World’s biggest drone — a 28-ton autonomous behemoth

by | Jun 15, 2021

Alabama rocket startup Aevum just unveiled the world’s biggest drone — a 28-ton autonomous behemoth that may soon rocket US military satellites into orbit

Jay Skylus, the CEO of autonomous launch startup Aevum, stands in front of a Ravn X rocket-launching drone. Aevum

Aevum, a quiet, scrappy, and ambitious rocket-launch startup, unveiled the biggest drone in the world on Wednesday.

Called Ravn X, the fully autonomous vehicle is 80 feet long, has a wingspan of 60 feet, and stands 18 feet tall. It’s not the largest unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) by size — the wings of Northrop Grumman’s MQ-4C Triton stretch nearly 131 feet. But the Ravn X wins on mass, weighing 55,000 pounds when you include the rocket that will drop out of its belly in midair and shoot a satellite into space.

Despite its unusual size and mission, the drone isn’t so different from your standard aircraft. It flies like a typical plane, and it and its rocket use Jet A, a very common kerosene-based fuel, says Jay Skylus, the CEO and founder of Aevum.

“We don’t need a launch site. All we need is a runway that’s one mile long and a hangar,” Skylus told Business Insider. (Even small commercial airports have runways that easily meet that mark.)

Aevum has toiled over the design for roughly five years in its makeshift headquarters: an old textile mill-turned-tech incubator in Alabama. Skylus said he mulled over the concept a decade prior to that as he hopped from NASA to one space startup after another. After being disappointed with the approaches he saw and resistance to new ideas, Skylus said, he scraped together a bit of funding and got to work with some aerospace colleagues.

Read more: A colossal rocket-launching drone is just one small part of Aevum’s bid to become the ‘Amazon of space,’ the startup’s founder says

Once Ravn X reaches the right location, speed, and altitude, its two-stage rocket is designed to drop, ignite within half a second, and launch a roughly 100-kilogram (220-lb) payload into low-Earth orbit. The approach is similar to air-launched rocket systems developed by Virgin Orbit’s and Pegasus, though Skylus claims Aevum’s unmanned version is more efficient, cost-effective, and enterprising.

Aevum is presenting a “new paradigm of access to space,” Skylus said. “There’s now ground launch, air launch, and autonomous launch.”

Autonomous launch to space within 180 minutes

Autonomous launch startup Aevum plans to use a Ravn X rocket-launching drone to send payloads to orbit within hours of a customer’s order. Aevum

More than 100 startups like Aevum exist in a pool of companies hoping to dominate the small-launch industry, or rockets able to fly payloads weighing 1,000 pounds or less to orbit. The market has surged in recent years with the shrinking size and increasing performance of electronics, plus a growing thirst for space-based images, data services, and more.

What Aevum has that few similar companies do, though, is the blessing and funding of the US Air Force. Last year, the Department of Defense contracted Aevum to launch a new mission called Agile Small Launch Operational Normalizer 45 (ASLON-45) for $4.9 million. The goal is to fly small, experimental satellites that can detect adversaries’ missile launches.

Aevum scooped up the contract in part because the company claims it can take a small satellite from a customer and get it into orbit within 180 minutes, if necessary — a task that’d typically take months to work out. Skylus said years of intensive software development have mostly automated the requisite launch paperwork, mission profiling, payload integration, and more. As a result, he said, Aevum needs only about 10% of the staff typically required for launching rockets.

“We are not just a launch company — I can’t emphasize that enough,” he said.

Lt. Col. Ryan Rose, a chief within Kirtland Air Force Base’s Space and Missile Systems Center, visited Aevum this week at the Cecil Spaceport-based launch facility in Jacksonville, Florida.

“I’m excited to see the bold innovation and responsiveness in development today by our small launch industry partners to support emerging warfighter needs,” she said in an Aevum press release. “The US Space Force is proactively partnering with industry to support US space superiority objectives. Having a robust US industry providing responsive launch capability is key to ensuring the US Space Force can respond to future threats.”

Aevum and the USAF hope to get ASLON-45 off the ground by mid-2021.

“There’s really no reason for us to not be ready. ASLON-45, like the name implies, is an agile mission. What we’re really trying to show is not that small launch vehicles can deliver stuff to orbit — Rocket Lab is already doing that,” Skylus said, referring to the New Zealand small-launch company that recently flew its sixteenth mission to orbit.

He added: “What we’re proving is agility, flexibility, responsiveness, and operational efficiency. This is a brand-new architecture, and a brand-new launch vehicle that’s never been conceived.”

Skylus, the CEO of Aevum, says his company is “being credited with having invented a brand new paradigm of access to space.” Aevum

Skylus acknowledged the fear some people have of drones generally, and one carrying a big rocket specifically. But he said the company is working very closely with the Federal Aviation Administration to ensure Ravn X is extremely safe to fly and launch payloads to space.

An agency spokesperson declined an interview request by told Business Insider, but noted Aevum said it plans to apply for a launch license in 2021.

“When you start looking into all of this … the line between a piloted commercial airliner versus our launch vehicle really starts to blur,” Skylus said. “It’s hard to tell where one’s more safe than the other, and why a person might feel more comfortable with in a giant Boeing airplane flying over you, every single day, versus this one.”

Content retrieved from: https://www.businessinsider.com/aevum-unveils-largest-drone-world-ravn-x-rocket-launching-uav-2020-12?utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=sf-bi-cars&fbclid=IwAR3Ci22rPP6JLcrC98GkoNZ8-_RTb1IcXhmVZ9Hr4GEzGRGXXW0DIEqonUY&r=US&IR=T.

Robot compare

Science Fiction or Science Fact?

Is there a difference between Science Fiction and Science Fact? Well in most cases there are, however as technology relentlessly moves forward the line between

Wireless In-Flight Drone Recharging Tech For Prime Air

Amazon Prime Air is a drone delivery service that Amazon has been touting for almost four years now. Amazon’s drone delivery service delivered its first package on December 7, 2016. Almost four years later, it’s still a “future delivery system.” What’s missing? Probably something like wireless in-flight drone recharging from the tiny Portland-based Global Energy […]

3d printed rocket Relativity

3D printed rockets – the future of space exploration

Full-duration test of Aeon 1 rocket engine. Relativity Space said Monday that the company has successfully completed a full-duration test-firing of its Aeon 1 rocket engine, running it at full power for 187 seconds. The test at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi took place with all of the engine’s key components—including turbopumps, injector, and […]

Drone Privacy Laws Around the World

As the use of drones expands around the world — according to the Federal Aviation Administration, there are currently 1.7 million drones registered in the United States alone — lawmakers have been faced with new and complex regulatory challenges to protect the privacy of ordinary citizens. The increased prevalence of drones has raised the prospect […]

Switching to Skydio and Increase Per-Pilot Revenue 37%

This blog is a teaser and summary of a longer-form written case study, available here at Skydio.com. One of the best parts of my job is talking to customers and listening to their stories about the way that Skydio 2 is changing the way they fly and in some cases, the way they fundamentally do […]

Fotokite – Tethered 24hr First Responder Drone

Fotokite already offers a clever response to two challenges for deploying drones: limited battery life and the need for a certified pilot. And now it’s tackling a third challenge with its new product: How to deploy a drone as quickly as possible in a first responder situation. Drones can be a tremendous asset to first […]

Skydio Autonomy™. A new age of drone intelligence

In last week’s blog, I shared with you some of the ways Skydio X2 was built to meet the needs of some of the drone industry’s most forward-thinking fleets. This week, I’d like to share some ideas about autonomy — what true autonomy is and why it matters, and how it will impact drone operations […]

DRONAMICS Announces World’s First Cargo Droneport Network

DRONAMICS, the world’s leading middle-mile cargo drone developer and operator, today unveiled the first 5 airports in its European network of cargo droneports. The DRONAMICS European Droneport Network is the world’s first cargo droneport network and includes private airports and airport groups operating more than 35 airports in 11 European countries, connecting 300 million […]

Non-Stop Flight from California to Sicily Completes NATO UAV Squadron

An RQ-4D Phoenix UAV from Northrop Grumman Corporation completed a 20-hour non-stop trans-Atlantic flight from California to Sicily, where it joined the NATO Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS) squadron on Nov. 12 at Sigonella Air Base. The air vehicle is the last of five NATO RQ-4D aircraft, completing deliveries to the Main Operating Base (MOB) of […]

Anti-Jam GPS for Army’s Gray Eagle UAV Awarded to Cobham

For its flagship Gray Eagle UAV, the U.S. Army with lead contractor General Atomics Aeronautical Systems has selected an anti-jam GPS system from Cobham Aerospace Connectivity. The MQ-1C ER Gray Eagle Extended Range (GE-ER) Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) platform is a medium-altitude, long-endurance (MALE) unmanned aircraft system (UAS) developed as an upgrade to the MQ-1 […]

Request a NO OBLIGATION quote

The cost of a survey or inspection is simple to calculate, but is dependant on the mission and its location. Please provide details in order to complete an accurate quotation.  Get in touch we’ll be happy to provide a no obligation quotation

“Opportunities for the commercial application of drones is set to continue to grow…”

Digital Marketing Solutions

Have you looked at creating a promo for your business and found it too costly and complicated?

It’s time to impress your client base with affordable marketing solutions from Helix UAV. We can create a fully edited promotional film or you can have the raw footage (it’s yours).

To take your businesses potential to the next level lets show them what you’ve got.

3D imaging of objects and structures that can be interactively manipulated on your web page for your marketing purposes is now possible. You no longer need NASA you need Helix UAV.

Aerial Inspection

Aerial Surveying

Aerial Media

Aerial Imaging

Icon Logo for Helix UAV Drone Services 2

CORONAVIRUS

 

Government organisations or subsidiaries wishing to request assistance from Helix UAV during this extremely difficult time can send their requests via our dedicated email address:

 

coronavirus@helixuav.com

 

07480 041928

 

Please use the form below if you wish to subscribe to our news service. Please follow government guidelines and stay safe

 

HELIX UAV

 

 
 
 

You have sent your message