Ameriflight has become the first regional US carrier to sign an aircraft purchase agreement with Natilus – a company producing an autonomous aircraft for “efficient and sustainable” freight transport.
The order for 20 Natilus Kona blended-wing-body feeder cargo aircraft is valued at US$134 million.
This brings total orders for Natilus aircraft to more than 460, valued at US$6.8 billion.
Part 135 cargo airline Ameriflight serves 200 destinations throughout the US, Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and South America, with more than 1,500 weekly departures. Its primary business is moving high priority air freight to and from remote areas across the country for overnight express carriers.
“Through this strategic partnership, we are positioning Ameriflight to build the roadmap for the future in cargo operations and be the first regional operator for Natilus in the US,” said Ameriflight’s president and chief operating officer Alan Rusinowitz.
“Our goal is to grow our product and transform the way we do business through innovation and collaboration, and now through this new partnership with Natilus, Ameriflight will connect the world safely within a sustainable business model.”
Natilus’ co-founder and CEO Aleksey Matyushev commented: “Innovation in design allows the Natilus fleet to carry more volume at lower costs, and the exploration of new sustainable fuels will lower carbon emissions. The Ameriflight agreement is a major move forward for the air cargo industry to strengthen the regional supply chain.”
Natilus said its carbon fibre, blended-wing-body aircraft offer a 60 per cent reduction in the cost of operations and cut carbon emissions by half, “enabling the opening of new and emerging markets in remote areas where larger aircraft do not have the runway capacity and/or infrastructure to land, through both scheduled and specialised operations. This will provide needed medicines, food, and other important goods to develop these outlying areas.”
Matyushev added: “Developing autonomous solutions that are purpose-built to address the needs of the air cargo market is one important step toward developing more robust long-term solutions. Autonomous technologies seek to utilise labour more efficiently by allowing a single pilot to control multiple aircraft, helping address the dire pilot shortage.”