Drones for tomorrow’s air cargo

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Drones offer new forms of air freight, such as last mile air transport, humanitarian deliveries, disaster relief, transport of temperature sensitive medicine and food, and many more.

IATA’s objective is to address the opportunities for the air freight industry to integrate and embrace this new branch of air cargo through the development of necessary standards and tools, education initiatives and the collaboration with industry partners.


The Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) industry is moving at a fast pace in multiple directions: low altitude, high altitude, recreational and commercial.

In the civil world, they can be used for media and entertainment, fire-fighting, precision agriculture, humanitarian, and multiple other applications that require cheap and extensive aerial surveillance (border patrol, weather monitoring, nuclear security, hurricane tracking, law enforcement).

Drones for the airline industry

While much of the focus of drones to date has been on military applications and consumer toys potentially able to endanger aircraft, the future of drones to support the airline industry is promising, as they offer opportunities to gain efficiencies, reduce costs and increase speed.

Business opportunities exist for our industry in three main areas:

  •  Airport and ground operations: ground for safety checks (aircraft, runway…) and maintenance, for airport perimeter monitoring, bird and wildlife control, warehouse operations such as sorting and inventory
  •  Transport of goods: transport of parcels, general and special cargo in urban space as well as rural and remote locations
  •  Transport of passengers: drones for tomorrow’s travel by air, including urban mobility

IATA’s focus

The industry needs to react quickly to address challenges and capture the opportunities offered by this new branch of civil aviation.

At IATA, a high priority is placed on the development of standards and recommended practices that will enable the safe and efficient operations of drones into the established aviation infrastructure. Our focus is therefore on the following three areas of work:

  • Safety & security: find out more on the Drones and safety page
  •  Air Traffic Management (ATM)
  •  Integrated operations: airport & ground operations, cargo, passenger

Takeoff: https://www.iata.org/

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