Natilus reveals $6 billion in advance cargo drone orders

Natilus cargo drones

Natilus, developer of long-distance, cost-cutting cargo drones, says it has secured an eye-opening $6 billion worth of advance purchase commitments for hundreds of its craft from an array of aviation clients. 

San Diego-based Natilus says firm orders for over 440 of its innovative cargo drones have come from major airlines and integrator customers alike. Those include Volatus Aerospace, Astral Aviation, Aurora International, Dynomd, and others the firm plans to reveal later this month. It also said that in addition to signing a letter of intent to buy two 100T Natilus aircraft – and secure an option for a third – supply chain tech specialist Flexport completed a $900 million investment round in the company.

Founded in 2016, Natilus is looking to upend air cargo transport not by identifying and optimizing empty passenger space on aircraft for freight use as many logistics companies have in recent decades. Instead, it is out to create entirely new drones dedicated to the activity – next-generation craft that can slash the costs of that transport to boot. 

The company says its fully autonomous, remotely piloted aircraft provide greater efficiency, lower operational costs, and increased security that will introduce a third option to individuals and companies now relying on standard modes of sending goods around the world.

“Today, there are only two ways to move cargo internationally: by air and by sea,” says Natilus CEO Aleksey Matyushev. “The difference between the cost and time of these two modes of transportation is dramatic. Sea freight is currently 13 times less expensive than air freight; but 50 times slower in delivery. Natilus intends to revolutionize the transport industry by providing the timeliness of air freight at an affordable cost reduction of 60%, making air cargo transportation substantially more competitive.”

Natilus is developing its cargo drones tailored to several vehicle categories. Those include eight-ton payload short-haul feeder, 60-ton payload medium/long range, 100-ton payload long-range, and 130-ton payload long-range UAVs. The company says that in addition to the 60% reduction in operating costs, its craft will permit users to increase volume-per-aircraft loads by an equal amount, while cutting carbon emissions by 50%

Earlier this month diversified aerial service provider Volatus said it would buy Natilus’ N3.8T twin-engine turboprop cargo drones to expand its freight hauling activities. The aircraft, which is expected to go into operation in 2025, will have a maximum takeoff weight of 19,000 lbs., 1,035-mile range, and carry up to 8,500 lbs. of payloads in standardized LD3 containers. 

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 is backed up by an onboard autopilot.

The company says industry analyses currently estimate the market for autonomous cargo drones at $280 billion, which would more than double the air freight market to $470 billion.

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