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Heavy Lift in the Final Mile

New Drone Concept Claims 440-Lb Payload Capability

New Drone Concept Claims 440-Lb Payload Capability

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A new concept drone from Kawasaki Heavy Industries is putting emphasis on the heavy.

The K-Racer-X2, unveiled this month, aims to autonomously deliver payloads of up to 440 pounds with zero human intervention, according to the Japan-based manufacturer.

The prototype will undergo real world testing flying cargo missions to remote cabins in mountainous areas of Japan. A production model aims to complete heavy-lift cargo deliveries, potentially including last-mile retail applications, that can’t be supported by smaller, existing drone technologies, according to Kawasaki.

Current drones employed by Walmart through several companies utilize smaller, quad-rotor type drones, with a weight limit of just 10 pounds. Kawasaki’s prototype looks more like a scaled-down modern helicopter, with a variety of potential uses.

Known mostly in the United States as a manufacturer of motorcycles and small off-road vehicles, Kawasaki also has a long history in the aviation field. They build both licensed and clean-sheet-design crewed helicopters, and built airplanes and flying boats as far back as the 1940s.

There’s plenty of motorcycle DNA in the new KRacer drones, though, as both the original KRacer concept from 2022 and the X2 are powered by the supercharged, 1,000cc gasoline engine originally designed to deliver the speed to Kawasaki’s Ninja H2R racing bike.

Yamaha, another Japanese manufacturer also known for their motorcycles, is also in the drone game, but with a different focus. Yamaha pitches their unmanned helicopter drones through Napa Valley-based Yamaha Precision Agriculture for aerial spray applications and crop management.

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