Tell us about your experience in the field of UAVs and what were your fields of expertise before venturing into UAVs?
The Chief Technical Officer, Rod Turner served a 5-year apprenticeship in Mechanical / Electrical engineering at the Royal Aircraft Establishment, a UK based Ministry of Defence, Aerospace research and development facility. Rod has built a reputation working on many challenging projects including a Gyrocopter via the Chamber of Commerce Western Australia, Drone shark detection for the World Surfing League and Rio Tinto’s Autonomous train project to name a few. Rod has completed well over a 100 Product designs for companies like the ABC, Alcoa, BHP, Eurosport, Honeywell, Panasonic, NTL and multiple “Startup technology companies”.
As the CEO, I have an Electrical Engineering degree from UOW and MBA from MGSM with a depth of Engineering, Logistics and Manufacturing experience in food and beverage for Coca Cola, Fosters Group, HVCCC and start up technologies geared for commercial mass manufacture.
What are the various products currently Autono Drone has in offer currently?
Autono DroneTM is an Australian Technology company based in Perth, developing, and manufacturing heavy payload Autonomous, Vertical Take off and Landing (VTOL) and Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) cargo drones (Patent Pending). Autono Drone has focussed on providing an efficient solution for the middle and last mile logistics problem.
Specifically, Autono Drone is building a family of scalable cargo drones starting with the A200 that is designed to carry 200kg (440 pounds) directly in the hull or in a compact cargo pod for a range of up to 780km (484 miles) and can land/take off from a small footprint using GPS co-ordinates. The unique scalable design gives Autono Drone the ability to scale and increase payloads from initially 200kg to 500kg, 1,000kg and 2,500kg.
The A200TM range utilises a Rotax engine that can operate on new carbon neutral synthetic fuels that are coming to market and Autono Drone is a designated Rotax original equipment manufacturer.
The A200 series includes the following models,
The A200-CP (Cargo Pod) model features convenient cargo pods with detachable lid that can be refrigerated and are available with castors or forklift access points, providing logistics customers with a ready-made, off-the-shelf mobile solution that can easily integrate into existing logistics systems and processes. The automated, easy-to-load-unload cargo pods, ensure secure and efficient deliveries without the need for manual intervention by humans.
The A200 Standard model has an empty cargo hull for manual loading and unloading which provides for greater volume and payload capacity of 225kg.
The A200-LR (Long Range) model has additional underfloor fuel tanks which provides a much longer range of 780km.
The A200-OF (Open Frame) model has no cargo doors or belly and as such is designed to carry an increased payload of 250kg and is a customisable platform for applications such as cargo net operations, pilotless firefighting and crop spraying and seeding.
The A200-CS (Crop Spray) model is designed to have componentry for Autonomous crop spraying fitted. A significant issue for the agriculture industry is soil compaction, Autono Drone plans to find an appropriate partner to develop this technology including AI assisted crop spray target identification. Further, the opportunity exists to partner and develop crop seeding capability. In both cases this give farmers the ability to create crop maps of their fields and deploy the A200 autonomously without the need for pilots or the negative effects of soil compaction.
Can you elaborate on the technologies that you are working on and industries you would like to serve?
Cargo Drone technology is the way of the future for logistics applications, the A200 is designed to be completely autonomous, meaning the A200 can take off vertically, fly a designated flight route and land vertically on a small footprint without the need for a pilot, runway, or other infrastructure, however, if required, can be piloted remotely at any stage of flight. The autonomous BVLOS capability coupled with an efficient VTOL design provides Autono Drone’s customers with a suite of versatile applications including,
- Middle and last-mile logistics
- Urgent spare parts for remote sites like farms, mine, and drill sites
- Transportation of refrigerated good such as pharmaceuticals
- Crop spraying and seeding to avoid soil compaction
- Transporting high-value goods
- Aerial firefighting
- Emergency response including disaster and humanitarian relief
What are some of the important points to be noted based on your observations on the cargo Drone industry, more specific to BVLOS Operations?
Logistics companies have a real need for autonomous, heavy payload and long-range cargo drones now and into the future. It is not just about companies like Autono Drone developing and manufacturing Cargo Drones with significant scale specifications including autonomous BVLOS capability, it is also about the various regulatory bodies, Logistics companies and UAV manufacturers working together to produce a cohesive and internationally workable system that allows this segment of the Logistics Industry to grow in a safe manner that ultimately becomes a benefit to humanity.
UAVs in general are either fixed wings or multi rotors. Is there any specific reason for choosing the helicopter over the other designs?
Before Autono Drone was formed as a company we had spent 5 years researching the cargo drone market and had concluded that existing battery technology (energy storage density) made it very difficult to be able to carry heavy payloads of 200kg+ over very long distances 480km+. We understand that potential logistic customer need and want a robust solution now that can easily integrate into existing supply chains. A key criterion was VTOL capability, so it became a design exercise in how to satisfy all those criteria using an internal combustion engine. We ended with 3 or 4 concepts, but the tandem rotor was the logical choice because,
- efficiency of design – two key aspects when creating our design was a versatile and robust utility of application for our potential customers and secondly, ease of mass manufacturing at best cost.
- scalability – we can scale our design to 500kg, 1,000kg and 2,500kg easily.
- No need for charging stations and fuel can be carried as part of the payload for refueling for next trip at remote destinations.
- Rotax engines can operate on emerging carbon neutral synthetic fuels such as Zero Petroleum.
- No fixed wing means not carrying additional weight whilst in flight and a small landing and takeoff footprint.
- Speed to market vs prolonged R&D project.
As a Co-Founder & CEO, what are your plans for the expansion of Autono Drone both in terms of products and the business?
We are focussed on moving to commercialise rapidly, the beauty of Autono Drone’s design DNA is the ease of rapid mass manufacture and deployment of manufacturing capability globally to meet an expected increase in demand for our Cargo Drone solutions. Autono Drone is targeting test flights of the A200 prototype in Q1 2024 and manufacturing Q4 2024 at a maximum rate of 5 x A200 units per week on a single 8-hour shift basis at its planned manufacturing facility in Perth, Australia. The finished A200 Drones can easily be transported by conventional containers, in numbers, or can be transported as single units in a large van or truck. Further, we expect to finalise the A500 design in 2024 with first production in 2025 and similarly so with the A1000 design completion in 2025 and first production in 2026.
As we build out our offering and business, we can then focus on other opportunities to employ hybrid or pure electric designs as battery technology progresses. Ultimately my vison is to create an integrated vessel and drone system to be able to autonomously load and unload containers from sea vessels anchored offshore, negating the need for land-based port infrastructure.
What are the current investing opportunities available with Autono Drones & what is the process to associate with you?
We are currently preparing for a post seed offering. The best way to contact us is to visit our website https://autono-drone.com and use our contact form. We are also open to customer and partnering enquiries.
Phone: +61 409 143 004