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Airbus moves ahead with cargo drone project

Image: Zelator drone
Alexey Medvedev’s Zelator drone was among the winners of a design challenge. (Credit: Local Motors)

Amazon isn’t the only big-name company that’s developing a new kind of drone for cargo delivery: Europe’s Airbus Group is moving ahead with Local Motors on a partnership that takes a decidedly different tack.

The two companies have been crowdsourcing a drone design that parallels what Amazon and lots of other commercial ventures have been working on: an unmanned aircraft system that weighs no more than 55 pounds when fully loaded, and is capable of vertical takeoff and landing as well as fixed-wing forward flight.

The Airbus cargo drone could deliver an 11-pound (5-kilogram) payload to destinations within at least 37 miles (60 kilometers), and a 7-pound (3-kilogram) payload to 62 miles (100 kilometers). Top cruising speed? At least 50 mph.

That compares with Amazon’s plan to deliver packages weighing up to 5 pounds in 30 minutes or less. The drones would roam to destinations within in a radius of 10 miles or more, traveling at cruising speeds of 40 to 50 mph.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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