Autonomous drones were conceived during armed conflicts and wars, initially as reconnaissance, later as defense or attack mechanisms. It took many years for unmanned aerial vehicle technology to be in civilian hands to find its true potential. In 2016, in San Diego, California, Natilus was founded, with the intention of creating a new type of aircraft and in turn a new market. They seek to move amounts of cargo that are normally transported by ship. They are developing a revolutionary aircraft: for the first time in commercial civil aviation they will use a blended wing body, creating a new genre of aircraft. The blended body design has been explored in the past (most recently by Boeing/NASA with the X-48 project, and Airbus with the Maveric) because it is more fuel efficient, given that it has 60% more space to use, thanks because its fuselage is not a cylindrical tube with wings, but a single cast structure, which generates less aerodynamic drag and, compared to a cargo plane, is 60% more efficient and 50% more ecological. They will offer 4 models of drones. They are developing the smallest version to operate in 2025, with a range of 1,667 km and capacity for 3.8 tons of cargo in standard LD3 containers. Its medium-range model will have a range of 4,600 km and a capacity of 60 tons. The 100T model will be able to transport 100 tons to 10,000 km, and the largest capacity will carry 130 tons, which is more than a Boeing 747-400 achieves. A few months ago, Natilus secured 900 million dollars from one of its investors and already has purchase intentions for hundreds of units, equivalent to 6 billion dollars.
Meanwhile, in Bulgaria, the company Dronamics was certified in May by the European Union as a medium-range drone cargo company, the first in the world. The company has its low-cost drone, the Black Swan, capable of flying 2,500km with a 350kg payload and landing on unpaved runways, using sustainable synthetic fuel that leaves no carbon footprint. In turn, the regional cargo company Xwing, based in Silicon Valley, United States, is seeking to certify its autonomous flight program called Superpilot, with the intention of integrating it into its fleet of Cessna 208B Caravan cargo planes. Recently, NASA and Xwing (which transports UPS cargo) signed a collaboration contract for the development of autonomous technology, after the Superpilot had its first successful tests in 2021. For its part, FedEx works with the company Reliable Robots in its Pilotless Caravans program.
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