The future cargo aircraft developer, Natilus, and zero-emission commercial aviation leader, ZeroAvia, have announced the two pioneering companies are working in partnership.
Natilus has agreed to join forces with ZeroAvia to jointly develop hydrogen-electric engines for the Kona cargo aircraft.
ZeroAvia’s ZA600 will be the sole hydrogen-electric propulsion source offered for the Kona short-haul feeder unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), with the focus on delivering zero-emission and lower cost operations.
The Kona is Natilus’ first autonomous blended-wing body (BWB) aircraft and is marketed as a 3.8-ton payload (category) short-haul feeder domestic UAV.
The Natilus Kona, with its revolutionary BWB design, offers increased volume for hydrogen storage, potentially transforming the air cargo delivery industry to one with low-cost, low carbon emissions, while also extending flight range.
The partnership with ZeroAvia will leverage their expertise in hydrogen-electric powertrain technology with Natilus’ unique design to create a scalable, long-range, and zero-emission air cargo delivery solution for the entire industry.
Natilus recently validated the performance of the BWB design with flight testing of a quarter-scale Kona prototype aircraft, following three years of extensive wind-tunnel testing, while ZeroAvia has now conducted eight test flights of its prototype ZA600, 600kW engine in a 19-seat testbed aircraft.
“Natilus has a long-term commitment to being a responsible steward of our environment, instituting practices that can protect the environment through continual improvements to save fuel and water, reduce waste, air emissions, noise, and material consumption,” Aleksey Matyushev, co-founder, and CEO of Natilus, said.
He added: “The Natilus-ZeroAvia partnership goes further, bringing the talents and innovations of the two companies together to deliver much needed innovation in the air cargo delivery industry and multiple solutions for our customers.”
Natilus currently has more than $6.8 billion in order commitments, and 460+ aircraft in pre-orders, from companies including major airlines and integrators: Ameriflight, Volatus Aerospace, Flexport, Astral, Aurora International, and Dymond.
The company is now working on construction of a full-scale Kona technology demonstrator, which will have a wingspan of 85 feet (26 meters).
Development also continues on its aircraft, Alisio, a 60-ton payload medium/long range UAV and Nordes, 100-ton payload long-range UAV.
“Given Natilus’ impressive order book and corresponding technology development, working together on integrating the ZA600 as a line-fit engine for Kona can multiply the emissions and costs benefits that are already interesting cargo operators. We all depend on air cargo operators, and some communities depend on them absolutely, so improving the economics and environmental impacts of these operations while increasing service levels is a massive opportunity,” Val Miftakhov, Founder and CEO of ZeroAvia, said.