California Start-Up Wants to Replace Container Ships With Giant Drones
Aleksey Matyushev, Anatoly Starikov and LZ Zhang might drive spell-check nuts with the name of their company, Natilus Inc., due to its similarity to “nautilus.” However, by the end of the year, the trio might also drive investors, associates and shipping industry personnel wild through the implementation of a 30-foot prototype drone that could prove a cost-effective alternative to cargo planes and vessels.
Many might look at the California-based individuals’ plan and scoff at it as another means to replace humans with machines, but the overseers have the makings of what could be a very lucrative brainchild, especially given that their desire to build hundreds of the unmanned aerial vehicles could find them outsourcing some construction elements. They will cross that bridge (or ocean, in this case) when they make it there. For now, though, the three are hoping to debut their drone this year.
The drone-plane-ship trifecta presents an interesting look at cost and time allotment in shipping goods. The Natilus masterminds hope to propel their ingenuity all the way to China by 2020, with an 80-foot drone from Los Angeles to Hawaii preceding a 140-foot gadget’s journey to Asia two years later. Should they succeed, they have claimed that the latter journey, which would send a 200,000 pound freight shipment from the City of Angels to Shanghai, would take about 30 hours and cost around $130,000. By contrast, though a Boeing 747’s excursion would take only 11 hours, it would come with a price tag near $260,000. A ship would convey the goods for just $61,000 but would require three weeks to reach the world’s most populous country.
Relying on jet engine power, the initial drone and the subsequent gizmos would take off from and land on water, with the elimination of landing gear, long landing strips and paid crew members, along with reduced fuel costs due to a more gradual trek, making their widespread introduction a potentially huge shakeup for the industry. An NBC News look at the burgeoning concept called on Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University assistant professor Dr. John Michael Robbins to tab the cargo drone concept “extremely feasible.” It also stated that what Matyushev, Starikov and Zhang are envisioning for the future of transoceanic shipping depends not only on scientific know-how and validation from the Federal Aviation Administration but also acceptance from the public, whose goods, after all, are what the drones would make take flight.