The world’s largest unmanned electric cargo plane

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The Pelican Cargo aircraft from Pyko could make freight transport easier, with a range of up to 321 kilometres on a single charge, and the manufacturer promises it will be faster and cheaper than traditional ground and air transport.

As in the automotive industry, the aviation industry is increasingly focusing on environmental protection, but self-driving is also a common thread. The new Pelican Cargo aircraft from the Californian company Pyka has both: it is electrically powered and can fly without a pilot. The manufacturer claims in a recent announcement that it is the largest zero-emission unmanned cargo aircraft in its class.

Michael Norcia, Pyka CEO, stressed that the aircraft is designed to minimise carbon emissions in logistics, while offering a significant speed advantage over ground transport and being cheaper than conventional air freight.

The aircraft has a range of up to 321 kilometres and can carry a payload of 181 kg. The battery pack has a capacity of 55 kWh and the aircraft is powered by four 25 kW electric motors. Safety has also been taken care of, with triple redundant batteries installed to ensure that there are no problems in the event of a failure.

The aircraft is 7.3 metres long, 2.1 metres high and has a wingspan of 11.5 metres. It can reach cruising speeds of 148-167 km/h and, because it can cope with shorter runways, it can easily reach places with poor infrastructure. The aircraft also features modern technologies, with advanced multi-core processors and multiple computers to process incoming data. It looks forward with lidar and down with lasers. Only one pilot on the ground is needed to program the plane and it can communicate via satellite link.

Pyka has raised its first A round of $37 million from investors and has already received more than 80 pre-orders. For now, testing is underway and it is expected to be flying operationally from the second half of this year.


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