Boeing reveals heavy lift drone development

Posted on 16 Jan 2018 by Michael Cruickshank

US aerospace manufacturer Boeing has revealed a prototype delivery drone able to carry heavy loads to difficult-to-reach destinations.

Boeing's CAV demonstrator can carry heavy loads. Image courtesy of Boeing.
Boeing’s CAV demonstrator can carry heavy loads. Image courtesy of Boeing.

The prototype drone, called a CAV (cargo air vehicle), is significantly larger than the delivery drones being trialled by companies like Amazon or Google.

It measures in at 15 feet long (4.57m), 18 feet wide (5.49m) and 4 feet tall (1.22 m), and weighs 747 pounds (339kg).

More impressive than its size, however, is its payload capacity: designed to lift heavy loads, the drone is able to carry up to 500 pounds (227kg) of cargo.

To enable this, the drone makes use of 8 six-foot diameter propellers, mounted on one of 4 struts, in a similar configuration to the Ehang 184 drone-taxi.

All of this is electrically powered by a battery pack designed in-house by Boeing which is able to keep the drone flying for up to 15 minutes at a time.

Significantly, Boeing built this drone at an incredibly rapid pace, going from a design to a working prototype in just 3 months.

The current aircraft has undergone a number of indoor tests and is expected to undergo more strenuous testing in the near future.

Boeing envisages that once it has perfected its design, the drone could be used to deliver heavy cargo not just around cities, but also to remote locations – such as oil rigs – which can currently only be serviced by helicopters.

As Boeing has strong ties to the US military, it is also likely that such a drone could be employed in war-zones carrying equipment to soldiers in areas too dangerous for standard craft to fly.

“Our new CAV prototype builds on Boeing’s existing unmanned systems capabilities and presents new possibilities for autonomous cargo delivery, logistics and other transportation applications,” said Steve Nordlund, Boeing HorizonX vice president.

“The safe integration of unmanned aerial systems is vital to unlocking their full potential. Boeing has an unmatched track record, regulatory know-how and systematic approach to deliver solutions that will shape the future of autonomous flight.”

As well, Boeing expects this drone prototype to further the development of its eVTOL (electric vertical take-off and landing) aircraft designed to function as a passenger-carry air taxi.