Benefits and challenges of operating unmanned cargo aircraft
The unmanned cargo aircraft (UCA) envisioned for the medium-term future have a payload of 2 to 20 tonnes and a range of 1000-10,000 km. Their cruising speed of around 450 km/h gives them low landing speeds and their propeller propulsion provides good acceleration during tale-off and braking power during landing. All this should enable them to operate from runways no longer than 1000-1500 m.
It is possible, depending on the design of the UCA, to increase the descent angle from the normal 3 degrees to 7 degrees or more, allowing operations from airfields surrounded by obstacles like mountains or buildings. Therefore, UCA are well suited for operating out of regional airports, of which there are thousands around the world. It is no problem to design UCA that can operate from grass and gravel strips, although this may incur extra cost.