Transporting Dangerous goods by drone

From inspecting assets such as renewable energy farms, mobile phone towers, and offshore resources, to surveying and terrain mapping, and of course photography and filming, drones are already revolutionising many industries. The use of drones for transport and delivery is yet another use case that has the potential to transform how many sectors operate. Drones have already been used to transport blood samples from GP practices in rural parts of Scotland to laboratories for testing, and this has reduced turnaround times from days to hours, which could potentially be life saving for certain patients. Delivery of goods by drone is fast because unlike traditional transport methods, drones are not subject to delays from traffic or other obstacles on the ground. Items can be delivered in a fraction of the time it would normally take.

Naturally, cargo delivered by drone needs to be packed appropriately to protect the item through flight and delivery. There are, of course, additional considerations when it comes to delivery of cargo that is classified as ‘dangerous goods’. These items are subject to stringent regulatory requirements when transported by air, and must be packed to ensure they don’t pose an unacceptable risk during air transport and delivery. Surprisingly, this applies to many more items than you would think.

Whilst the transport of cargo by drone is a relatively new development, global requirements for the transport of dangerous goods have been in place for many years. Who better to advise on this than Geoff Leach who is one of the world’s leading authorities on the transport of dangerous goods by air. Geoff previously held positions as Head of the UK CAA’s Dangerous Goods Office and Chairman of the ICAO Dangerous Goods Panel (DGP); he also received an award recognising a lifetime of achievement in advancing the cause of safety in the transport of dangerous goods, the George L. Wilson Award. He continues to attend DGP meetings representing the Dangerous Goods Advisory Council of the US and chairs IATA lithium battery workshops.

In this blog, with the help of Geoff, who is also co-founder of Viking Drone Packaging, we’ll explore the importance of proper packaging for the safe transport of dangerous goods by drone.

Ensuring safety

While most people would instinctively recognise that explosives, radioactive materials and toxic and infectious substances would be classed as dangerous goods, there are many other items that fall under the same category that are not so obvious. From flammable items such as nail varnish, aerosols, perfume and paint, to lithium batteries which may or may not be contained in items such as laptops, smart phones and medical devices; all of these are classed as dangerous goods.

Understandably, the primary concern when transporting dangerous goods is safety. They can pose a risk not only to the drone operator and receiver of the goods, but also to the public and the environment. High quality packaging plays a crucial role in mitigating these risks. It helps contain and protect the dangerous goods, reducing the chances of leakage, damage, or any unwanted reactions during transport and delivery.

Compliance with regulations

Transporting dangerous goods by any means, including drones, is subject to stringent requirements imposed by authorities worldwide. These requirements outline the packaging requirements to ensure the safety of everyone involved. Packaging must comply with specific standards and marking, labelling and documentation requirements also apply. Non-compliance can result in legal consequences and, more importantly, endanger lives.

In addition to safety concerns, transporting dangerous goods by drone demands careful consideration of the potential environmental impact. Packaging that meets regulatory standards helps prevent leaks or spills during transit, minimizing the risk of contamination to the surroundings. By effectively containing the dangerous goods, proper packaging contributes to protecting ecosystems, water bodies, and wildlife from exposure to harmful materials.

Drones encounter various challenges during transport, including turbulence, adverse weather conditions, and vibrations. These factors can potentially compromise the integrity of the packaging and lead to damage or loss of the dangerous goods and so must be considered in the design of packaging. Cushioning materials, and shock-absorbing mechanisms, provide additional layers of protection. These measures ensure that the dangerous goods remain intact and secure throughout the journey, minimizing the risk of accidents or incidents.

Unlocking the potential of drone delivery

Drones look set to play an increasingly prominent role in the transport of cargo. When it comes to transporting dangerous goods, having the right packaging is a critical requirement. Proper packaging ensures the safety of the drone operators, the public, and the environment by containing dangerous goods, preventing leaks or spills, minimizing damage, and complying with regulations. By getting the packaging right, the full potential of transporting dangerous goods by drone can be unlocked.

Viking Drone Packaging came together in 2021 to launch the world’s first business specifically dedicated to providing packaging and logistics solutions to address the challenges of transporting goods by drone. To find out how Viking Drone Packaging can help you to transport your goods safely by drone, get in touch.