At Xponential, DroneTech UAV was showing off its latest creation: the Pelican, a fixed-wing platform with an optional vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) capability intended to provide for payload delivery in the maritime environment. With a 12-foot wingspan and a maximum take-off weight of 90 pounds, the Pelican can deliver a 10-pound package to the deck of a ship running at 30 knots.
That’s faster than most commercial shipping vessels can manage even when steaming full ahead and puts it in the range of swift-moving warships, like destroyers. Ironically for a platform intended to serve at sea, the Pelican was tested in the dusty environs of a dry lake bed, with an over-sized trailer, painted gray, standing in for the deck of a ship underway.
“It can fly for 10 hours and has a maximum speed of 60 miles per hour, so a total range of 600 miles,” says company representative Arturo Galvan.
The base airframe incorporates a push-me, pull-me design with both tractor and pusher propellers, powered by gasoline engines that can also be converted to run off the same bunker fuel that powers ships at sea.
“Maritime operators don’t really like gasoline,” Galvan explains.
This design provides a degree of redundancy which can be crucial when performing long-range missions over water: if one of the engines fails, the aircraft is able to continue the flight with the other one.
The aircraft can be also be rigged for VTOL operations with the addition of two booms beneath the wings, carrying a total of eight electric motors turning coaxial propellers like a standard multirotor. Equipped with this system, the aircraft’s onboard flight control system allows it to land autonomously on the deck of a moving vessel.
DroneTech UAV clearly has potential military users in mind, listing surveillance, intelligence and reconnaissance as potential applications, along with payload delivery. The aircraft can also meet the needs of civilian users, with the company highlighting its potential use in photogrammetry, LiDAR and multispectral imaging.
TEXT & PHOTOS BY PATRICK SHERMAN