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US Air Force receives three autonomous electric cargo aircraft

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Aerospace company Pyka has delivered its first three Pelican large-scale autonomous electric cargo aircraft to the US Air Force.

The handover is part of the force’s Agility Prime program to develop modern electric systems to address “the most pressing challenges” across the agency.

This initiative, focused on “deployment and operational capabilities,” is led by the service’s innovation arms AFWERX and the Air Force Research Laboratory.

“We’re proud to deliver Pelican Cargo to AFWERX for the United States Air Force’s Agility Prime program,” Pyka CEO Michael Norcia stated.

“Our aircraft offers an unparalleled platform for heavy-payload and long-range autonomous electric cargo logistics.”

“We believe the [Air Force] is an ideal customer to harness the benefits of this technology, and is helping to advance zero-emission aviation in the United States by partnering with companies like ours.”

Pelican Cargo

The Pelican is 22 feet (7 meters) long and has a wingspan of 38 feet (12 meters).

It is run by four electric motors with 100 kilowatts of combined power for a maximum cruise speed of 70 knots (130 kilometers/81 miles per hour) and a range of up to 200 miles (320 kilometers).

The aircraft’s payload capacity can accommodate up to 400 pounds (181 kilograms) of equipment.

The plane is operated via a satellite communication-based monitoring platform for day and night scenarios. It is protected by multi-navigation components, fully redundant controls, and sensor suites.

Latest Agile Prime Activities

AFWERX completed an autonomous logistics demonstration of a Cessna 208B Grand Caravan business aircraft developed with a military configuration in California last month.

In September 2023, the US Air Force received an ALIA eVTOL aircraft for associated military tests under the Agility Prime program.

One month earlier, the agency accomplished an autonomous flight test of an Osprey MK III aerial drone at Eglin Air Force Base to validate autonomy, data, and artificial intelligence concepts for the modern battlefield.

Meanwhile, the US signed an agreement with aerospace firm Electra in January 2023 to produce an electric short takeoff and landing aircraft prototype for the Agile Prime initiative.

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