Revolutionizing Logistics: Three Companies to Showcase Innovative Drone Designs at ADW Hybrid

Thursday, 9 March 2023

During this edition of ADW Hybrid, new entries, start-ups, and students got a chance to win a spot in the Showcase area. From all the entries, only five winners were chosen by the ADW content board. In this article, we highlight three winners and share their stories with you.


The idea came about in 2019 during the rise of EVTOL drones and electrification. While being interviewed about this topic, I realized the potential for long-range, point-to-point drone deliveries. The COVID-19 lockdowns also highlighted the demand for online shopping and the need for faster deliveries. NEX AERO wanted to create a reliable and efficient drone that could transport critical items like medicine and organs. ‘’After researching battery technology, I found that hydrogen fuel cells could provide the power and range needed for this type of drone. We assembled a team and partnered with the UK-based fuel cell manufacturer, Intelligent Energy. ‘’

 They wanted to create a concept that was realistic and could be quickly brought to market while being safe and reliable. We focused on safety factors and created a design with no movable parts and the ability to counter any motor stop.

Our team spent months developing a detailed design model. Our plan is to bring a fully certified drone to market by 2025-2026. They also had an industrial designer make the design beautiful and functional. They are working on size, loading, unloading, and passenger seating. ‘’Our first product will be a logistic drone followed by a demand transfer drone. Both will use the same technology and learn from each other's lessons.’’


 Our winning entry is focused on urban logistics, specifically the first and last-mile delivery chain. While the middle mile is optimized, the first and last mile in urban areas often suffers from inefficiencies and delays

Urban Ray wanted to optimize this part of the logistics network by developing two systems - a drone for deliveries and a ground station that automates the interaction with the drone, including battery swapping and package handling. The ground station also serves as a terrestrial user interface for customers and logistics providers, making it easy to access our aerial logistics network.

Urban Ray identified a problem in logistics - the ever-growing supply and demand gap for package deliveries in urban areas. Traditional logistics concepts cannot close this gap by relying on human resources alone. ‘’We saw the need for something new that could both provide more capacities and optimize logistics through automation. We looked at the technology available today, regulatory requirements, and public awareness to develop our logistics concept, which includes a drone and a ground station.’’


 We are a team of employees and co-workers in the Micro Aerials Vehicle’s Laboratory (MAVLab), which is part of the Aerospace Department at TU Delft. Our lab focuses on researching hybrid drones, which can take off and land vertically like multi-rotors but can also fly forward like conventional fixed-wing aircraft. Although quad planes are currently the most popular type of hybrid drone commercially, they have some inherent disadvantages, which is why we came up with a new concept called the variable skew quad plane.

‘’Our variable skew quad plane design is similar to a quad plane in that it is a multirotor mounted on a fixed wing, but it differs in that the quad motors are mounted on a boom that can rotate 90 degrees. This design has several advantages over a traditional quad plane. First, in forward flight, the quad motors can be hidden in the fuselage, reducing drag and improving efficiency. Second, when landing, the wing is on top of the fuselage, which reduces the aircraft's cross-sectional area and improves stability in gusty conditions.’’

The variable skew quad plane design does come with some challenges, including an increase in complexity due to the rotation mechanism and control problems during the transition between the two modes of flight. ‘’However, we believe that the benefits of this design outweigh the challenges and could be a significant improvement over existing hybrid drone designs. We have developed a prototype of our design and included pictures in our drone week application to demonstrate its unique features better.’’

AEROGRID UAV brainstormed about different ways to improve the quad plane design, considering options such as folding arms, tilting rotors, and various rotations. ‘’Eventually, we settled on a concept that only requires a single point of rotation at the center point of the wing.’’ This design minimizes points of failure and complexity while still achieving our goal of hiding the quad motors. While it is still more complex than a traditional fixed-wing drone, they needed to add complexity to improve the design. ‘’Overall, this was the least complicated improvement that we found that solved our problem.’’

Amsterdam Drone Week is the premier event for anyone interested in the latest developments in aerial logistics. This year's showcase features innovative companies that are transforming the industry with cutting-edge designs and technologies. Come join us to witness these groundbreaking ideas and engage with the brightest minds in the field. With an incredible lineup of speakers, exhibitors, and networking opportunities, Amsterdam Drone Week is the must-attend event for professionals and enthusiasts alike. We can't wait to see you there!

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