Logistics real estate specialist ESR is getting ready for the future of high speed delivery with an initiative to design and demonstrate the world’s first cargo drone facility at Tokyo area warehouse project.
The Hong Kong-listed warehouse developer and fund manager announced late last week that it has begun working with UK drone development startup VRCO to establish the tech program as a way to explore building a fleet of automated drones to accelerate and streamline delivery of cargo by air.
“The ability to move high value, time sensitive cargo directly from our distribution centre to its destination presents a significant value proposition for ESR’s tenants and operators,” ESR co-founder and co-chief executive Stuart Gibson said in a statement.
The company plans to develop the concept for its cargo drone program at its ESR Higashi Ogishima Distribution Centre, a 365,385 square metre (3.9 million square foot) project that it began building earlier this month, with plans to expand the program to other facilities in Japan and across the region.
Testing Drone Potential
The goal of ESR’s collaboration with VRCO, a five-year old startup aimed at developing electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, is to validate how ESR’s tenants can use eVTOL airframes to transform the movement of commercial cargo from warehouses, the company said in its statement.
Part of the cooperation will be establishing a command centre at the Higashi Ogishima facility which will enable delivery firms to manage air transport of cargo under all weather conditions and at varying volumes of demand. Key to the program is a flight infrastructure modelling system developed by VRCO under its Future of Flight simulator division, which will allow for testing potential drone applications.
“VRCO’s Future of Flight modelling and Simulation capability will aid ESR to make informed decisions with regard to the definition and adoption of eVTOL services along with the understanding of the required investments and adaptions to existing and future ESR properties to best leverage this,” ESR’s Gibson added.
The collaboration with VRCO will be carried out through ESR’s Future Solutions Group, which evaluates how technological, economic and societal changes will affect the design and operation of ESR’s distribution facilities.
Adding to a Greater Tokyo SuperShed
ESR’s drone program at the Higashi Ogishima is one element of a battery of tech features being incorporated in the double-ramped, mega-shed, which at nine-storeys will be among Japan’s tallest when it is completed in March 2023.
The Warburg Pincus-backed company announced commencement of construction on the first phase of the facility near Tokyo’s Haneda Airport on 8 December, as the latest addition to its existing 3.4 million square metres of completed warehouses in the country.
The Higashi Ogishima distribution centre has been certified as Class S, the highest rank possible under Japan’s CASBEE ratings for green buildings, and will generate part of the electricity need for its tenants operations via sustainable sources.
Following ESR’s practice of making its facilities worker friendly, the distribution centre in Kanagawa prefecture’s Kawasaki ward will include a day-care centre and a worker’s lounge, as well as a bowling alley, conference facilities and a dining room with a private chef.