Aircraft

Natilus freight drone's blended wing design packs in 60% more cargo

Natilus freight drone's blende...
Natilus says its blended wing drone can carry 60 percent more cargo than an aircraft of the same size
Natilus says its blended wing drone can carry 60 percent more cargo than an aircraft of the same size
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Natilus says its blended wing drone can carry 60 percent more cargo than an aircraft of the same size
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Natilus says its blended wing drone can carry 60 percent more cargo than an aircraft of the same size
Natilus expects deliveries for its unmanned
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Natilus expects deliveries for its unmanned cargo drone to kick off in 2025

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.

Natilus expects deliveries for its unmanned
Natilus expects deliveries for its unmanned cargo drone to kick off in 2025

“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.

Natilus Wind Tunnel Test 2021

Source: Volatus Aerospace via NewsDirect

7 comments
7 comments
David F
Greater useable volume, and no concerns about passengers sitting at an angle to the direction of travel. It makes sense that a freighter could be the first commercial blended wing-body design. Looking forward to first flight.
paul314
Still going to be twice the emissions of a truck, so for shorter distances this will have a pretty narrow niche.
Trylon
Noticed the turboprops in the renderings. When I saw the other article about the Boeing 777-8 Freighter, I was just thinking that it was a shame that they couldn't use turboprop engines, which are more efficient. Noisier though, but there's nobody in the cabin to notice.
Arcticshade
Unless they make it electric.
noteugene
I've always thought aircraft should be built similar to this, a flatter underbelly instead of a tube like configuration. Provides more air lift, saves fuel. Designing aircraft they way they continue to is just idiotic.
ljaques
Looking good. And who knew milk could be so informative in a wind tunnel test? I'd like to see H2 fuel cell/electric as well as battery electric version comparisons, too.
Rob
"With conventional designs you start to run out volume before you maximize the takeoff weight of the airplane.” In my experience in the aircraft industry this is not the case. Often aircraft are more weight limited than volume. Also, blended wing bodies are very sensitive to weight and balance changes so operating parameters are much tighter - loading limits and fuel burn weight changes are critical - nothing that cant be solved though. This is one of the main reasons why Blended Wing Bodies have not become mainstream yet.