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Unmanned Cargo Update #4

Issue #: 4 (202304)

TECHNOLOGY:

Pelican Cargo Aircraft by - Pyka

  • Pyka manufactures the Pelican platform in Oakland, CA. This start-up began in 2017 and they are expecting type certification by the FAA this year.

  • The spray version of the Pelican is certified for night ops and is conducting banana spraying missions in Costa Rica.

  • This vehicle offers some mediocre performance specs at: 30 min of endurance with 400 lbs of cargo capacity, however Pyka promises under $15/flight hour of operating cost.

Honeywell Launches Project to Develop Hydrogen Fuel Cells For Aviation

  • This is essentially a collaboration between Textron and Honeywell as a Textron aircraft will be the development testbed. Interesting to see the large aerospace players investing in hydrogen aviation propulsion systems. When I wrote my undergraduate capstone research project on the topic of "Renewable Fuels In Aviation'' (2014) hydrogen wasn't even on the radar as a fuel source.

  • This technology growth still seems to be focused on the European market, and I remain skeptical that we will see hydrogen powered aircraft flying over the U.S. anytime soon. Investments in hydrogen production, storage, and transportation infrastructure will signal demand.

  • The demonstrator propulsion unit will be tested by Pipistrel Vertical Solutions who was featured in the LAUNCH edition of this communication.

POLICY:

FAA Should Improve Its Approach to Integrating Drones into the National Airspace System

  • The Government Accountability Office (GAO) was asked to review the FAA's efforts to integrate drones into the national airspace system.

  • 4 recommendations for executive action; 7 elements for a comprehensive strategy required; 6 key practices for a lessons-learned process; clarification for operational requirements standards; implementation of formal lessons learned process

  • Let's be realistic, these are just recommendations the FAA has no requirement to comply with the GAO's assessment.

INFRASTRUCTURE:

FAA Releases Vertiport Design Standards to Support the Safe Integration of Advanced Mobility Aircraft

  • Keeping track of vertiport design standards means understanding how future middle-mile delivery operations will occur. Today it's far too expensive to deliver cargo via helicopter to a rooftop heliport. However, this could become a reality using pilotless electric aircraft at significantly lower operating costs.

  • This initial vertiport design requires a pilot on board and only allows for VFR operations.

  • Download the full technical document: HERE

BUSINESS:

This Robot Electric Cargo Plane Could Be The Start Of A Wave That Transforms Shipping

  • This article comprehensively lays out the growth potential of the unmanned middle-mile cargo delivery market.

  • Aircraft performance in this article is stated as: 150 miles of range carrying full payload of 400 lbs. The downloaded OEM spec sheet states 30 minutes endurance w/ 400 lbs payload and cruise speed of (68 - 91 mph). Therefore, OEM specs give this aircraft a max range of ~45 miles one way or 22 miles each leg of a round trip route.

  • Forbes asserts there's real possibility for disruption in this market, IF new electric aircraft are as cheap to operate as promised. One of the biggest factors in profitability being the number of people required to staff maintenance and flight operations.

Drones take to the sky, potentially disrupting-last mile delivery

  • Questions 4 & 5 in the Developing a drone strategy can be directly answered by Time On Target's middle-mile cargo services. In this concept, middle-mile cargo delivery would terminate at a location where they are immediately handed off to smaller last-mile drones that can finish the delivery process. This CONOPS almost represents an end to end autonomous process. I had this exact discussion via email with one of our readers this week!

  • "Shift their focus from observing airspace to operating drones" translated: UTM/AAM infrastructure and procedures will have to be in place, otherwise drone delivery remains more expensive than traditional modes of transport.

  • One operator coordinating twenty delivery drones is where last-mile operations need to scale to in order to become cost competitive according to McKinsey & Company's estimation.

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