Dronamics’ dream come true
Like the kids of today would say; find somebody who commits to you like the Rangelov brothers committed to getting the Black Swan cargo drone soaring into the skies.
Or something like that anyway.
It took Svilen and Konstantin Rangelov – the brothers who co-founded cargo drone company Dronamics – seven years to arrive at the moment last week when they watched as their flagship cargo drone left the solid ground at Balchik Airport on its maiden flight as a commercial operation.
And for seven years while they toiled for their drone-based dream of affordable and sustainable solution to middle to long distance cargo logistics, the two brothers took a vow to never cut their beard.
Which must have been a whole lot weird and uncomfortable as, in their recent interview, the brothers admitted to actually hating facial hair.
But ever since they bagged capital injection from venture capital company Eleven Ventures after making the Forbes 30 Under 30 list young entrepreneurs for that year, it occurred to Svilen and Konstantin that perhaps they were on to something and they needed to be serious about it.
And what evidence is better to show serious than going unshaven for seven years?
At first, the challenge was only taken by Konstantin before his brother became aware of what was happening.
“The condition to return to the face to its former appearance was a full-scale Black Swan drone landing successfully and be at its full size,” Konstantin told Forbes recently.
“Svilen Rangelov then joined the challenge, And the foundation idea was, every day when we passed around a mirror or touch our faces, to remember what their big goal was.”
Over time, their beards grew and the brothers’ significant others actually got impressed. But in the meantime, they fine-tuned the Black Swan, made ground tests and flights of miniature models.
It was hard going. Despite the support of exchanges, funds, and the largesse of the European Commission and investors, Dronamics’ logistics innovation concept was initially met with scepticism. Same day long distance delivery at low prices and using sustainable fuel methods? That’s surely a pipe dream; and only that.
The Rangelovs were told that the combination of fast and cheap delivery was fanciful at best and, in reality, would never exist. And it was those discouraging remarks that got them coming up with a perfect name for their apparently idealistic drone solution – the Black Swans.
“In the Middle Ages, the black swan was a byword for something that whose existence was impossible to prove,” Svilen said.
“However, after sailors found real specimens of the bird, the meaning shifted to something that everyone thinks is impossible to achieve; something that is waiting to be found.”
And on Africa Day in the north east of Bulgaria, the Black Swan tailed off into the future; and three days after this seismic event in the drone industry, Svilen and Konstantin popped into a barbershop in Sofia.
The success of the world’s first airline with cargo drones caused a wide response in the startup ecosystem and led to a rise in the shares of Dronamics Capital by about five percent in BEAM, the market for growth of small and medium-sized enterprises.
Dronamics today employs 150 people of twelve nationalities and very few of them have seen the brothers without a beard.
The next step in Dronamics’ plan is to launch commercial flights around Europe this year. Which should not be that hard now, because the company already has a partner network of dozens of airports on the Old Continent, but also in the United States, Canada and Australia.
Besides, Dronamics already has partnerships with logistics giants DHL and Hellmann Worldwide Logistics in which the Bulgarian start-up will offer one-day deliveries globally for its customers. Agreements with both companies include the use of unmanned drones in the logistics of shipments on several routes.
The second challenge is in the very design of the aircraft. Dronamics wants to create an affordable unmanned cargo aircraft solution, not just design an unmanned plane that takes out the pilot and keeps everything else, including the heavy expenses.
The Rangelovs’ vision to this conundrum is to make cargo drones that go the last mile, and avoid delivering at major airports, which would mean last mile delivery by trucks; hence more expenses for clients, making that version of cargo drones less attractive.