Recent reports indicate that a group of UK engineers and planning to build a “mid-mass logistics drone” for global markets. The Sky Hopper is an electrically powered unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). It features a cargo mass load of 100 kilograms along with a tri-fan design.
The tri-fan design is to be built in Prestwick in the West of Scotland, an area that is unique for the development of BVLOS potential, as well as for the testing of autonomous flight capabilities. The systems avionics are being developed in Hampshire in South Central England.
The development team includes aeronautical engineers, certification and design specialists, electric machine designers, and advanced battery developers.
“Civil UAV development is still in early days,” says project leader Eben Wilson. “We want to engineer a pathway to a commercial future; and we have the strong team to work through the certification requirements alongside the technical issues. It’s a challenge, but it really is time we did this.”
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This project pushes the envelope of unmanned aerial capabilities, requiring exceptional communication and coordination between Sky Hopper’s development team and regulators.
“The regulators want a civil UAV industry to develop in the UK,” says Fred Gorrie, technical lead in design certification and regulation, “but they also want safety equal to normal aerospace industry competences. That’s where we want to go too, and we think Scotland gives us the space to do that.”
The Sky Hopper project includes commercial plans that include unmanned delivery networks. These networks set up local communities as franchisees for aero-parks; locally owned assets through which multiple Sky Hopper missions are flown, ultimately creating revenue for local communities.
While the initial plan was aimed at remote and isolated communities, it will be “fully capable of near urban operations in due course” in the future.