Natilus completes UAV prototype flights
19 / 04 / 2023
3.8 ton payload short-haul feeder UAV. Photo: Natilus
Californian autonomous cargo aircraft developer Natilus has successfully completed multiple flights of the subscale prototype of its 3.8 ton payload unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV).
The flight tests for the ‘Kona’ short-haul UAV mark a significant milestone for Natilus by validating wind tunnel tests conducted over three years, testing the aerodynamic performance of the Natilus blended-wing-body (BWB) aircraft design.
The subscale prototype of the domestic feeder aircraft took off from a private runway in Southern California and reached speeds of 70 mph.
Natilus said one the key challenges with the BWB design has been stability – and the test flights validated that the Natilus configuration can fly without the help of a complex autopilot system.
“We are fully focused on completing the full-scale Kona prototype,” stated Aleksey Matyushev, Natilus co-founder and chief executive. “Our Kona remotely piloted aircraft will be capable of carrying over 9,000 pounds (4.3 metric tons) of freight and will open new markets worldwide.
“The progress of Natilus developing autonomous cargo aircraft is a game-changer in the logistics industry, providing an efficient and cost-effective solution for shipping goods across oceans.”
Natilus has also recently completed the full-scale prototypes of both vertical tails. The company will receive Hartzell propellers in May, gearing up for the manufacture of the engine test stand.
The 85 ft full-scale Kona demonstrator, the smallest of the Natilus fleet, will be the largest commercial air cargo drone targeted to fly in 2024, said the company.
Kona will also help to open new markets for air cargo as the vehicle can land and take off on unpaved runways as short as 800 m.
The patent-pending ‘Diamond’ cargo-bay allows Natilus to offer 60% more volume and lower flight costs by 60%. Natilus aircraft can hold a large configuration of standard pallets, and outsized cargo, without a contouring requirement.
Natilus announced last month that the company has received total commitments to date for $6.8bn, for delivery of more than 460 aircraft.
In December last year, Natilus partnered with engineering and manufacturing company Janicki for composite part design and fabrication for the Kona UAV prototype.
In August 2022, Natilus selected Pratt & Whitney Canada to supply the engines for the Kona UAV.
Natilus is also developing Alisio – a 60-ton payload medium/long range UAV, and Nordes – a 100-ton payload long-range UAV.