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Geoffrey Arend Air CArgo News Thought Leader
Vol. 13 No. 57                                                                                                                             Tuesday July 1, 2014

The Logistics Gap

The Logistics Gap

   Logistics most likely started with farmers moving their produce in carts to the villages, towns, and cities for sale. Then as trade developed, 3rd parties operated ships and caravans to move goods and materials from producers to users. During the Industrial Revolution trains were developed and added to our logistics arsenal. Then came the internal combustion engine and trucks were added. Finally aircraft were added to our logistics tools.
   Today we have a sophisticated global logistics system using air, ship, rail, and truck. In the simplest terms, the mode selection is based on the demographics (land or sea or both) and the time vs. cost.    But we have a large gap in our present logistics system between air and the other modes. This gap can be considerable considering the time and cost of air vs. the other modes of transportation.
   These modes of transportation were advanced through technology. The pushcart developed into powerful diesel trucks transporting thousands of tons. The caravans became trains pulling hundreds of containers through hostile terrain. The galley grew into mighty container ships transporting billions of tons of cargo across the world’s oceans. And the newest transportation vehicle, the aircraft, which first flew for 12 seconds in 1903, in a little more than 100 years has developed into huge air transports carrying an estimated 30 to 40 percent of the revenue of world trade at jet speed around the earth.
   Nevertheless there are "bottle necks": Trucks and trains require ground infrastructure, ship required ports, and aircraft required runways
   But between the logistic transportation modes using ship, rail, and sea and those using air, there is a tremendous time, carrying capacity, and cost gap. The questions are, will the technology available today fill that gap, when, and what will be the effect?
   Can technology develop a transport vehicle that can carry huge amounts of cargo over any terrain twice as fast or more as ships, trucks, or trains, but not as fast as jet aircraft, and at a cost significantly lower than air cargo? Would this technology be equipped for vertical takeoff and landing anywhere and without an expensive infrastructure? What craft would do that? How much air cargo moving today really needs jet speed and how much ocean cargo would like to get to the user faster, but can't afford the cost of air cargo? Also how would this ability fit into the logistics system?
   These are the questions that need to be debated in later articles, but right now let's look at the technology that is available.
   Aeroscraft, a new type of airship that can fly over 2 miles high at speeds over 100mph with payloads up to 250 tons at cost well below those of jet aircraft , is presently being developed. The technology uses lighter-than-air, safe technology, with modern engines and avionics systems to transport 250 tons of cargo up to 6,000 miles without refueling, and it takes off and lands vertically in any terrain. The technology allows this Aeroscraft airship to load and unload cargo anywhere without needing water as ballast. Impossible, you say! Test flights are already taking place and the airships should be ready for active testing and government certifications within the next few years.
   When this Aeroscraft airship is certified and starts operation, what will it do for logistics? How will it reduce costs, shrink the pipeline to recover payments faster, and in turn reduce the cost of goods to the consumer? How will it aid the balance of trade and advance globalization?
   We call on our readers who are among the logistic experts of the world to answer these questions as growth is needed and the future may be closer than we think.

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