back to article Up, up and a-weigh! Boeing flies cargo drone with 225kg payload

Boeing’s revealed it hastily-cobbled-together a cargo drone. The “cargo air vehicle” (CAV) has a payload of 226kg (500 pounds). The aerospace giant has revealed the craft is powered by battery, boasts eight counter rotating blades and is 4.57 meters long, 5.49m wide, 1.22 meters tall and weighs in at 339 kilograms. Boeing 747 …

that story about amazon drones dropping fridges on you got a bit closer

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A full height fridge/freezer is only about 65kg, so one of these drones could do your whole kitchen suite at once. Or it could carpet-bomb your entire street with white goods if it gets hacked...

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beta test postcode,...

... from your description I think they must have been beta testing the CAV in my area, as many a front garden is strewn with white goods.

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Terminator

With that payload capacity it could drop pianos.

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Just think what Joseph Barbera could do with that.

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Badlands delivery ?

Drones like this could be useful for cargo delivery in hostile areas (eg parts of Iraq and Afghanistan). At the moment a lot of US casualties occur as a result of IEDs targeting convoys. If some of the convoys can be replaced by drone deliveries then this could reduce the number of US casualties.

It could also be useful for deliveries in areas with poor communications (eg parts of Alaska).

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Re: Badlands delivery ?

I don't know why they seemed to have rolled back from the K-Max twin rotor helicopter cargo drone they tried in Afghanistan a number of years ago. As you suggest resupply in dangerous areas or even combat search and rescue in hostile areas seemed like a great solution.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kaman_K-MAX

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Re: Badlands delivery ?

How about using these in the UK "no-go" areas, or would be better used in the French equivalents?

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Happy

Re: Badlands delivery ?

You forgot the "no-go" areas in the Netherlands.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K8AwFc9hlf4

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Re: Badlands delivery ?

@Frenchie Lad

We don't have any "no-go" areas in the UK.

They are a fiction. Invented by buffoons who blame immigrants for everything that is wrong with their own lives and worlds.

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Re: Badlands delivery ?

If by 'no-go areas' you mean public areas where the average member of the public is not allowed to go, there might be a few of those, but usually they're a land owner illegally preventing people from using a footpath on their land.

If you're just talking about public areas where someone might feel unwelcome, I suspect that there's more of those if you're a non-white Brit than otherwise.

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Re: Badlands delivery ?

@rmason

I have a feeling Frenchie Lad has been down voted for forgetting the Joke Alert icon.

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Re: Badlands delivery ?

There are no-go areas in the UK. I was not allowed into an area of London - apparently it was some German Immigrants having a wedding or something.

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> No word on demo bird's range or speed

African or European spec?

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Boeing’s said nothing about speed or range, so it’s hard to assess whether the prototype will be decent competition for conventional transport.

Have you ever rented a crane? This thing will pay out on short hops from front lawn to back lawn or put a building detail into place on some sites.

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Anonymous Coward

Have you ever rented a crane? This thing will pay out on short hops from front lawn to back lawn or put a building detail into place on some sites.

I don't suppose renting a cargo-carrying drone will be all that cheap either, especially once it is insured against dropping a quarter of a ton through your roof.

For the time being, I also expect it will still need to be brought to you on a truck, i.e. it's unlikely to be allowed to fly over your neighbourhood.

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Anonymous Coward

It won't be able to fly over your neighbourhood at any lowish altitude.

The latin legal docterine of "Cuius est solum, eius est usque ad coelum et ad inferos" basically means "whoever's is the soil, it is theirs all the way to Heaven and all the way to hell". This is in place anywhere which has common law, so most importantly the UK and USA.

In the UK in modern times this has been somewhat ammended so that you own down to -300 metres, and up to a "reasonable height", which is a wonderfully elastic term in a civil court which can mean pretty much anything reasonably arguable with a straight face. Crossing your property is then trespass arguable in the civil court.

In terms of a cargo drone, a big heavy thing visible and audiable in your properties airspace causing you fear and alarm that it might crash on your property would be easily arguable as not being at a reasonable height. I think that magistrates would probably go with that, at least i'd far prefer to be making that argument than trying to persuade three magistrates that it's perfectly reasonable to be flying over somebody elses property at a low level.

Civil courts also have a very low burden of proof, "on the balance of probabilities" rather than "beyond reasonable doubt" as in a criminal court, so a digital photo of a drone over your property in combination with your testimony would near certainly get a conviction, which is punishable by a fine of up to £2500, or 3 months imprisonment.

* IANAL

** I am an IT Professional working in a law firm, but it would seem that i've been working here too long.

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Reasonable height/Goldilocks zone

Too low and the blades might take your eye out and/or the noise is irritating.

Too high and you worry about a failure causing it to fly like a brick onto your head.

Is there a sweet spot in the middle? Or could you persuade a court that "too low" and "too high" overlap?

I wonder if lawyers are funding drone development. They'll be able to spend many a happy hour coining it in court over this.

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"reasonably arguable with a straight face. "

Having pranked my family/kids regularly, I can argue some pretty crazy shit with a straight face :)

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>This thing will pay out on short hops from front lawn to back lawn

I don't think so (unless you have a very big lawn). It's "4.57 meters long, 5.49m wide".

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Re: Reasonable height/Goldilocks zone

Too low and the blades might take your eye out and/or the noise is irritating.

If they flew one over that low then I'd argue that it shouldn't be that low by pointing to the CAA rules and making comparisons to large companies dodging applicable safety rules like Uber and making references to lethal movement speeds of the blades and the danger of these at low level.

CAA rule:-

(c) The 1,000 feet rule

Except with the written permission of the CAA, an aircraft flying over a congested area of a city town or settlement shall not fly below a height of 1,000 feet above the highest fixed obstacle within a horizontal radius of 600 metres of the aircraft.

Too high and you worry about a failure causing it to fly like a brick onto your head.

To which again, you point to the existing rules:-

(d) The land clear rule

An aircraft flying over a congested area of a city, town or settlement shall not fly below such height as would permit the aircraft to land clear of the congested area in the event of a power unit failure.

Oh, this drone is carrying a quarter of a ton with zero safety measures or equipment/control redundancy and can't manage that? Good luck justifying that on the balance of probability flying over my house is perfectly safe then!

Light touch drone rules only apply to drones under 20 Kilos according to the CAA.

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Coat

Payload fraction is impressive, but how many bullets to shot a couple of rotors off

Which is probably a more serious metric for military uses.

Incidentally isn't there a DARPA competition for something like this?

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Re: Payload fraction is impressive, but how many bullets to shot a couple of rotors off

There was a fun video about drone enthusiasts and gun enthusiasts settling the arguments about gun vs drone. At first the shooters were surprised at how fast and nimble drones are. They could not hit them. The drone pilots got cocky and flew slower and slower into the drones got shot. Later, the shooters learned to wait for the drone to corner so it presented a slower moving target. With practice a competent shooter can kill a drone flying back and forth in front of the hill used to stop stray bullets. Sometimes the drone kept flying after it was hit one or twice and sometimes it died on the first hit.

This thing is a bigger target - easier to hit but a single round will not smash the whole to bits. I am sure the army will not be flying it back and forth at low altitude until it gets killed. Shooters are going to have a dull time waiting for hours for the few seconds when they stand a chance of killing a drone. I would like to think losing a drone is cheaper than losing a convoy of trucks but this is military budget so I would not bet on it.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Payload fraction is impressive, but how many bullets to shot a couple of rotors off

"flying it back and forth at low altitude until it gets killed"

There is also the possibility of flying a flock of them back and forth at low altitude until someone takes the bait and is promptly malleted by a Reaper or similar flying overwatch.

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Mushroom

Drones, pah. Where are my rail guns shooting shell/canisters filled with materials for 3D printers and protein paste at the supply drop?

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Other uses

It might be a bit chilly, but 225kg is quite easily a person. Who needs a taxi?

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Re: Other uses

As it has 4 lifting points, it is not suitable for passenger use - the failure of any rotor or engine will send the craft out of control. At least 6 if not 8 separate lifting points are needed to be able to safely land after a failure.

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Black Helicopters

Re: Other uses

I find that statement confusing. A helicopter has only one lifting point, and has been used for generations for shuttling passengers back and forth between points A and B. The failure of just the one rotor or engine in this instance is pretty much going to have the same effect isn't it? But somehow it's less acceptable if it's a drone?

Genuine question.

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Re: Other uses

I find that statement confusing. A helicopter has only one lifting point,

You are correct. If the software immediately throttles down to nearly zero the opposite propeller and if the quadcopter can land with only two operational it should be survivable. You have a load hanging under you, the center of gravity is WAY UNDER the propeller plane. Even if it is down to two it will not become unstable. You will, however lose the ability to steer except along the line of the two remaining propellers. You may get some steering from the propeller opposing the dead one IF you are carrying sufficient load to be able to use it at reasonable revs (I do not want to be the person writing the flight software for that use case though).

It does however need to be able to land safely with only two operating and reasonable load.

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Re: Other uses

@Alan Stewart

I came here to say that.

I'm 90KG and am *fully* on board with an entertaining and sobering flight home from the local Taverns I frequent.

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Re: Other uses

might not be so bad, the beer jacket will keep you warm, but ferk... have you ever picked up an unconscious drunk before?... they seem to weight 3 times as much as they should do, so you might be overweight for it if passed out...

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Re: Other uses

My very first thought! Look out for incoming viral videos where some YouTube idiot transports themselves across town....

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Re: Other uses

This CAV however has eight props on four booms, so you'd have to power down one prop on the opposite side, but you wouldn't lose steering, I presume the powered down prop could be run in reverse or forward so the remaining working props on opposite booms could operate at 100% for maximum lift, and steering could be via +ve or -ve thrust from the 'powered down' prop.

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Re: Other uses

A quantum of innovation and I've got my flying car!

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Re: Other uses

"As it has 4 lifting points, it is not suitable for passenger use - the failure of any rotor or engine will send the craft out of control. At least 6 if not 8 separate lifting points are needed to be able to safely land after a failure."

Remind me - how many lifting points does a conventional helicopter have?

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Anonymous Coward

Flying camp bed?

It doesn't look robust enough to be a bedstead to me.

But more seriously, a proper cargo drone is going to need a long range for some use cases, and that may imply a design which might look a little more like an Osprey than a quadcopter.

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Re: Flying camp bed?

You're right. Look at the flying bedstead that lead to the Harrier jump jet.

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Prototype, not production.

Looking at the pic, it appears that each pair of contra-rotating blades has one blade atop the strut and one blade below. The lower blade doesn't seem very far above the landing legs. The lower blade certainly appears to be less than a blade length above the landing leg, but that could just be the angle of the photo.

Conclusion: if it lands at an angle (possibly because of a gust of wind) that's a knackered blade. A better design (although more complicated mechanically) would have both contra-rotating blades at the top of the strut.

As a proof-of-concept prototype (is there enough lift and a reasonable flight time?) it's fine. I don't think it's even close to a final, practical, configuration.

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I love this!

https://www.aerones.com/eng/news/?text_id=18 has video of a jumper being lifted to 330 metres - from where he then deploys using a BASE rig.

Oh the possibilities, the possibilities!

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I've been saying for a while now that BASE jumping will soon need to be renamed BASED jumping (or DBASE?) - 'cos once you've done a jump from a Building, and Antenna, a Span (bridge) and some piece of Earth (a cliff), all that's left is to drop from a Drone.

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Starting to feel pretty sad that this sort of technology could kill off Ice Road Truckers :(

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66% payload fraction

"The CAV’s [payload] fraction is 66 per cent, rather better than some cargo aircraft."

I think that's rather better than all cargo aircraft, once the the allowance for the aircraft's fuel is taken into consideration. Something like the AN-124's or the AN-225 would just about be in the same ballpark for a very short journey, where relatively little fuel would need to be carried, but for a more typical journey the fuel needed would reduce the payload fraction quite a bit. Large cargo aircraft don't make much sense for short journeys, which would probably be better done by land or water transport.

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Re: 66% payload fraction

I wonder how it would compare to a much closer direct competitor - a Sikorsky skycrane. Hey, wait, this is actually not that hard - apparently, those do around 50%, sans fuel...

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Re: 66% payload fraction

Yeah, it's the fuel that makes the difference - the 'fuel' in the batteries adds negligible extra mass.

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Qinetiq will be a big user of these

At over 560 kilograms per fully laden drone, Qinetiq now has a new "standard consumer" drone to fire at aircraft windows at 250 kph. The results should show that this "typical weight" drone is a deadly threat to aircraft, which is exactly what the Ministry commissioning these tests is paying for, since it perfectly supports their proposal this year to regulate any drone massing more than 250 milligrams on aircraft safety grounds.

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Devil

Why?

So basically it is a helicopter capable of carrying the weight of two people plus a bit of luggage.

Why is it such a massively different shape from every existing helicopter in its class? Swapping the pilot for a pox box doesn't change the laws of aerodynamics.

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Re: Why?

Probably something to do with physics and battery power and "off-the-shelf" components.

I'm not sure what kind of batteries and electric motor would be needed to power a traditional helicopter shaped aerial device, but it looks like many smaller motors and blades is better than one big one in terms of electrical power use. I'd be interested in comments from people who know this stuff.

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Test Bed

Just wondering. It does look like a bed. Suppose I slept in it could it deliver me to the office in the morning. It would beat some of these TV ads. Yeh.

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Here's to you Mr. Robinson

Once again we point at the Robinson R-22 helicopter and note its specs. Maximum takeoff weight 650 kg, with a rotor setup that is intrinsically more efficient than a quadcopter's, though more complicated in its mechanics. It takes 93 kW to get it off the ground. Some electric cars have that kind of power, and have decent ranges, but they can carry much more battery capacity.

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