Skyports Drone Services, a leading global drone delivery and survey company, has successfully showcased its capabilities in the second phase of the Royal Navy Uncrewed Aerial Systems Heavy Lift Challenge (UASHLC) using the Pelican Cargo aircraft, an autonomous electric craft developed by California-based Pyka.
The Pelican Cargo drone, introduced to Skyports Drone Services' fleet in early 2023, is touted as the world’s largest fully automated and electric cargo aircraft. It boasts a carrying capacity of up to 175kg and can travel distances up to 350km. The design minimizes the need for extensive ground infrastructure, making it suitable for on-demand delivery networks, especially in hard-to-reach areas.
During the challenge held in Predannack, Cornwall, Skyports demonstrated the aircraft's capacity for long-range, beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) flights and maritime operations, highlighting its potential in humanitarian aid scenarios, such as the transportation of medical supplies for the Royal Navy.
Alex Brown, Director of Skyports Drone Services, remarked on the impact of their technology:
“Heavy lift, BVLOS drone delivery operations are transformative for remote and challenging locations. Our involvement in the Royal Navy Heavy Lift Challenge underscores our commitment to innovating in drone logistics and extending its applications.”
Previously in the challenge, Skyports collaborated with Pyka to tailor the Pelican Cargo drone to meet the specific needs of the Royal Navy. This collaboration led to successful ground demonstrations, culminating in live flight demonstrations at the UASHLC’s Predannack test site.
Michael Norcia, Pyka's Co-founder and CEO, expressed his satisfaction with the partnership: “Teaming up with Skyports Drone Services for the Heavy Lift Challenge was a proud moment. Pelican Cargo stands out as a front-runner in autonomous electric air cargo solutions, and this demonstration validated its alignment with the Royal Navy's requirements outlined by the UASHLC.”
James Morris from the MoD DE&S emphasized the challenge's role in stimulating technological growth: “The UASHLC's objective is to fast-track developments in the 100-200kg lift capability, setting the stage for future Royal Navy initiatives. Our commercial strategy has been pivotal in fostering this acceleration, offering a conducive environment for the industry.”
As the UASHLC advances to its third phase in 2024, the Royal Navy and MOD remain keen on delving further into potential applications for such heavy lift drones for medical drone delivery.