With the number of multi-rotor drone concepts competing for a narrow market share, you really need a unique selling point if you want to get your project off the ground. In the case of the developers of the Cargo Unmanned Air System (UAS), their point of difference is to claim a massive 60 kg (132 lb) lift capacity for their proof of concept, with the promise of an eventual production unmanned aerial vehicle that can carry payloads of up to 400 kg (880 lb) with automated "sense and avoid" capability.

The UAS team envisage that items such as mail and parcels, food and water, or even medical supplies and emergency equipment could all be delivered more quickly and securely than is possible with ground transport. As such, they argue that the increasing overcrowding on highways could be avoided using such a system but, more importantly, they believe that in emergency situations such as floods where existing road infrastructure has been damaged or is otherwise impassable, their UAS could be deployed to deliver medical supplies or food to stranded people.

The aircraft's design includes basic landing skids for simplicity, whilst its open frame platform provides greater safety for ground crews to load and unload payloads from the rear of the vehicle. The team further asserts that intrinsic shock absorbers contained between the two central structural frames and the landing skids provide for such unforeseen things as hard landings, and will provide damage protection to both the payload and the airframe.

In addition, the creators of the UAS state that their vehicle has multi-rotor redundancy that will allow the machine to continue flying even in the event of a motor failure. Coupled with a purported "Series Hybrid" propulsion system to add further elements of redundancy, the team also claims even greater safety and levels of redundancy. A ballistic recovery parachute is envisaged to be included on the platform as a standard adjunct to the other safety features.

The UAS prototype airframe without wing coverings and outer skin

Rounding out the claimed capabilities of this machine are a dual-layered flight controller system, onboard secure data links, optional satellite links and the ability to add other bespoke communications equipment within its airframe, as well as a "sense and avoid" capability incorporating a range of (as yet unannounced) sensors and automatic reaction mechanisms.

Lastly, the team believe that a vast array of arenas would benefit from the use of their platform, and claim that the fast reconfiguration of the airframe from such things as cargo carrier to chemical sprayer to search and rescue unit, would make their UAS a very useful multi-role solution to many airborne challenges.

Having recently started a Kickstarter campaign, the UAS team plans to have completed prototype construction by December this year, and foresees a client demonstration and trial airframe to be flying by August 2015, all going to plan. No dates or prices have been announced regarding fully-fledged commercial units.

The design team details the Cargo UAS in the Kickstarter pitch video below.

Sources: Kickstarter, Cargo UAS