Sabrewing’s record-setting heavy-lift drone signs up Saudi buyers

Sabrewing heavy-lift drone

Just a month after its mighty Rhaegal-A “Alpha” transportation UAV hauled a world-record-setting 829-pound payload, California start-up Sabrewing this week landed a multimillion-dollar contract to provide its craft to the Arabian Development and Marketing Corporation (ADMC) to support Saudi Arabia’s stated goal of becoming a global center of heavy-lift drone activity.

The transaction is one of two between Sabrewing and ADMC and reflects the keen worldwide attention the Oxnard-based company commands since the record-setting flight of its Rhaegal-A “Alpha” heavy-lift drone. The deal calls for ADMC to buy 53 of those brawny UAVs for $256.5 million. ADMC, a diversified company with a primary focus in the telecom sector, has also committed to a $758 million purchase of 128 Sabrewing Rhaegal-B “Bravo” UAVs, which can carry between 5,400 pounds to 10,000 pounds of cargo.

Read: Sabrewing’s Rhaegal cargo drone said to set heavy-lift record

Those differing weight capacities are based on use of either lower-haul vertical takeoff or more powerful conventional runway departure – with both Sabrewing Alpha and Bravo versions of the heavy-lift drones being capable of either. That combination promises enormous freight transport capacities for clients who regularly haul huge payloads as well as a greater diversity of takeoff and landing scenarios.

The company CEO, Ed De Reyes, says the company has drawn a great deal of potential customer attention since the Rhaegal-A “Alpha” heavy-lift drone made its record-beating flight ­– lifting more than 500 pounds and four times the volume of Sabrewing’s closest competitor. And while the UAV will only be presented for type certification application early next year, De Reyes says clients like ADMC are already closing deals for both the Alpha and brawnier Bravo versions of the vehicle.

“Since our first payload was only about one-third of what we can carry, we knew it was going to attract a lot of customers who have the need to carry a ton or more of cargo in a large cargo bay,” De Reyes said, noting that the development of both Rhaegal versions has been facilitated by using the same molds, hardware, software, and avionics in the craft. “We had an overwhelming response to our first flight, and interest skyrocketed from day one of the announcement… We were looking for a launch customer to start production. ADMC found customers who were interested in buying and leasing the cargo UAV.”

Read: Saudi Arabia vies to become global heavy-lift drone hub

The deal with Sabrewing also positions ADMC as a key player in Saudi Arabia’s efforts to become one of or perhaps the biggest center of global heavy-lift drone activity. Last year the Saudi General Authority of Civil Aviation, Ministry of Transport, and Saudi Arabian Oil Company threw their weight behind the Center for the Fourth Industrial Revolution development program’s focus on heavy-lift drone design, production, and operation as a national priority.

In addition to that activity facilitating further construction of the nation’s expanding infrastructure, officials said the move reflected their conviction that heavy-lift cargo drones represent a particularly rich segment of emerging advanced air mobility services that UAV developers weren’t pursuing with the same energy as crafts like air taxis.

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