UPS Feeder Airline Intends To Buy 20 Pilotless Cargo Planes
Ameriflight attracted by startup Natilus’ promise of lower operating costs.
A large, regional feeder airline for UPS and other overnight express carriers last week tentatively committed to buy 20 remote-controlled cargo planes, with a novel design, for middle-mile deliveries.
Ameriflight, which flies 156 small turboprop aircraft daily to more than 200 destinations in the U.S. and the Caribbean, signed a letter of intent with San Diego-based Natilus for 20 Kona feeder aircraft valued at $134 million, the companies announced.
Natilus is developing a family of pilotless aircraft it claims will increase cargo volume by 60% and cut carbon emissions in half, thereby making air shipments more affordable. The efficiency gains are possible because of carbon-fiber composite airframes and a blended-wing body — essentially a uniframe in which sections meld together — that creates more usable volume and better aerodynamics than a traditional airliner.
The absence of pilots also leaves more room for cargo.
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