Natilus, Inc., a California Bay Area-based startup company, is developing large, autonomous carbon fiber composite drones capable of moving freight across the Pacific Ocean at costs cheaper than conventional piloted cargo planes and faster than cargo ships.
As NBC News reported, the drones would take off from the water, eliminating the need for landing gear and long landing strips. They then would land on water several miles from port before taxiing to the dock, where cranes would unload the cargo. The amphibious drones would cruise at an altitude of about 20,000 feet and would fly slower than piloted cargo planes.
According to Natilus, shipping 200,000 pounds of freight from Los Angles to Shanghai via drone would take about 30 hours at a cost of about $130,000. Delivery of the same cargo by a Boeing 747 takes about 11 hours and costs about $260,000. Moving the same cargo to Shanghai by ship would cost about $61,000 but would take three weeks.
“Commercial pilot airplanes don’t want to fly slower because it would take forever to get there and pilot fatigue becomes an issue,” Natilus CEO Aleksey Matyushev told NBC. “For drones, that is not the case.”
The prototype of the Natilus drone is not built yet, but if this start-up can continue to secure funding and successfully prove the safety of the drone, they have the possibility of changing the way cargo is transported. Natilus plans on flying cargo drones between California and Hawaii by 2019.