Skyports Drone Services and Pyka in Royal Navy heavy lift challenge


Skyports Drone Services has just taken part in phase two of the Royal Navy Uncrewed Aerial Systems Heavy Lift Challenge (UASHLC) with Pyka’s Pelican Cargo drone.

During the challenge, the drone operator demonstrated Pelican Cargo’s heavy payload capacity and extended range capabilities to an audience of senior members of the UK Ministry of Defence and the Royal Navy at the test site in Predannack, Cornwall.

Alex Brown, director of Skyports Drone Services, said: “Highly automated, heavy lift, BVLOS drone delivery operations are a game changer for hard-to-reach and remote places. Watching Pelican Cargo take off from UK soil for the first time was a huge milestone that marks an evolution in our UAS capabilities. Our work on the Royal Navy Heavy Lift Challenge will continue to push the boundaries of uncrewed aviation to find cutting-edge solutions that support humanitarian aid and logistics operations. We’re proud to be recognised as a leading drone operator and apply our extensive operational experience to push the adoption of sustainable drone logistics solutions.”

Pyka’s Pelican Cargo, which was added to the Skyports’ fleet this year, is the world’s largest fully automated and 100% electric cargo aircraft. It has a payload of up to 175kg, a range of up to 350km, and the ability to operate with minimal ground infrastructure.

In the second phase of the challenge Skyports showed Pelican Cargo’s uses in long range BVLOS flights and maritime missions. Phase three of the UASHLC will begin in 2024.

Michael Norcia, co-founder and CEO of Pyka, said: “We are delighted to partner with Skyports Drone Services and proud to have deployed Pelican Cargo in the Royal Navy’s prestigious Heavy Lift Challenge. Pelican Cargo is one of the most technologically advanced solutions on the market for large-scale autonomous electric air cargo transportation. This demonstration proved Pelican Cargo’s technological suitability for the Royal Navy’s needs, as set forth by the UASHLC.”

James Morris, Future Capability Group Maritime head at MoD, added: “The purpose of Heavy Lift Capability has been to stimulate the market and accelerate platform technologies in the 100-200kg lift capability in order to de-risk future programmes of work within the Royal Navy and beyond. The UASHLC commercial approach has been key to enabling this acceleration, creating an eco-structure for industry to thrive within.”