Innovation in Air Cargo – “If not now, when?”

Innovation comes in a variety of forms, whether it is with huge leaps that shift the paradigms of how we think about something or those smaller more natural evolutionary steps that have us ask ourselves “Why hasn’t someone done that before?”. These all play a role in the innovation bell curve.

Air cargo has been in the innovation spotlight in these last weeks, with DHL sharing the exciting news that they are placing orders for 12 all electric cargo aircraft. This is part of a well-executed strategy at DHL that encompasses everything from programs that incubate ideas from young entrepreneurs, to the huge leaps this news represents. It’s interesting to me that throughout the pandemic, DHL has not let their focus on innovation lapse and have consciously taken the approach of “if not now, when?”.

Air Cargo has played a pivotal role in keeping the worlds trade moving over the last 18 months. As commerce begins to shift from survival to optimization and the movement of strategic air cargo picks up, the “if not now, when?” mantra is a perfect analogy to question, investigate and look to enhance cargo strategies that simplify operations and deliver growth. These do not need to be huge, DHL-esque leaps, but could take a simpler form, with new ways of utilizing familiar cargo formats to enhance value-added strategies.

The AEROTUF view on innovation has always been a straightforward one… How do we convert the age-old cargo stalwart, the ULD, into a format that adds true value beyond just a depreciating asset? From this, the term Performance Driven ULD was born. A Performance Driven ULD is not something that is a huge leap in technology, but a well planned and executed evolutionary step towards making an airlines cargo strategy increasingly sustainable and delivering enhanced revenue and profitability.




The AeroTHERM range of thermally insulated ULD’s are designed to protect perishable cargo such as fruits, vegetables, meat, fish and other such temperature sensitive products from the extremes of temperature during transport. Entirely passive, the AeroTHERM uses proprietary insulation technology that eradicates the need for other means of thermal insulation and greatly reduces any reliance on additional cooling. Advances in familiar ULD formats such as this greatly refine and speed up cargo operations and have a huge environmental benefit from less single use plastics to reducing tare weights of shipments, and can tangibly reduce total costs of ownership.

What could an AeroTHERM deliver for an airline or ULD leasing agent? Any airline that is involved the movement of perishable goods as part of a product strategy could benefit from having AeroTHERM their operational assets. Protecting these valuable commodities easily, in a format that can be repositioned with regular cargo and could actually generate additional revenue is certainly worth investigating.

The AeroPALLET is another example of a familiar ULD format that AEROTUF has greatly enhanced through material science to refine and speed up airport operations, as well as reduce total costs. Designed to virtually eliminate the need for shoring material that is getting ever more costlier to procure, store and fit, the AeroPALLET is on average 40kgs lighter than a regular PMC pallet due to its use of composite materials. These tough, robust composite materials mean that an AeroPALLET can deliver a far more sustainable and refined operational strategy.



Having the time to seek out, develop and implement innovation has been a near impossible task recently for all but those who have been fortunate enough to have very broad capabilities at their disposal. It has been about survival. However, innovation does not have to be huge leaps, it can evolve with enhancements to familiar formats that can drive growth, simplify operations and greatly increase everyone’s sustainability credentials, and It can be achieved through the adoption of Performance Driven ULD’s.