Friday, April 19, 2024

Kawasaki’s unmanned cargo VTOL aircraft completes PoC testing

Kawasaki Heavy Industries announced the successful completion of proof-of-concept (PoC) testing for unmanned cargo transport by the cooperation of its K-RACER X1 unmanned vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft and delivery robot. The PoC testing was conducted with the aim of helping to solve societal issues such as labor shortages in the logistics industry.

In its Group Vision 2030, which describes the company’s future vision for 2030, Kawasaki specified three areas where it will focus its efforts: “A Safe and Secure Remotely-Connected Society,” “Near-Future Mobility” and “Energy and Environmental Solutions.” In the area of “Near-Future Mobility,” the company has been pursuing the development of unmanned VTOLs, delivery robots, and so on.

Kawasaki’s latest unmanned VTOL adopts improvements to an aircraft flight-tested in 2020. It is able to transport a 100-kilogram payload and is equipped with a delivery robot loading and unloading mechanism.

PoC testing overview
PoC testing overview. Credit: Kawasaki

For its power unit, the aircraft has a Ninja H2R motorcycle supercharged engine built by Kawasaki Motors that produces an impressive 300-odd peak horsepower. The delivery robot used together with the unmanned VTOL is based on a delivery robot designed to achieve smooth, stable operations even on rough and bumpy roads, developed utilizing Kawasaki’s knowledge in robotics and technologies behind the off-road capabilities of its motorcycles and side-by-sides. This delivery robot was modified to enable boarding onto an unmanned VTOL.

The testing simulated a continuous, interlinked sequence of unmanned delivery operations in which the delivery robot was loaded with cargo and automatically boarded the unmanned VTOL, followed by automated flight with the delivery robot onboard, and then landing, automatic delivery robot disembarkation, and delivery of the cargo to the final destination. Testing was carried out with the eventual future goal of delivery operations without any human-worker involvement.

Responding to labor shortages in the logistics industry and other challenges faced by society, Kawasaki will make use of results and information gained from its latest PoC testing to realize a rapid cargo transport system that is not affected by road-traffic conditions or topographic features such as seas, mountains and rivers, and reliable logistics services to locations deep in the mountains or on remote islands. In these ways, the company hopes to help society overcome its challenges.