Skyports Drone Services, a drone deliveries, surveys, and monitoring company, has participated in phase two of the Royal Navy Uncrewed Aerial Systems Heavy Lift Challenge (UASHLC) with Pelican Cargo, an autonomous and fully electric heavy-payload aircraft developed by Pyka, the California-based leader in industrial autonomous electric aircraft technology.

Pelican Cargo, which became part of the Skyports Drone Services fleet in early 2023, represents an advancement in uncrewed aerial systems (UAS) technology. It is the world’s largest fully automated and 100% electric cargo aircraft, capable of carrying payloads of up to 175kg over ranges of up to 350km. Designed to operate with minimal ground infrastructure, Pelican Cargo is poised to increase the efficiency of on-demand delivery networks and logistics in remote regions.

During the UASHLC, Skyports Drone Services showcased Pelican Cargo’s heavy payload capacity and extended range capabilities in front of senior members of the UK Ministry of Defence and the Royal Navy at the UASHLC test site in Predannack, Cornwall. This successful demonstration highlighted the potential for long-range beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) flights, maritime missions, and the safe transport of medical supplies within a humanitarian aid context.

Alex Brown, Director of Skyports Drone Services, emphasized the significance of this achievement, stating, “Highly automated, heavy lift, BVLOS drone delivery operations are a gamechanger for hard-to-reach and remote places.” He added that the collaboration with Pyka and their participation in the UASHLC are driving the adoption of sustainable drone logistics solutions.

In the first phase of the challenge, Skyports Drone Services worked closely with Pyka to customize Pelican Cargo to meet the Royal Navy’s unique requirements. Ground demonstrations secured their spot in phase two, leading to live flight demonstrations that showcased the aircraft’s capabilities.

Michael Norcia, Co-founder and CEO of Pyka, expressed pride in deploying Pelican Cargo for the Royal Navy’s Heavy Lift Challenge, highlighting the technological advancements it brings to large-scale autonomous electric air cargo transportation.

Why it’s important: The UASHLC’s progressive approach has accelerated platform technologies and created opportunities for industry growth. Phase three of the UASHLC is set to commence in 2024, further exploring use cases for heavy lift uncrewed aircraft. Skyports Drone Services and Pyka’s participation in the UASHLC will help to eventually advance aerial mobility through additional data acquisition and operational experience of aircraft types that will help to shape the future of logistics and aerial mobility.

Posted by Naish Gaubatz