HUULC the crazy project of a 2,000 tons drone

AVIO-AERO-joins-PUCAWill they drones loaded with giant containers roam the air in the coming years? The PUCA Association (Platform for Cargo Unmanned Aircraft) imagines the future drones, drones optimized to transport standard containers in much more economic conditions than current aircraft cargo. The goal is to make cargo air transport as competitive as “marine” cargo in 2030.

A research project which unites industry, public research and military

If the media get excited about Amazon and Google projects drones delivery services, PUCA studying his side otherwise most impressive drones. This association brings together universities, representatives of the Dutch army, KLM, as well as various industry which Fokker, Airbus Defense & amp; Space and last came to this Italian group Avio Aero, a subsidiary of General Electric. This work focuses on both the Model Business transportation such drones, their future operations and, of course, the technical characteristics of these drones.


HUULC for Hydrogen-powered Unmanned Ultra Large Cargo PUCA is the flagship project. A device such that no aeronautical engineer dared imagine until now.

Various types of drones are already out of the imagination of PUCA engineers. Among them, the HUULC is certainly the most impressive. Acronym Hydrogen-powered Unmanned Ultra Large Cargo aircraft, this giant drone must be powered by hydrogen-8 turboprop. Greener but also more fuel efficient than kerosene would enable the HUULC to travel 6000 km with 100 containers “20 foot” standard onboard. To achieve such a feat, the HUULC will be able to take the air at a mass of around 2,100 tonnes. A tour de force while the cargo version of the Boeing 777F (F for “Freighter”) can take off up to 347 tons, while the Airbus A380F, which was ultimately never built, was to weigh up to 590 tonnes at takeoff.

According to members of PUCA, drones will do better than traditional cargo aircraft, which are derived from large aircraft designed for passenger transport. On the one hand, operators no longer have to manage (and pay for) the crews but the lack of cockpit pressurization and thus can allow the fuselage to reduce the unit of 10-20%. On the other hand, need to design a device where access to emergency exits must be fast. It becomes possible to opt for aerodynamic formulas much more interesting than the current fuselages. The HUULC example presents with a wide wing fuselage capable of centenarians more than if it were designed conventionally. In addition, the logistician will appreciate, these aircraft are not designed to carry light aviation containers in the hold but the old standard 20-inch container as found in all ports of the world.

ATLAS must be 75% better than a Boeing 747

The ATLAS concept, a medium-lift drone.

The ATLAS concept, a medium-lift drone.

If HUULC is designed for intercontinental flights, members also study PUCA less impressive devices, including the ATLAS. The airplane, again, has a wide body, but it is powered by two reactors placed in a high position at the rear of the unit. The aim of this concept is to lower the transport cost by 75% compared to the current 747. The absence of pressurization makes it possible to envisage flights above 12,500 m which form the ceiling of the aircraft current line. Optimized to fly beyond the unit will face a lower air resistance and thus consume less fuel.

The failure of the Pelican, an ULTRA (Ultra Large Transport Aircraft) 1,400 tons plane proposed by Boeing in the early 2000s shows that the demand for ultra heavy transport aircraft is potentially very low or nonexistent. She did not justify the construction of a version “F” of the Airbus A380 and the heavier transport aircraft currently, the An-225 Mriya Antonov, with 640 tonnes at takeoff, was built as a single copy. The “dronisation” of these giants of the air they will make them more attractive from an economic point of view? See you in 2030.

Translation : Google Translate

Sources :

“Avio Aero Joins the Platform for Unmanned Cargo Aircraft (PUCA)”, PUCA press release, September 7, 2015

“The HUULC, Design of a Hydrogen-powered Unmanned Ultra Large Cargo aircraft”, PUCA press release, July 1, 2015

“ATLAS, an Unmanned Medium Ranged Containerized Cargo Freighter”, PUCA press release, July 1, 2015

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