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Successful Flight of Natilus Kona Prototype Validates Performance of Unique Blended Wing Body Design, Paving the Way for Completion of Full-Scale Autonomous Cargo Drone

Key Points:

  • Natilus successfully flies Kona sub-scale prototype, validating performance of the company’s unique blended wing body design.
  • Kona flight paves the way for completion of a full-scale autonomous cargo drone.
  • Natilus recently completed both vertical tails for its full-scale prototype, and announced the upcoming acquisition of propellers from Hartzell, gearing up for the manufacture of the engine test stand.
  • Natilus advanced autopilot code will allow air freight operators to scale their operations without compromising safety or efficiency.
  • To overcome the challenges of pilot shortages, Natilus is spearheading the development of innovative remote piloting technology. The Kona prototype plays a crucial role in integrating Natilus’ autopilot code into the full-scale demonstrator.
  • Natilus has announced purchase commitments for the delivery of over 460 Natilus aircraft, amounting to $6.8 billion in total to date.

SAN DIEGO (April 19, 2023) – Natilus, an innovative company producing a fleet of highly cost-efficient autonomous cargo aircraft, has successfully completed multiple flights of the subscale prototype of its Kona regional aircraft. The flight tests mark a significant milestone for Natilus and for the autonomous cargo aircraft industry by validating wind tunnel tests conducted over three years, testing the aerodynamic performance of the Natilus unique blended-wing-body (BWB) aircraft design.

The subscale prototype of the Kona aircraft took off from a private runway in Southern California and reached speeds of 70 mph. One of the key challenges with the BWB design has been stability – and the test flights validated that the Natilus configuration can fly without the help of a complex autopilot system.

“We are fully focused on completing the full-scale Kona prototype” stated Aleksey Matyushev, Natilus Co-Founder and CEO. “Our Kona remotely piloted aircraft will be capable of carrying over 9,000 pounds (4.3 metric tons) of freight and will open new markets worldwide. The progress of Natilus developing autonomous cargo aircraft is a game-changer in the logistics industry, providing an efficient and cost-effective solution for shipping goods across oceans.”

Natilus has also recently completed the full-scale prototypes of both vertical tails, validating the aggressive timetables to 1st flight. The company will receive Hartzell propellers in May, gearing up for the manufacture of the engine test stand.

Natilus is spearheading the air freight industry’s efforts to overcome the challenges brought about by the current shortage of pilots and has prioritized the development of innovative remote piloting technology, with the Kona prototype serving as a key component in correlating their own autopilot code for the full-scale demonstrator. This innovative approach will allow air freight operators to scale their operations without compromising safety or efficiency.

Natilus Kona Aircraft

The 85 ft. full-scale Kona demonstrator, the smallest of the Natilus fleet, will be the largest commercial air cargo drone targeted to fly in 2024. Kona will also help to open new markets for air cargo as the vehicle can land and take off on unpaved runways as short as 800 meters. The patent-pending ‘Diamond’ cargo-bay allows Natilus to offer 60% more volume and lower flight costs by 60%. Natilus aircraft can hold a large configuration of standard pallets and outsized cargo, without a contouring requirement.

Natilus Investment and Purchase Commitments

Natilus announced last month that the company has received total commitments to date for $6.8B, for delivery of more than 460 aircraft. Supplier partnerships include agreements with Janicki for composite designs; Pratt & Whitney Canada for engines; Collins Aerospace for specialized loading systems; Siemens’ NX™ software for computer-aided design, as well as purchase agreements from customers, including Ameriflight, Astral Aviation, Aurora, Dymond, Volatus Aviation, Flexport, and others, currently undisclosed.

About Natilus

Natilus was founded in 2016, to revolutionize and democratize the air cargo transport industry by designing and manufacturing a new fleet of blended wing body (BWB) autonomous cargo aircraft that will commoditize airfreight, while reducing air freight emissions by half. Natilus aircraft use existing ground infrastructure and standard air cargo containers, to produce an innovative turnkey solution for customers.

The Natilus family of cargo aircraft includes:

  •     Kona – 3.8 ton payload (category) short-haul feeder domestic UAV
  •     Alisio – 60 ton payload medium/long range UAV
  •     Nordes – 100 ton payload long-range UAV


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