Can an aircraft rival cargo to transport containers? It is the bet of a California startup who imagines flying wings capable of carrying goods around the world. Aleksey Matyushev’s ambition is to halve the cost of air freight transport compared to the second-hand Boeing 747s currently used by carriers. If this drone is ever mass-produced, it could well meet the world domination ambitions of Alibaba or Amazon to send their products around the world.
A drone the size of the Airbus A380
Can a startup really carry out a giant cargo plane project that is also a drone? It is Aleksey Matyushev’s bet that leads the Natilus project as a digital startup project: crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter then a first round of financing during which Natilus raised only $750,000, the startup has just completed a second round with 5 investors for an undisclosed amount. The budget is therefore tight as the startup works on a first prototype of reduced size (9 meters only). If this drone flies correctly, the next version, a 6-ton single-engine, will have to carry 2 tons of cargo over a distance of 1,800 km, a version that could be marketed by 2020. This will probably be the largest drone ever built, but the final version of the Natilus air cargo ship is even more ambitious. The final drone will have to carry 120 tons of containers in order to do twice as much better than a Boeing 747 on a trans-Pacific flight. This aircraft could be equipped with 4 engines and weigh 430 tons, the equivalent of an Airbus A380.
For the time being, the Natilus team is working on the assembly of its first prototype, but various versions of the plane have already filtered out the startup in search of financing. Drone or piloted version, propulsion by engines or turboprop, even the aerodynamic configuration of the aircraft varies from one image to another. While Airbus has finally abandoned the idea of a cargo version of its A380, will Natilus succeed in convincing DHL, FedEx, or Atlas Air to rely on its drone?
Translation : Deepl
“Natilus looks to halve air freight expenses through drone technology”, Freightwaves, 1 December 2017
“Natilus raises new funds to launch pilotless freight aircraft”, Robotics and Automation News, 23 November 2017
“As Autonomous Technology Transforms the Global Freight Sector, Natilus Attracts More Seed Investment from Starburst Ventures, Seraph Group, Gelt VC, Outpost Capital and Draper Associates”, Press Release, 13 November 2017