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.

Get the full story on GeekWire.

By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributor to GeekWire and Universe Today, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," past president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing.

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