Oakland-based aircraft manufacturer Pyka has unveiled its Pelican Cargo all-electric unmanned autonomous plane, which is the world’s first self-flying vehicle in its class and the largest zero-emissions air hauler made to date.
With this being said, the Pyka Pelican Cargo is still far from conventional cargo planes, with its 400-pound maximum payload capacity and 200-mile range on a single charge. However, it looks like a viable option for those short-distance deliveries over rough terrain, where deploying a combustion engine plane would be much more expensive and using a car would take too much time.
According to the manufacturer, the Pelican Cargo needs a runway just 600 feet (183 meters) long, and either gravel, dirt, grass, or paved surface is fine for take-off and landing. It can also fly at a cruising speed of 80-90 knots (69-92 miles per hour or 111-148 kilometers per hour) and can carry a maximum volume of 66 cubic feet (1.87 cubic meters).
There are four electric motors that output a combined 100 kilowatts and a swappable 50 kilowatt-hours battery that can be recharged in about one hour.
Pyka says the Pelican Cargo needs minimal training to operate and that it has a fully-redundant propulsion, controls, and sensor suite, as well as a backup parachute system, plus GPS and Laser/Radar-based navigation for night flying.
The company was founded in 2017 by CEO Michael Norcia in his parent’s garage and the focus was initially on making an autonomous crop sprayer because there were fewer regulations to adhere to. After raising $3 million in March 2018 through the Y Combinator tech startup accelerator, work began on designing its first product, the “Egret.”
In May 2019, the Egret was certified for commercial operation under the New Zealand Civil Aviation Authority, and then, after raising securing another $8 million in funding, the company began working on the second-generation electric crop sprayer, the “Pelican,” which would later go to work in Costa Rica, spraying banana trees. And now, the crop-spraying Pelican has debuted in a new cargo variant.