ASL Future Flight, the Irish-based cargo airline subsidiary of ASL Airlines, has received a Light UAS Aircraft Systems Operator Certificate (LUC) from the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA). This certification will allow the airline to commence commercial drone operations without requiring operational authorisation from the IAA. The airline can now deliver light cargo over a short distance using drones less than 3 metres in diameter and with a maximum take-off weight (MTOW) of 25kg. The certificate will enable the airline to train and gain experience with drones before moving on to heavier and longer-range operations.
ASL Airlines is one of seven airlines in the ASL Aviation Holdings group. The group operates cargo flights globally for express parcel and e-commerce markets, with customers including DHL, FedEx, and Amazon. ASL Airlines Ireland is one of Europe’s leading freight operators, specialising in aviation support services and fleet management. The airline has its headquarters and main operational base in Dublin, with an additional light maintenance hangar in Shannon. ASL Airlines Ireland has aircraft and crew bases in 10 European countries and operates a network of more than 50 regular European and global destinations using its fleet of 40 aircraft.
The LUC certificate will allow ASL Future Flight to conduct short-range cargo operations, which will typically involve the delivery of small packages weighing up to 5kgs. The airline will also be able to begin training and flight testing while considering plans for unmanned flights using larger drones. These will require a Certified Category Authorisation similar to an airline Air Operators Certificate. The airline plans to use its new certification to explore new flight technologies through ASL CargoVision, a forum of fifteen companies involved in unmanned flight, large drone or unmanned aircraft and sustainable flight using hybrid electric and hydrogen fuels.
John Rawl, ASL Airlines Ireland Managing Director, said, “Cargo will play a key role in the development of new flight technologies. This LUC shows ASL’s commitment to be ready, willing and able as unmanned aircraft become larger and capable of operating over wider networks delivering cargo up to 500kgs or more.” Enda Walsh, UAS Manager for the IAA, said, “ASL Future Flight is only the third operator to obtain a Light UAS Operator Certificate from the IAA. We look forward to working with ASL as they continue to grow and develop.”
ASL Airlines Ireland is one of four ASL Aviation Holdings airlines in Europe. The airline operates a fleet of widebody and narrow-body freighter aircraft throughout Europe, North America, and the Middle East. The airline will begin an initial test flight programme in the coming weeks, and plans for commercial activities will be announced later this year.