Garuda Indonesia plans to launch drone network

Airline Garuda Indonesia is hoping to develop a fleet of as many as 100 drones to deliver cargo across the Indonesian archipelago.

A Bloomberg report said that the airline would conduct trial flights utilising three Beihang UAS Technology BKZ-005 drones starting in September.

Full operations are expected to start next year carrying seafood from the Maluku islands to Makassar from where the products can be transported throughout Asia.

Within five years the operation could expand to 100 drones operating from 30 logistics centres across the country, each with its own airstrip.

E-commerce is another potential target market for the drone flights, Bloomberg reports.

According to Flight Global, the drone is capable of carrying up to 1.2 tonnes of cargo, with an endurance of 1,200 km while flying at an altitude of up to 5,000 m.

“The use of UAVs is an ideal option for the carrier to seize market demand and cargo revenue opportunities, particularly in connecting the remote regions with limited airport facilities such as those in Maluku, Papua, and Sulawesi,” Garuda’s cargo and business development director Mohammad Iqbal told Flight Global earlier this year.

“Right now we are intensively coordinating with the stakeholders from the regulation and its operational management to ensure a smooth [operation]. We will begin testing the UAV technology in terms of airport feasibility, runway, navigation, air traffic control, meteorology and its related aspects sometime in September 2019”.

The country is made up of more than 18,000 islands making transport operations extremely complicated.

However, critics of the plan have questioned whether the country has the technological infrastructure to handle a drone network.

Earlier this month the airline was fined A$19m for its alleged part in a price fixing cartel that has brought penalties of more than A$132.5m.

The Federal Court found that between 2003 and 2006, Garuda made and gave effect to agreements that fixed the price of security and fuel surcharges, as well as a customs fee from Indonesia. It was ordered to pay A$15m.

A further A$4m was ordered for the imposition and level of insurance and fuel surcharges from Hong Kong.

In total, 15 airlines have now been fined in Australia for their part in the price fixing cartel.

Competition regulators around the world have taken action in relation to the air cargo cartel, with fines or penalties ordered against various airlines in Europe, the US, Korea, New Zealand, Canada, and India.

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