Diversified UAV equipment and services company Volatus Aerospace says it has secured delivery of next-generation Natilus long-distance cargo drones, with the first production run of the craft expected in 2025.
Volatus – whose activities range from UAV sales, pilot training, specialized public safety services, drone delivery, and other enterprise operations – says it will be procuring Natilus N3.8T planes to further broaden its cargo business. The company’s Avidrone Aviation unit already operates heavy-lift freight craft for clients. Its Volatus Aviation affiliate – formerly called Partner Jet – offers chartered jet services whose facilities will be leveraged to accommodate the long-range, large payload hauls that Natilus cargo drones will carry out.
“We are already an experienced commercial air carrier with operating authorities and licenses facilitating cargo delivery using both piloted aircraft and drones,” explains Luc Masse, executive vice president of Volatus and CEO of Volatus Aviation. “We believe the planned addition of these large autonomous drones will allow us to develop important airline partnerships within the air cargo industry.”
The Natilus N3.8T is a twin-engine turboprop specialized freight drone that will have a maximum takeoff weight of 19,000 lbs., 1,035-mile range, and will carry up to 8,500 lbs. of cargo in LD3 containers. Use of standardized containers is one of the UAV’s features, along with blended wing-body design and remote piloting. Natilus says the craft will provide around 60% more payload volume than traditional aircraft of the same size, and reduce both cost and carbon emissions by 50%.
The N3.8T has already completed its second wind tunnel test, and is expected to go into operation in 2025.
By introducing the Natilus cargo drone into its fleet of aircraft, Volatus is creating a bridge between its smaller UAV services and Avidrone heavy-lift activities, and traditional charter planes whose facilities will enable the N3.8T’s operation.
“In November 2021, we announced the expansion of our existing drone services business into the drone cargo market with the introduction of the fully autonomous drones produced by Avidrone,” says Glen Lynch, CEO of Volatus. “The recent amalgamation with Partner Jet Inc. gives us the commercial infrastructure to operate drone cargo services, and the addition of Natilus aircraft establishes the long-term direction for our aviation division.”
San Diego-based Natilus says software in its ground control system minimizes pilot training and workload, permitting a single operator to fly three of the cargo drones at once. Its cloud-based navigation system interfaces with satellites to communicate with and control the craft, and also has an onboard autopilot backup.
“Reducing the cost of airfreight by up to 50% will bring fresher produce into our stores, enable cross-border e-commerce to flourish, and enable low infrastructure regions to develop,” said Natilus CEO Aleksey Matyushev. “Natilus is uniquely capable of developing the next-generation aircraft due to our understanding and presence in the drone industry and capabilities in commercial aviation.”
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