Natilus freight drone's blended wing design packs in 60% more cargo
As it stands, air freight is incredibly quick but also very expensive, while ocean freight is far slower but very cost-effective. Californian startup Natilus is out to bridge the gap with a new breed of unmanned aircraft that uses a unique blended wing body to pack in 60 percent more cargo than an aircraft of the same size, with the first deliveries planned for midway through the decade.
The Natilus N3.8T will be the first cab off the rank for the startup, with a maximum take-off weight of 8,618 kg (19,000 lb) and a range of 1,667 km (1,035 miles). It will be capable of carrying loads of up to 3,855 kg (8,500 lb) and have enough space for far more cargo inside than a traditional aircraft of the same weight.
Further, Natilus claims the costs and carbon dioxide emissions per pound will be reduced by 50 percent, compared to traditional air freight. The company attributes these performance gains to the blended wing body, an airframe design with no distinguishing lines between the wings and fuselage, said to be a first for cargo aircraft.
“From a freight perspective, it makes a lot sense,” Aleksey Matyushev, CEO and co-founder Natilus, said last year. “It has 50 percent more volume internally, so it doubles the amount of revenue cargo per flight. With conventional designs you start to run out volume before you maximize the takeoff weight of the airplane.”
Natilus claims the latest designs for the Natilus N3.8T in fact allow for 60 percent more cargo. The twin-engine turboprop aircraft is designed to be remotely piloted and, initially, the hope is to use it for small package delivery on a domestic basis in the US, before larger versions roll off the production line with far greater payload capacities and enough range for intercontinental travel, including the planned 130T designed to cover 8,220 km (5,112 miles).
The company last year entered an agreement with Siemens to use the company's engineering software to continue developing its products, and has now signed an agreement with drone network operator Volatus Aerospace, which will now receive the very first production N3.8T. The aircraft has undergone a second round of wind tunnel testing, shown in the video below, with deliveries slated for 2025.