A Dutch engineer famous for proposing the idea for circular airport runways is planning to build a test runway for unmanned delivery drones, the BBC has reported.
Henk Hesselink is collaborating with Valkenburg airport, a disused naval base near The Hague, which has ambitions to become a drone innovation centre.
Mr Hesselink hit the headlines last year when he unveiled his design for circular runways at passenger airports last year.
He believes the idea would make more efficient use of space, reduce tricky crosswind landings and cut down on noise pollution.
Mr Hesselink, a senior research and development manager at the Netherlands Aerospace Centre, told the BBC that growing demand for drone delivery services will call for “a network of drones”.
While small drones will be used to deliver goods direct to your home, larger drone aircraft will be needed to carry goods to out-of-town distribution centres, he claimed.
These larger drones would be of a fixed-wing design like aeroplanes, rather than the quadcopter design favoured by hobbyists.
These are more fuel efficient, fly for longer and can carry more cargo – and they will need a runway to land and take off, and that infrastructure is not currently available, he argues. “The circular runway concept comes at a perfect time,” he commented.
The BBC suggests that as drones are subject to less stringent safety rules than piloted aircraft carrying passengers, this may get round some of the safety fears raised about using circular runways, including the risk of aborted take-offs or landings.
Mr Hesselink hopes that his circular runway project will be more widely welcomed as a solution for drone delivery logistics than it was for passenger aircraft, noting that a 300kg unmanned aircraft would only require a runway diameter of 600m.
The BBC said that he is currently building a consortium of financial backers to fund the test runway at Valkenburg.
The full story of Henk Hesselink’s circular runway was reported on the BBC’s World Hacks programme. The update can be heard in its latest podcast.