of formal regulatory processes by which the resulting container could be certified.
Clear UN standards define how dangerous goods should be packaged ready for transport by air. However, these don’t address crash protection in the context of drone regulations.
The UK CAA led a project involving the Vehicle Certification Agency (VCA) and industry stakeholders (including Viking Drone Packaging) to develop a test procedure and process by which containers could be formally recognised as being crash protected. This filled an important regulatory gap in the rapidly evolving drone logistics sector.
Viking used a series of helicopter drop tests followed by a detailed analysis of the results to pass the defined test regime. Based on this work, along with additional sample testing conducted by the VCA, Viking has now been assigned the world’s first certification of a crash protected container for dangerous goods carried by drone.
Aside from the usual considerations for obtaining an operating approval from the national aviation authority, the drone industry now has the key components required to gain approval to carry high risk dangerous goods by drone: to establish appropriate handling procedures, to have staff properly trained, and to use an approved crash protected container and UN compliant packaging.
The kinds of logistics operations that will now be feasible include critical medical deliveries of items such as potentially infectious blood samples for urgent testing, or certain therapy drugs which fall into the dangerous goods classification like those used in chemotherapy treatments.
Aside from dangerous goods, certain other therapy drugs, whilst not potentially dangerous, can be extremely expensive and could also benefit from the assurance that they could survive intact in case of a mishap whilst in transit.
“We are delighted to have met the challenge of developing a lightweight, low-cost crash protected container for use by the drone industry and to open the door to a wide range of use cases that were previously impossible,” said David Weilert, Co-founder of Viking Drone Packaging. “Our next focus is on providing a solution for transporting radiopharmaceutical therapies for use in cancer treatment and continuing to bring exciting new capabilities to the drone industry in innovative ways.”