Pelican Cargo unveiled as world's largest autonomous electric cargo plane
Back in 2020, California-based startup Pyka launched an autonomous electric crop duster called the Pelican. Now the company has developed a cargo-carrying version that's billed as the world's largest autonomous electric cargo airplane.
"Pelican Cargo will have a significant positive impact on people's lives," said company CEO and co-founder, Michael Norcia. "We designed this plane to eliminate CO2 emissions from the logistics chain, while offering a significant speed advantage over ground transportation and operating costs at a fraction of conventional air transportation."
The Pelican Cargo uncrewed aerial system has been developed for last-mile express logistics operations, with Pyka noting that it would be particularly useful for delivering cargo to remote rural communities.
It features a 50-kWh Li-ion battery pack that offers a per-charge range of up to 200 miles (320 km) – plus a 20-minute reserve. Four 25-kW (33.5-hp) electric motors power the two fixed-pitch props to the front and back of each wing, and the aircraft benefits from a fully redundant propulsion, controls and sensor suite.
The cargo flyer measures 24 ft (7.3 m) in length and stands 7 ft (2.1 m) high. A 400-lb (181-kg) payload is front loaded into the 66 cubic feet (1.87 cu m) cargo space via a pop-up nose and sliding tray. The aircraft has a total wingspan of 38 ft (11.5 m), and needs a 600 x 50-ft (183 x 15-m) paved/gravel/dirt/grass runway to get in the air, after which it flies at a cruise speed of between 80 and 90 knots (92-103 mph/148-167 km/h).
Autonomous flight capabilities are built around a proprietary flight engine rocking six processors spread over two computer systems, forward-facing LiDAR plus GPS, radar and laser technologies. The company reckons that logistics companies will be able to operate the aircraft with minimal training.
Pyka reports that it's inked more than 80 pre-commitment orders from three launch customers so far, one of which has been confirmed as UK operator Skyports Drone Services – with a flight program expected to begin in early Q2 in Cornwall. The video below has more.
Source: Pyka Inc.
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Propulsion is more efficient, the more air is moved (big prop diameter, less velocity) and better in laminar flow (in front of the wing). Anybody knows why they have chosen this design?