Cargo delivery drone startup Natilus has released pictures of a prototype vehicle that the company hopes will eventually conduct 30-hour test runs, carrying up to 315 kilograms of cargo, between Los Angeles and Hawaii.
“Seeing is believing, especially for the freight world,” said CEO Aleksey Matyushev. “There’s a lot of doubt that a small team can build a drone for under a million dollars.” The prototype is nearing completion, and the startup is looking for partnerships with the freight industry to prove its viability to folks on the investment side.
Matyushev explained that “the concept has evolved internally.” The prototype that is expected to fly this summer is powered by a 100-horsepower, four-cylinder internal combustion engine with a propeller. That’s also part of Natilus’ pitch – they are “using what is available in the industry.”
The notion of a flying drone with maritime capabilities immediately raises the question: How does it integrate into the existing infrastructure? Matyushev said the production model has a 42-meter wingspan, so it can dock at a traditional maritime port slip and still have the crane overhang reaching the fuselage section. Matyushev said the only new equipment necessary at port is a truck to deliver aviation fuel.
Natilus said it hopes to have a completed full-scale, over-60-meter drone ready to fly by 2020. Ultimately, the startup plans to manufacture hundreds of the cargo drones. Their target customers are integrator companies such as UPS and FedEx, as well as medium-sized freight forwarders with customers like Whole Foods and Costco.
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