The Rhaegal VTOL (vertical take-off and landing) cargo drone recently reached two important milestones, achieving its first hover flight and managing to break the payload world record of any commercial UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle).
Drone developers are continuously striving to come up with cargo aircraft that can lift more pounds than the competition. One example that comes to mind is Dronamics’ unmanned cargo airplane dubbed the Black Swan. It was developed by a Bulgarian company and boasts of being the most fuel-efficient UAVs ever built, able to carry payloads of up to 771 lb (350 kg) over a distance of over 1,550 miles (2,500 km). Not just that, but it does all that at a cost that’s 50 percent lower than similar aircraft.
The Scotland-made Flowcopter is another example of a heavy-lift drone that can transport up to 330 lb (150 kg).
But the Rhaegal RG-1-A Alpha (this is the name of the pre-production model) sets the new standard for unmanned cargo aircraft. As announced by the manufacturer, the drone recently managed to lift a record-breaking load of no less than 829 lb (374 kg). The cargo drone was developed by California-based company Sabrewing Aircraft in partnership with a ton of collaborators (you can see them all listed in the attached press release).
In the works for years, the aircraft just completed its first hover flight, showcasing improvements to its blades, ducts, and the shape of the fan shrouds. The cargo drone has a wingspan of 55.8 ft (17 m), a length of 47.9 ft (14.6 m), and a height of 15.1 ft (4.6 m). It has an empty weight of 2,399 lb (1,090 kg) with no fuel in it, and the production version should have a maximum payload weight of 5,400 lb (2,454 kg).
Sabrewing boasts of its Rhaegal being suitable for use in any weather. It can fly at an altitude of 22,000 ft (6,705 m) and is able to hit a top speed of 445 kph (276.5 mph).
As explained best by Sabrewing, the Rhaegal “uses a turbo-electric drivetrain based on Safran Helicopter Engines’ turbine-based motor, the Ariel 2E. It can operate on 50 percent sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) and turns an electric generator that produces nearly 1 megawatt of electric energy which in turn powers electric motors in each of the four ducted fans”.
Designed for first, middle, and last mile cargo deliveries, Rhaegal claims it can lift 10 times more cargo than its closest competitor and can fly five times farther.
The manufacturer says that the first units of the aircraft should reach their customers by December 2023.
Courtesy of Cristina Mircea at https://www.autoevolution.com/news/rhaegal-cargo-uav-completes-its-first-hover-flight-lifts-record-setting-payload-200086.html#