As it stands, air freight is incredibly quick but also very expensive, while ocean freight is far slower but very cost-effective. Californian startup Natilus is out to bridge the gap with a new breed of unmanned aircraft that uses a unique blended wing body to pack in 60 percent more cargo than an aircraft of the same size, with the first deliveries planned for midway through the decade.
The Natilus N3.8T will be the first cab off the rank for the startup, with a maximum take-off weight of 8,618 kg (19,000 lb) and a range of 1,667 km (1,035 miles). It will be capable of carrying loads of up to 3,855 kg (8,500 lb) and have enough space for far more cargo inside than a traditional aircraft of the same weight.
Further, Natilus claims the costs and carbon dioxide emissions per pound will be reduced by 50 percent, compared to traditional air freight. The company attributes these performance gains to the blended wing body, an airframe design with no distinguishing lines between the wings and fuselage, said to be a first for cargo aircraft.“From a freight perspective, it makes a lot sense,” Aleksey Matyushev, CEO and co-founder Natilus, said last year. “It has 50 percent more volume internally, so it doubles the amount of revenue cargo per flight. With conventional designs you start to run out volume before you maximize the takeoff weight of the airplane.”