FORT WORTH (KYODO) - Consumers got a glimpse of the future when an unmanned delivery drone jointly developed by Japan's Yamato Holdings and US aerospace manufacturer Bell Helicopter Textron Inc made its first successful flight.
Autonomous Pod Transport 70 was tested at Bell's proving ground in the suburbs of Fort Worth, Texas, on Monday (Aug 26). The two companies hope to put the drone into service in Japan by the early 2020s, before taking it global.
The development of such drones comes amid rapid growth in parcel deliveries fostered by the trend for online shopping - the number of deliveries in Japan hit 4.25 billion in fiscal 2017, up 5.8 per cent on the previous year, transport ministry data showed.
During the test flight, the APT70 took off vertically and cruised horizontally about 50m off the ground for a few minutes, before landing vertically.
Bell said the aircraft can travel at 160kmh and carry up to 32kg.
"I feel we were able to take the big first step towards a new flight-based logistics service," said Yamato President Yutaka Nagao, who was at the test flight.
The drone - of which Bell built the body and Yamato the cargo pod - is 2.7m wide, 1.8m tall, and weighs approximately 160kg. It has a range of 56km and can operate in similar weather conditions to aircraft, the companies said.
Moves towards unmanned drones and robots to deliver logistics solutions have recently gained traction.
Japanese technology company NEC Corp demonstrated a prototype of an electric flying car this month, which it hopes to have in service by 2023 for the transportation of cargo.
Meanwhile, Amazon.com Inc has revealed plans to launch a drone-based delivery service in the coming months.