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6 Mission-critical info for UST professionals Platform one Dronamics in Bulgaria has developed a quarter-scale prototype of a new type of unmanned cargo aerial system (writes Nick Flaherty). The full-scale version of the Black Swan, with a 16 m wingspan, would be able to transport 350 kg (770 lb) over 2500 km (1550 miles) at 50-80% of the cost of modern cargo aircraft. “Everyone else is going after small delivery drones, but what we want to do is carry cargo over long distances, so we need a quick and easy way to transport goods, for example from the UK to Bulgaria,” said Dronamics’ co-founder Svilen Rangelov. “At the moment it takes perhaps 48 hours to cover that 2000 km – we can do it in 10-12 hours. We don’t solve the last mile. If a package travels a long way, small drones optimise the last mile.” The Black Swan is designed for higher densities of cargo, as traditional air freight weighs 170 kg/m 3 whereas deliveries packaged for e-commerce are between 8 and 120 kg/m 3 . The aim is for the UAV to be either fully autonomous or remotely monitored, depending on the requirements of local regulators. “In Asia, Latin America and Africa, some regulators are sceptical about humans in the loop,” Rangelov said. “Others prefer that it is not autonomous, so as a technology company we have to develop both capabilities.” The quarter-scale Black Swan has autonomous take-off, but on the larger system at higher speeds and altitudes there are different considerations that may need human control, such as comms with air traffic control. “We have done tests with Iridium for satellite data links, and plan to do the same with Inmarsat,” Rangelov said. “In the beginning we would be flying away from big metropolitan areas in segregated airspace using the satellite link for telemetry, so it’s smaller bandwidth. Video is not realistic from a cost or latency perspective.” The prototype uses a battery-powered motor, as a gasoline engine would cause too many vibrations to be able to validate the flight dynamics. However, the company plans to use a Rotax 915 engine on the full-scale version to get the range. “If we wanted to fly 2500 km we would need 10 tonnes of batteries, so the maths doesn’t work,” Rangelov said. The company plans to start trials of the 16 m version by the end of 2019. Airborne vehicles Long-distance delivery The Black Swan prototype has autonomous take-off while the full- scale version will optionally have human control of some functions October/November 2018 | Unmanned Systems Technology