Pipistrel this week unveiled the first members of its Nuuva family of hybrid-powered cargo unmanned air vehicles (UAV). The Nuuva V300 will carry payloads of up to 300 kg (660 pounds) and is intended for longer-range operations, while the smaller Nuuva V20 is intended for last-mile deliveries with a payload of 20 kg (44 pounds).
The Slovenian company announced on September 1 that it is now taking orders for the new UAVs. The V300 is expected to enter service in the second half of 2023 and first deliveries of the V20 could be made as soon as early 2021. Both aircraft are fully autonomous and will operate pre-loaded flight plans.
According to Pipistrel, the Nuuva UAVs will be able to carry freights to locations that are not close to an airfield, providing a cost-effective replacement for helicopters currently used for this kind of mission. It claims the V300 will deliver operating costs that are around one-tenth of those incurred today by helicopter operators.
For takeoff and landing the V300 uses eight independent battery-powered Pipistrel E-811 electric motors, which are already type certified and drive eight vertical rotors installed on beams connected the aircraft’s tandem wings. The batteries can be recharged using the SkyCharge charging station introduced by Pipistrel and Green Motion in July. For cruise flight, the UAV is powered by an internal combustion engine driving a propeller at the rear of the fuselage.
The V300 can carry up to three standard-sized Euro cargo pallets (EPAL) that are loaded by a forklift truck. The UAV can be customized for a wide-variety of missions. For instance, by reducing payload and dispensing with anti-ice operating capability the aircraft can take more fuel and carry a 50 kg (110 pounds) payload up to 2,500 km (1,550 miles) while operating from altitudes as high as 8,000 feet. Taking off from lower altitudes and flying shorter distances, the full 460 kg payload can be carried.
The V20 is simply a scaled-down version of the same architecture. It is intended for lightweight, localized courier services.
Pipistrel is also developing a passenger-carrying eVTOL designated as the 801 model. However, in May 2020, the company confirmed that it is now prioritizing its plans for cargo UAVs and also a 19-seat regional airliner that is expected to be powered by hydrogen.