Their ultimate goal is “a cargo drone the size of a jetliner” built with sturdy, light-weight carbon fiber composites and supplemental electric engines to reduce fuel consumption. Long-time Slashdot reader linuxwrangler writes:
Backed by Silicon Valley venture capitalist Tim Draper, drone startup Natilus is attempting to reduce global airfreight costs by 50% through the use of autonomous cargo drones. To reduce regulatory and infrastructure burden, they plan to have their cargo drones take off and land on water 12 miles offshore and fly over uninhabited areas below controlled airspace. Shipments that take 11 hours in a 747 would take 30 in the drone but at half the cost. Container shipping is less than half the cost of the drone but takes three weeks. Test flights of a 30 foot prototype over San Pablo Bay north of San Francisco are planned for this summer.
The company hopes to start flying a 140-foot drone carrying 200,000 pounds by 2020, which Draper says will provide goods transportation “without the friction and costs associated with keeping people alive on airplanes.”
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