Unmanned vehicle and autopilot specialist UAVOS is developing a heavy-lift,
long-range delivery drone based on the Robinson R22 light helicopter.
The company also is proposing conversion of the Schweizer S300 light
Converted to unmanned operation, the two-seat, piston-powered R22 can
carry a payload up to 180 kg (400 lb.) and fly up to 1,020 km (550 nm), UAVOS
The experimental R22 is in flight testing at a UAVOS customer, the King
Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology, a government scientific institution
in Saudi Arabia.
According to UAVOS, the specific advantages of the R22 for unmanned cargo
operations include long endurance—up to 6 hr.—and its ability to operate in
harsh weather, including high winds.
“At the moment we’re working on this project with some customers from
America and Canada,” UAVOS said. “We will start the certication process
when we have a contract.”
Frontier Systems developed an unmanned version of the R22, called the
Maverick, in 1999 as a flight-control system testbed for the A150 Hummingbird
long-endurance unmanned aircraft. The U.S. Navy acquired a handful for special operations. Others were used for research.
U.S. startup Skyryse has flown a larger Robinson R44 equipped with
autonomous flight control and plans to modify the helicopters for use as urban
Another company, Tier 1 Engineering, has modified an R44 to electric
propulsion under a project funded by Lung Biotechnology to develop
unmanned vehicles to deliver manufactured organs for transplants.
UAVOS sees several potential roles for an unmanned R22 such as delivering
lifesaving supplies on search-and-rescue missions, flying in drugs to combat
an epidemic and ferrying cargo from a large freighter aircraft to a main
logistics base for distribution.
The unmanned R22 can take off and land automatically on any 50 x 50-ft. level
space and cruise at 100 mph. The helicopter has a maximum takeoff weight of
635 kg and a payload with full fuel of 40 kg. The unmanned S300 would have a
payload of up to 300 kg, range of 1,400 km and endurance of 14 hr.
Download article (PDF)
Graham leads Aviation Week's coverage of technology,
focusing on engineering and technology across the
aerospace industry, with a special focus on identifying
technologies of strategic importance to aviation, aerospace
16 January 2020