Controversial Chinese drone maker DJI debuts a cargo carrier
For dropping stuff in remote locations. Just don't mention the war in Ukraine, where DJI kit repeatedly appeared
Chinese drone-maker DJI, the subject of US sanctions, has released its first consumer cargo carrying drone – the FlyCart 30.
The all-weather $17,000 drone has four axes, eight carbon fiber propellers, and when equipped with a pair of self-heating batteries can can carry as much as 30kg over a distance of 16km. With no cargo and both batteries, it can fly 28km. The drone incorporates two batteries for resilience, but removing one allows it to carry 40kg of weight and hit a top speed of 20 meters per second. That's quite quick, even compared to an unladen African swallow.
It can also fly at altitudes of up to 6000 meters, in winds of up to 12meters/sec, and at temperatures ranging from -20°C to 45°C. No swallow can manage that.
The FlyCart 30 can be operated in two different cargo modes: with a container or a cable.
The container holds objects up to 70 liters of volume and, according to DJI, can be disassembled in under just three minutes. The cargo box also incorporates weight and center of gravity detection, to stabilize flight and ensure safety – for cargo and humans below.
But for operators who'd rather drop a container than land, cable mode offers automated and manual methods of releasing an attached package at the end of the cable. The drone can drop 20 meters of line and haul up payloads weighing 40kg. It incorporates anti-swing technology to keep the package from flying about.
If the cargo at the end of the cable makes contact with the ground, the cable automatically releases the cargo. The mechanism acts both as a practical means of delivering goods and as an emergency release that allows the drone to escape in what DJI calls "extreme cases."
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The drone's controller helps pilots to select an appropriate route based on mission requirements, equipment and weather. During flight, the UAV's active phased array radar and binocular vision system enable obstacle avoidance while an in-built ADS-B signal receiver detects and broadcasts its position.
Video transmission from the drone's camera can reach up to 20km, allowing for operation beyond line of sight thanks to a cloud platform and a piloting app that can be used by two different people. And because two separate pilots can control the plane, operation and coverage can be extended.
Furthermore, where a transmission signal is hindered, the drone can use 4G since it is equipped with a cellular dongle.
If everything goes pear-shaped, the drone's built-in parachute should allow a soft landing.
"In recent years, DJI's industrial-grade drone products have been widely used in many fields such as agriculture, energy, surveying and mapping, and security, and have become an indispensable productivity tool,” said DJI spokesperson Zhang Xiaonan.
A photo on DJI’s press release showcases the drone delivering solar panels to the side of a mountain.
But another obvious potential use of these drones is on the battlefield. DJI has declared in the past that it does not market or sell its products for military use, and in April of 2022, it suspended its operations in Russia and Ukraine.
However, the declaration must have fallen on some deaf ears. A few months later the Russian embassy was spotted praising another DJI product – the Mavic quadcopter – as a symbol of modern warfare. ®