Exploring Alternatives to Mass Freight Transportation
Reinhardt Technology Research Ltd, a European startup company, is hoping its vertical take-off and landing solution will contribute to the future of the air freight industry
Throughout the years, aviation has always formed a crucial part of transport infrastructure. According to its 2030 report on the subject, the OECD predicts that global airline traffic could increase by approximately 4.7 percent annually in line with the anticipated doubling of global GDP. For the shipping and logistics industry in particular, air freight transportation is expected to increase by 5.9 percent a year between now and 2030.
Based on these predictions, air freight traffic will triple in 20 years, and handling of shipping containers at ports will quadruple by 2030. With this huge demand comes an urgency to prepare the industry for this level of growth and generate new and innovative solutions that better equip the industry to handle the situation. Given that the current infrastructure is unprepared for this velocity of expansion, it will require enormous investment today to stand the chance of being able to cope.
One such person who is hoping to secure investment to assist the industry is Thorsten Reinhardt of Reinhardt Technology Holdings Limited; a Company Director with a passion for finding a viable solution to what is fast developing into a global problem.
Africa Outlook (AfO): Firstly, tell me about the TU 523, specifically its advantages and applications?
Thorsten U. Reinhardt (TR): The TU 523 is an aircraft with vertical take-off and landing capabilities. It is different to many other aircrafts as it is propelled by electric turbines, which feed their energy from an electric hybrid power system. Generally, this is nothing new and has been demonstrated as a feasible option in hybrid vehicles already. However, whereas the primary power in today’s hybrid car is represented by the combustion engine, the TU 523’s primary power propelling the aircraft is electric so that the on-board generator can maintain the high charge level of the energy storage devices. This allows the gas-driven generator to operate at a more optimum efficiency of above 55 percent, 95 percent of the time.
The gimbal propulsion system allows the electric turbines to move freely, making the aircraft more agile and versatile in its manoeuvres so it can hover without any drift. This means the TU 523 can be mass-produced and also be priced competitively with the likes of ground transportation methods such as lorries.
It became clear that if we were able to go into mass production with an aircraft that did not need infrastructure to land, then this would be a valuable solution that could be utilised especially in the developing world and so the concept of the vertical take-off and landing concept was born and with it, the necessity to investigate how we would generate sufficient power to lift the shipping containers.
Several years down the line, a first working prototype of such an engine was developed and we went to work with the Bolivian government on an implementation plan.
AfO: What are the benefits of transporting a container using the TU 523 compared to existing methods?
TR: Given the level of traffic and congestion on our roads today and how the overall cargo handling level is expected to significantly increase by 2030, our infrastructure is not robust enough to cope with the increase. Already the number of lorries on the road is causing concern and frustration for other vehicles on the road. Especially in the UK, being an island and having seen the effects of Operation Stack from the recent strike held by MyFerryLink.
My primary concern is the developing world, however. While there may be ports available to facilitate the delivery of shipping containers, the non-existent or very poor infrastructure shackles economic growth for these countries. In Ivory Coast for example, roads built to last 20 years are only able to last two or three, resulting in a 60 degradation of road infrastructure.
The applications of the TU 523 in this market are endless, and we would like to deploy our solution to developing countries with the ability to transport any kind of goods from A to B without the pressure of having to build new and expensive infrastructure; while at the same time giving these countries a big advantage through the ability to transport freight quicker and cheaper than ever before.
The TU 523 has been designed in such a way that it is capable of identifying shipping containers and landing directly on top of them in order to transport and deposit the cargo to its destination without the need for any new infrastructure such as special runways or human resource. Our product is capable of cooperating with the existing methods of transportation and gives great advantages especially to developing countries who are struggling to maintain or finance new road infrastructure, such as in Africa. The solution behind the TU 523 is available now and can be implemented within a timeframe of five years in any country that is willing to pilot this technology as their infrastructure solution.
AfO: How do you believe the TU 523 can benefit Africa’s logistics sector, and what countries in particular on the continent have you identified and why?
TR: Our solution is not limited to any one country on the continent. Deploying the TU 523 in Africa would be the start of something extremely beneficial, growing our business to new heights as well as allowing the continent to reap the benefits. This has always been seen as a primary market for us, as a huge space in which to grow and make a meaningful contribution to transport infrastructure. We have experienced a sense of open-mindedness among the people that we have been in touch with which has been welcomed and confirms that our solution is on the right track.
My vision is to not only deliver the TU 523 to Africa in order to facilitate faster and cheaper transportation of goods, but I would like to work alongside these countries during our own development period and give them the opportunity to build, for themselves, a fabrication and assembly line; which through a licensing agreement, will allow them to not only transport their goods from A to B, but also empower individuals by educating them in the skills needed to work in aviation and logistics. This way, implementing the TU 523 reaches much further than just transporting freight.
AfO: Lastly, what do you hope the future holds for the TU 523?
TR: The current logistical infrastructure will no doubt see an extension of the road network, the expansion of ports and ships will continue to grow in size to cater for an ever-growing population. This means the industry will require additional, larger dry ports for ship servicing, storage and unloading too.
However, I am of the opinion that going bigger is not necessarily going to be a solution for the industry. Similarly, the use of mini drones to transport packages until five kilograms is also not the answer and will add further traffic to an already congested airspace.
From my perspective, the TU 523 is just one drop in the ocean what will lead to a new era of many new inventions, designed not only by us but also by others. We are always on the lookout for open minded investors who share our vision and can see beyond the current challenges and identify that now is the time to begin researching solutions.
Once we receive investment, our main focus will be divided between the continuous development of the control software, the development of the engine and generator as well as the electric turbines. Moreover, we will continue to engage in disucssions with governments to demonstrate the economic benefits our technology is able to bring.
It is vital that we focus on forming relationships with early adopters of our technology so that we can continue to make sure our solution is the best it can be. Investors need to believe in the potential the product in order to demonstrate to the rest of the world that it is a viable solution. I believe that if we can achieve this, success is sure to follow.
We see the TU 523’s current ability to transport one container at a time as merely the starting point in our development for an alternative to mass freight transportation.