Issue 54 Uncrewed Sytems Technology Feb/Mar 2024 uWare uOne UUV l Radio and telemetry l Rheinmetall Canada medevacs l UUVs insight DelltaHawk engine l IMU focus l Skygauge in operation l CES 2024 report l Blueflite l Hypersonic flight

108 Under development by Blueflite, Slate and Cobalt are a pair of uncrewed, tiltrotor cargo vehicles with payload capacities of 2-5 kg, ranges from 20-90 miles and potential speeds of up to the 100 mph limit for UAVs in their weight class. The company’s CEO, Frank Noppel, says the UAVs are variants of a common platform with different propulsion and lift systems. Both have four pairs of propellers on tilting mounts that allow for thrust vectoring, but while Slate has wings to give it more range and speed, the wingless Cobalt boasts a larger payload and better hover performance. Blueflite has facilities in Michigan and New York State. An entrepreneur by inclination, Noppel has a passion for aerospace, backed up by bachelor’s and master’s degrees in engineering from Karlsruhe University of Applied Sciences, and a PhD in aerospace and aeronautical engineering from Cranfield University. His resume includes full-time posts with Airbus and Rolls-Royce. His first start-up was Ambeo, a UK-based air-taxi operator, formed in 2008. Ambeo flew Citation Mustang very light jets between airfields around Europe up until the company’s dissolution in 2013. The idea that became Blueflite dates back to 2017, when Noppel was working for McKinsey and Company, a global management consulting firm. “I was looking for an opportunity and, based on previous experience, there were two ingredients that I thought essential,” he says. “One is passion; setting up a company and making it work is a marathon that can go on for years. The other is high growth potential. I’m passionate about aerospace and robotics, so I was looking at the drone space, but it was when I considered the logistics angle that it clicked.” Key decisions At that stage it was still unclear whether the prospective company would build or operate UAVs or make the components for them. “There were a lot of Peter Donaldson reports on two smarter, more autonomous UAVs that are able to fly in any weather Almost twins February/March 2024 | Uncrewed Systems Technology Side view of the Cobalt vehicle, which has rotor blades and motors optimised for thrust-borne flight, emphasising higher torque and lower rotational speeds (All images courtesy of Blueflite)