Sunday, May 26, 2024

Startup makes old cargo plane technology new again with cost-cutting approach to shipping: ‘The physics are in our favor’

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A Texas-based startup is seeking to bring old technology into new roles to make shipping cheaper and better for the planet, according to a Bloomberg report. Aerolane aims to pull gliders behind cargo planes to increase capacity while reducing fuel consumption.

In the modern convenience economy, in which items we consume are often shipped overseas and over continents before reaching the storefronts where we find them, shipping costs and accompanying carbon pollution are becoming significant factors in the climate equation.

According to Transport and Environment, international shipping and flight combine to account for 6% of all global carbon pollution, and some projections show that shipping alone could account for 10% of emissions by 2050.

By pulling gliders behind cargo planes, Aerolane claims that fuel burn could be reduced by as much as 65%, making aerial shipping cheaper for consumers and better for the planet. Fundamentally, this technique would allow more cargo to be moved.

Of course, glider technology is not new. This article from the National Air and Space Museum recalls that gliders were produced before airplanes were invented.

Moving cargo with them isn’t a revelation, either. According to the Imperial War Museums, Horsa gliders were used during the famous D-Day invasion of Normandy during World War II.

One of the co-founders of Aerolane, Gur Kimchi, believes that the technology’s ease of use and history of application is what makes it a winner. “It’s really, really simple,” he says — and that’s a good thing.

The significance of this technology comes from its application and potential impact on consumers and the planet. It is an example of an existing technology with a high ceiling for positive impact on the environment and consumers’ pockets.

Aerolane writes on its website that Aerocart gliders “double or triple” the cargo capacity of standard planes. They also allow for multiple landing destinations for cargo; gliders can be flown to the ground separately from the place that is towing them.

“The physics are in our favor,” said Todd Graetz, another Aerolane co-founder, to Bloomberg. “Look at the birds. … We can learn a lot from birds.”

This technology is pending approval from the Federal Aviation Administration and is trying to enter a highly competitive cargo transport market. However, the technology is scheduled to become available in 2025 and could significantly impact consumers and the environment.

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