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See inside a new pilotless cargo plane, which has a nose-loading door like the Boeing 747 and can fly up to 200 miles

Pyka Pelican Cargo.

Pyka

  • Autonomous electric planemaker Pyka has developed the world’s largest zero-emission freighter. 
  • The aircraft, known as Pelican Cargo, is pilotless and can carry up to 400 pounds across 200 miles.
  • Company founder and CEO Michael Norcia says the plane will start with inter-island transport.
Another pilotless cargo plane is planning to enter the market.Pyka Pelican Cargo.

Pyka

Source: Pyka

On Monday, autonomous electric planemaker Pyka announced Pelican Cargo, which the company says is the world’s largest zero-emission freighter.Pyka Pelican Cargo.

Pyka

Source: Pyka

The aircraft is based off the company’s successful agricultural plane, called Pelican Spray, which was built for low-impact crop dusting.Pyka Pelican Spray.

Pyka

Source: Pyka

Company founder and CEO Michael Norcia told Insider about 90% of Pelican Cargo, including the wings, tail, and battery, was taking from Pelican Spray.Pyka Pelican Cargo.

Pyka

Source: Pyka

The resulting product is the “first autonomous vehicle of its class,” meaning, like its predecessor, it is controlled remotely.Pyka Pelican Cargo.A Pyka Pelican Cargo operator controlling the aircraft.

Pyka

Source: Pyka

Norcia said computers will operate the aircraft, and the human involved could be anywhere in the world thanks to SATCOM internet connectivity installed onboard.Pyka Pelican Cargo.

Pyka

Source: Pyka

He further explained there are several redundancies, like a backup computer. However, if anything goes wrong, the operator can intervene: “We’re working on parachute systems so the operator has a fairly simple way to terminate the flight.”Pyka Pelican Cargo.Pyka Pelican Cargo.

Pyka

Source: Pyka

Because the plane is electric, it does not need fuel but instead runs on a rechargeable battery located in the belly of the aircraft. It can also be swapped if there is not a recharge station available.Pyka Pelican Cargo.

Pyka

Source: Pyka

The charge can power the plane up to 200 miles. Norcia says inter-island operations is the best place for Pelican Cargo to start but hopes to branch out into remote places like Canada later.Pyka Pelican Cargo.Pyka Pelican Cargo.

Pyka

Source: Pyka

“We want to deliver cargo between two areas that have relatively poor infrastructure,” Norcia said. “And, we’re looking for a way to do that affordably so they can run daily deliveries between places that historically only get service maybe once a week.”Pyka Pelican Cargo.

Pyka

Source: Pyka

Pyka’s aircraft will be leased, and they cost around $15 per hour to operate, which is much lower than the $500-$1,000 per hour figures other small cargo aircraft can cost, according to Norcia.Pyka Pelican Cargo.

Pyka

Source: Pyka

In total, customers will have a 400-pound payload and 66 cubic feet of cargo space to work with, and the packages will be loaded through a nose-door, similar to the Boeing 747.Pyka Pelican Cargo.

Pyka

Source: Pyka

In fact, Pelican Cargo will be one of the few aircraft in existence with a nose-loading door, joining the ranks of the Antonov An-124 Ruslan…Antonov An-124 Ruslan

Russian Defense Ministry/TASS/Getty

…the Airbus Beluga and Beluga XL jets…Airbus' Beluga delivering the satellite.Airbus’ Beluga delivering a satellite.

Airbus

…and the military’s C-5 Galaxy. On these planes, operators like the nose door for loading oversized items without having to first disassemble them, like helicopters.c-5 galaxyPeople in line to enter the 445th Airlift Wing’s first C-5A Galaxy in 2005

US Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Charlie Miller

Granted, these aircraft are much larger than Pyka’s, but the nose loader offers unique benefits to big and small aircraft alike.Atlas Air 747-8 cargo loading.Atlas Air Boeing 747-8 cargo loading.

Thomas Frey/picture alliance via Getty Images

Source: Pyka

Norcia told Insider that when speaking with potential customers, many said they didn’t want a plane that required a lot of ground equipment that could bump into the aircraft and damage it.Pyka Pelican Cargo.

Pyka

Source: Pyka

“The nose door allows you to fully load this cargo sled prior to the aircraft arriving and then just simply wheel the sled over to the aircraft and slide it in through the nose door,” he said.Pyka Pelican Cargo.

Pyka

Source: Pyka

With a full load, Pelican Cargo only needs a 600-foot runway to take off and can land on pavement, grass, dirt, and gravel. This makes last-mile delivery accessible to more places.Pyka Pelican Cargo.

Pyka

Source: Pyka

Currently, the cargo plane is going through “rigorous” testing at Pyka’s facility in Northern California, like filling it with sand to demonstrate its limits, Norcia told Insider.Pyka Pelican Cargo.A Pyka Pelican Cargo experiential plane taking off.

Pyka

Source: Pyka

So far, the company has secured over 80 orders from three customers in North America and Europe, and it expects the first commercial flight to take place in the second half of 2023.Pyka Pelican Cargo.Pyka Pelican Cargo.

Pyka

Source: Pyka

But, it’s not the only pilotless cargo plane hoping to hit the market this year. Bulgarian manufacturer Dronamics has built its own freighter called Black Swan.Dronamics' Black Swan aircraft.

Dronamics

A European planemaker built a pilotless aircraft to power the world’s first ‘cargo drone airline’ — meet Black Swan

The aircraft is already certified in the European Union and plans to start operations as the world’s first “cargo drone airline.”Dronamics' Black Swan aircraft.

Dronamics

Meanwhile, California startup Natilus is building a fleet of autonomous cargo planes to address the pilot shortage and the environmental impact of freight transport.Natilus cargo plane.

Natilus

Source: Natilus

Read the original article on Business Insider