The UCA (Unmanned Cargo Aircraft) is best suited for cargo capacity of between 2 to 20 tonnes

This will open new markets that cannot currently support present generation cargo aircraft. This offers new opportunities for the cargo industry!As duty length of a crew is not an issue anymore, Unmanned Cargo Aicrafts (UCA) can have a cruising speed (450 km/h) that is optimised to consume as little fuel as possible. The reduced fuel consumption yields greater range than comparable manned aircraft.

Because of the low cruising speed and no necessity for a pressurised crew cabin, a UCA can be made lighter and simpler than manned aircraft. Also the cross-section of the fuselage does not need to be circular it can be shaped efficiently, for example to fit the shape of square cargo containers. Another advantage is that the cargo area or better the cargo height can be relatively low because no humans need to be accommodated. This gives the opportunity to use shapes like a blended wing body (BWB) or flying wing, which is 15-20% more aerodynamically efficient than a conventional aircraft shape.

Other advantages:

  • One controller on the ground can control ten to 30 UCAs, which means huge savings in crew salary costs and no stopover crew costs.
  • The risk of fire is an acknowledged safety hazard in cargo aircraft. UCA open the potential for innovative fire suppression techniques, like filling the cargo area and every empty void in the aircraft with inert gas (nitrogen) generated by onboard equipment.

Small UCA will open new markets that cannot currently support present- generation cargo aircraft. UCA will not and cannot compete with large manned cargo aircraft, but will be best suited for small volumes of cargo. As long as UCAs are not permitted to fly in the same airspace as manned aircraft, the best routes for UCAs in the short term are between regions that have economic potential but no proper transport infrastructure, such as China, Africa and South America.

This Posting is based on an interview with Hans Heerkens, Chairman of Platform Unmanned Cargo Aircraft, published in ‘Aerospace’, the journal of the British Royal Aeronautical Society.

Attend the UCA Conference on February 11, 2014 in The Netherlands and learn what UCA can mean for your business!

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