Austria-based OEM, Schwarzmüller, and urban air mobility pioneer, Volocopter, have partnered to create a new application for the classic trailer.
This new design, the Mobile Vertipad, converts into a mobile take-off and landing platform for an electrically powered transport drone.
It was presented at the ITS World Congress 2021 in Hamburg.
The VoloDrone heavy-lift drone has also recently completed its first public test flight at homePORT Hamburg.
Schwarzmüller aims to begin testing the Mobile Vertipad in early 2023.
For Schwarzmüller CEO Roland Hartwig, this has opened doors for his company.
“Not only are we proud of the partnership, but we want to expand into this strongly future-oriented business field of transportation,” he said.
The Mobile Vertipad is a trailer with a conventional long-haul trailer’s exact dimensions: 12 metres long, 2.4 metres wide, and 3.9 metres high. A loading container is built on top of the chassis to hold the VoloDrone. At the push of a button, the trailer can unfold into a platform and turn into a launch pad and loading ramp. This is a two-step process: First, a substructure made of metal profiles extends from the chassis. Then, the container unfolds its walls using the origami principle, creating a circular platform 20 meters in diameter. It is dismantled as quickly as it is constructed and can be moved to any location using the tractor units.
“We want to offer our industrial customers an end-to-end solution that enables VoloDrone services at any time by ensuring short lead times,” said Volocopter Chief Commercial Officer, Christian Bauer.
The platform can be designed for relatively low loads. The fully loaded VoloDrone is reported to weigh as much as a small car.
Hartwig said this opens up completely new possibilities for material selection at Schwarzmüller. Due to the light weight, it opens up possibilities to use non-metal construction materials in the future.
VoloDrone is Volocopter’s versatile electrically powered cargo drone. It can transport a payload of 200kg up to 40km. Possible VoloDrone applications are in logistics, agriculture, infrastructure, and the public utilities industry. Among other things, heavy packages can be transported to remote locations, from the port to ships or from island to island. Further possibilities include crop protection or deliveries to construction sites.
Schwarzmüller has also designed its concept study, for which it called in the Austrian design and engineering studio, Bumblebee, to be multimodal.
“The Mobile Vertipad is completely multimodal,” said Hartwig. “It connects roads, rails, air, and ships in last-mile freight transport. The cargo drone creates the connection, Schwarzmüller provides the mobile infrastructure to enable the connection.”
In one aspect, Schwarzmüller went beyond Volocopter’s specifications, making the deployable trailer multifunctional. It serves not only as a means of transport and a flight platform, but also as a charging station for the VoloDrone’s batteries. Finally, the Mobile Vertipad is a station for technical maintenance.