John B, “Freight Freak”: Vertical Air Lift Not a Game Changer

September 14, 2022

We’ve almost entered the Jetsons world, or at least it looks like we’re heading there. There are two companies working with American Airlines and United Airlines creating short city hops, and their ‘flying machines’ are truly unique. They are small airplanes, electrical, capable of hovering and vertical takeoff and landing. Archer is the maker of one, and Vertical Aerospace has their version.

There is quite a bit of excitement about the possible uses for these vehicles. The Archer website states their mission: as advancing the benefits of sustainable air mobility. “Archer’s goal is to move people throughout the world’s cities in a quick, safe, sustainable, and cost-effective manner. Archer is designing and developing electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft for use in urban air mobility networks.”

The Vertical Aerospace website makes a similar statement: “In heavily populated regions, neither cars nor public transport can cope with demand. The VX4 will transform the way people travel.”

Both companies speak of using the vehicles to move people. Our question is, would these vehicles be of use in the logistics industry? The answer is yes, no and maybe.

For companies in a time crunch this is a great solution so they do not get PO’s or order cancellations when running into an inventory shortage or emergency replenishment situation. But it would be a margin killer to have to use this method, due to expense of CPU for vertical air lift versus the traditional over the road. Also, it’s very limited payload for someone that brings in ocean containers.

As it gets normalized it could get more competitive and become more useful within the supply chain. It’s a sexy looking service, and we predict it will gain traction for some, especially those using JIC (just in case) inventory management. It could add a safety net from time to time, or be used by those who have had delays in getting product on time.

So, at this point in time the new, exciting, quick, safe, sustainable means of transportation within cities is looked upon as a last resort, for emergency use, by most in the Fulfillment industry. But things change quickly in a world where sustainability is becoming more vital. It is a sustainable means of moving product more quickly in urban areas and there will likely be some appropriate uses coming soon.

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About the Freight Freak: John Bevacqua is the author of the “Freight Freak” monthly blog, and former VP of Logistics at AMS Fulfillment. He currently serves, in semi-retirement, as Logistics Advisor.