Startup Envisions Transoceanic Cargo Drones

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Natilus, a small company with just three employees, based in Richmond, California, is working to launch a transoceanic cargo business with airliner-size drones. They are currently building a 30-foot-long prototype that they plan to test this summer, according to their press kit. They then plan to produce a full-scale, 200-foot-long turboprop drone, built of carbon-fiber composite, by 2020. The design is fairly simple, since there is no need for a cockpit, or landing gear, or pressurization. The drone is designed to land and take off from the water, and motor up to a dock for loading. CEO Aleksey Matyushev said the vehicle would cost about one-tenth as much as a crewed freight aircraft, and transoceanic trips would cost about half as much as standard air freight.

Matyushev says he plans to launch an 80-foot-long production-ready vehicle with 40,000-pound cargo capacity for a launch customer in 2019, to fly a route between Los Angeles and Hawaii. The next step will be a 140-foot-long vehicle with 200,000 pounds cargo capacity, to fly between the U.S. and China by 2020. Since the drone won’t be flying in U.S. airspace, no FAA approval is required, he said, which simplifies the production process. The drone will land in international waters, about 12 miles offshore, and taxi into port under the control of a remote human pilot at speeds of about 30 knots.

Comments (3)

I think that AVweb needs to become a bit politically active. The trend towards drones and other automation eliminating skilled labor (pilots, in this case) is not something that is only happening in aviation. The increasing use of automation to replace human labor has severe economic and social costs.
The country already is seeing the social upheaval stemming from the loss of the steel industry, the elimination of skilled labor in the auto industry, the loss of tool and die and makers, and the loss of jobs in the coal, oil, and gas industries.
This is tearing the fabric of our capitalistic democracy and it needs to be addressed.
Add in global warming (regardless of whether you "believe" in it) and we are developing the components for a "perfect storm".

Posted by: Richard Katz | March 29, 2017 10:04 AM    Report this comment

Richard, some of what you say is true, however, oil and gas industries are not losing jobs. What solutions do you recommend? The horse n buggy days will forever be supplanted by newer innovations...accept it...and adapt, it's evolution!

Posted by: Bob Chaplin | March 29, 2017 8:18 PM    Report this comment

The underlying assumption as regards certification effort is flawed: Matyushev says, that " Since the drone won't be flying in U.S. airspace, no FAA approval is required, he said, which simplifies the production process", which is right. But does not help. Because, over interantional waters. ICAO SARPS apply without restriction: And that is what FAA's approval is based on.
Articcle 12 of the ICAO-convention, 2nd part:"Over the high seas, the rules in force shall be those established under this Convention. Each contracting State undertakes to insure the prosecution of all persons violating the regulations applicable. "

Posted by: Thomas Mildenberger | March 30, 2017 6:31 AM    Report this comment

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