US Air Force Receives First Electric Cargo Plane from California Startup

US Air Force Receives First Electric Cargo Plane from California Startup

The US Air Force’s network of innovators, AFWERX, received the first electric autonomous freight jet from Silicon Valley firm Pyka.

Currently supplying electric aircraft to the US Air Force, the Silicon Valley firm was founded in 2017 in the garage of CEO Michael Norcia’s parents.

Pyka first concentrated on crop spraying in an environment with less rules and obstacles. In May 2019, the Egret, the company’s initial model, received certification in New Zealand, making it the first human-scale electric aircraft intended for commercial usage.

Pyka tested its second-generation electric aircraft, the Pelican, in January 2020. The aircraft’s new features and design allowed it to carry more than three times the payload of its predecessor.

In late 2020, Pyka started to produce the Pelican in serial quantities following the conclusion of load and flight testing. At its Oakland, California location, the majority of the manufacturing is completed. A few months later, in April 2021, the Pelican started working in Costa Rica, spraying bananas.

The largest electric autonomous freight plane in the world, the Pelican freight, was unveiled by Pyka in January of last year, making history once more.

The US Air Force receives its first electric freight plane from Pyka

On Tuesday, the California-based business declared that it had given AFWERX its first Pelican electric freight aircraft.

The Secretary of the Air Force created AFWERX in 2017 as an innovation organization to find ways to enhance Air Force capabilities.

The electric aircraft will be used by the US Air Force Agility Prime program to enhance the capabilities of the Department of Air Force (DAF). Lt Col John Tekell, Chief of the Agility Prime Branch, expressed his excitement for the milestone by stating that the program aims to get further insights into the “deployment and operational capabilities of electric aircraft through this contract.”

According to Pyka, efforts are currently underway to deliver “innovative solutions that could strengthen the national defense.”

In its class, the Pelican Cargo is the biggest autonomous aircraft. It doesn’t need much supervision, can take off and land from far-off locations, and can recharge in 90 minutes (or you can swap batteries).

DAF is “an ideal customer,” according to Pyka’s CEO, for the long-range electric aircraft. The Pelican Cargo can go up to 200 miles on a single charge thanks to four electric motors that provide 100 kW of power each and a 50 kWh lithium-ion battery (with a 20 min reserve).

Additionally, the aircraft can carry up to 400 pounds in cargo. Loading can be completed in as little as five minutes when a cargo tray slides. With the addition of GPS and laser/radar-based navigation, the electric aircraft can even fly at night.

Out of the three Pelicans that AFWERX will lease, this one was the first electric cargo plane. The US Air Force will use it to research defense logistics applications.