What’s it like building a business with your brother? Konstantin and Svilen Rangelov reveal the story behind Dronamics, Europe’s first licensed developer and operator of long-range cargo drones.
When Konstantin and Svilen Rangelov first secured investment for their burgeoning drones company, they made a pact: neither brother would shave until their small cargo plane took its first commercial flight. Eight years on, Dronamics is Europe’s first licensed drone cargo airline and shaving day is in sight.
Dronamics, which showcased a prototype of its drone in our Tech Hub at Founders Forum London last year, is building a fleet of long-range, fuel-efficient drones, and plans to launch commercial operations in Europe in 2023.
Its flagship Black Swan drone has a 16 metre wingspan, can carry 350kg at a distance of up to 2,500km (1,550 miles), and operates with 60% lower carbon emissions and at half the cost of alternative modes of transport like air freight.
That means fuel efficient, same-day shipping over long distances for a variety of industries, from pharma to food, ecommerce to spare parts. The small, remotely-piloted aircraft can land on short and unpaved runways meaning speedy, point-to-point flights to remote locations that it would otherwise take days to reach.
The brothers from Bulgaria set out with a simple problem they wanted to solve: how do you lower the cost of airfreight and transport packages quickly and reliably across Europe?
The Light Bulb Moment for Long-Range Drones
The idea for Dronamics started with a phone call. In 2014, Konstantin, an aerospace engineer studying in the Netherlands at the time, called his brother in pursuit of his favourite cheese.
“He was lamenting about missing his favourite cheese from home and how he wanted me to come over and bring him some, as sending it by air was far too expensive and by road too slow,” Svilen recalls. “I told him to think of a solution and he did!”
Konstantin started dreaming up the world’s first cargo drone that would cover long distances, carrying a high payload while being as energy efficient as possible.
At the same time, Svilen came across data from the World Bank, which found that improvements in logistical infrastructure can have a greater impact on local economic growth than other government measures.
“That really struck me. I felt like we were staring at a huge opportunity, not just for businesses, but for people too,” he says.
“Soon, we realised what we were creating has the potential to become the biggest transformation in the supply chain in decades.”
Managing Startup Growth and Investment
Konstantin and Svilen developed Dronamics out of Founders Factory, which, Svilen notes, helped them gain access to a network of corporates, entrepreneurs, and investors. “This was one of the first validations of our business,” he says.
While covid impacted production timelines, it also accelerated the need for reliable and rapid deliveries to remote communities. As Dronamics grew, the brothers ensured their first executive hire was their Chief People Officer.
“We know that the talent we attract and retain is the difference between us making it or not,” Svilen explains. “It’s not just about identifying the skills needed; it’s about attracting people with diverse experiences, expertise, and a mindset suited to fast-growing organisations like ours.”
“From early on, we knew what we didn’t know,” Konstantin agrees. “So we always sought talent that could challenge and guide us.
“There are so many moments where it seems like we’re swimming upstream – we thrive on problem solving. It’s important to us to fuse seasoned leadership with a lot of fresh energy; innovators and bright young minds.”
Building With Your Brother
For both Konstantin and Svilen, working together on Dronamics was a no-brainer. Konstantin is the tech guy who does the R&D; Svilen is the business brain and investment lead.
“We see ourselves as each other’s force multiplier. We complement each other’s skillsets, which is hugely valuable in a business, as well as our personalities,” Svilen says.
“We are 100% aligned on the vision for Dronamics and what we need to do.”
The brothers plan to go to market this year with a sustainable, same-day delivery service for items like ecommerce goods, perishables such as food, manufacturing spare parts, and medical supplies.
They’ve stepped up efforts to go carbon-neutral by partnering with Cranfield Aerospace Solutions, to integrate hydrogen fuel cell technology into the Black Swan drone, and Zero Petroleum, which will supply Dronamics drones with fossil-free fuel.
Dronamics is also part of the CAELUS project, working with a consortium in the UK to build out a medical supply drone network for NHS Scotland.
Satellite-controlled drones delivering packages internationally might seem like something out of a scifi movie. Well, now it’s closer to reality.
And what about the beards? “Svilen’s daughter has never seen him without one,” Konstantin laughs. “We both cannot wait to shave!”
“Rapid and reliable logistics can boost economic growth and improve quality of life. So we are putting everything we have into it.”
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