If you like to take a peek into the future of air freight transportation, then I would recommend reading the following article that was published today in IEEE Spectrum. In it, Ed De Reyes, a retired Air Force test pilot, and CEO of Sabrewing Aircraft Co., in Camarillo, California explains how the Rhaegal cargo drone could revolutionize air freight transportation in the near future.
Sabrewing’s Rhaegal cargo drone
De Reyes explains that the Rhaegal cargo drone ‘was never meant to fly people, only cargo,’ and as a result, it can do without many of the required safety features that are normally present in manned aircraft. It can also fly in inclement weather and reach places that ‘no crewed rival can safely reach.’
About the Rhaegal cargo drone, he says”
…it can lift almost 2,500 kg (5,500 pounds) of cargo straight up from the ground, like a helicopter; if a short runway is available, it can take off in the standard way, then fly straight ahead carrying as much as 4,500 kg (10,000 pounds). That’s more than the new Cessna 408 SkyCourier can manage, and the Rhaegal flies much faster and higher. Also, it is designed to load and unload without the help of forklifts, pallet jacks, or other specialized equipment.
The aircraft’s high-flotation “tundra tires” and four-post landing-gear arrangement allow it to land in mud, snow, sand, marsh, or deep puddles.
Because the Rhaegal has a maximum gross weight above 600 kg (1,320 pounds) it falls under U.S. Federal Aviation Administration Regulation Part 23, which requires that it be remotely monitored and controlled and that it remain in contact with air traffic control at all times.
the Rhaegal is semiautonomous, meaning that it can complete its mission even if it loses communication with the operator and with air traffic control in general. It simply follows a preplanned flight route, detecting and avoiding traffic on the way and then landing at a remote location.[The Rhaegal has a] turboelectric drivetrain is to provide high efficiency in cruise flight and also high power during takeoff and landing. That heightened efficiency allows it to emit an estimated 70 percent less carbon than the Cessna 408 SkyCourier while carrying twice the load four times farther. And because of its turbo design, it can be made “greener” still by using biofuel.
By the time the article becomes public, the first test flights with the Rhaegal cargo drone should have already taken place. The company has been working with the FAA since 2017 and type certification might come soon.
Rhaegal, by the numbers:
- Wingspan: 18 meters
- Length: 18 meters
- Height: 3.7 meters
- Cruise speed: 180 knots
- Range: 1,000 nautical miles (1,850 kilometers)
- Ceiling: 6,700 meters
- Vertical takeoff payload: 2,450 kilograms
- Conventional takeoff payload: 4,540 kg
What do you think about the Rhaegal cargo drone and drones being used to deliver all kinds of products and cargo? Do you see the future in the same way Ed De Reyes sees it? Let us know in the comments below.
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Illustrations: John MacNeill, photos: Sabrewing Aircraft