Though it might gain less attention alongside the likes of food-delivery drones and flying taxis, the heavy payload drone has the potential to greatly disrupt the logistics industry. BAE Systems just unveiled its large delivery drone, the T-650 Heavy Lift Electric UAS (uncrewed air system) in a bid to do just that, according to a report from New Atlas.
The drone, currently in the design phase, is being developed as part of a collaboration between UK-based Malloy Aeronautics. According to its creators, it will be able to lift payloads weighing approximately 661 lb (300 kg) and have a range of 19 miles (30 km) on one charge. Without a payload that range would be extended to 50 miles (80 km). The machine can fly autonomously or via remote control and it can reach top speeds of 87 mph (140 km/h).
The machine is designed with military use in mind, and BAE systems says it will be able to carry supplies, evacuate casualties, carry out surveillance operations, and even provide close air support in battle situations. However, the firm also says it aims to eventually expand its operations for commercial use. "Beyond the military capabilities, there is also clear potential in the commercial, security, and humanitarian arenas," Oriol Badia, CEO of Malloy Aeronautics said in a statement. "Our goal is to work together with BAE Systems to ensure that our capabilities are not just the first and best for defense, but that they become the future workhorse to keep all our personnel safe."
A heavy-lifting zero carbon emission machine
Though BAE Systems has revealed little else in the way of specifications, it says the drone's propeller arms can be removed for cargo transportation and storage. The body will be made using a lightweight carbon fiber alloy, which will help to increase its energy efficiency. The firm also says that its new system will be able to vastly reduce the military's carbon footprint. "Emitting zero carbon, the uncrewed system could help revolutionize military operations where there is a requirement to carry heavy loads, helping to keep military personnel out of harm's way in dangerous situations or disaster zones, whilst reducing the environmental impact of our armed forces," BAE explains.
Back in 2020, Chinese drone firm EHang announced that it was developing a 200 Kg (440 lb) payload logistics drone, the EHang 216. The company said that was the largest payload for a multi-rotor AAV for aerial logistics to date. If it makes it out of the concept stage, BAE Systems' T-650 may well be the highest payload drone out there.