Skyports Drone Services Demonstrates Heavy Lift for Royal Navy Logistics and Humanitarian Use Cases

  • Heavy payload flight tests completed with Pyka Pelican Cargo

London, UK, 4th October 2023 – Skyports Drone Services, the global leader in drone deliveries, surveys and monitoring, has today announced its successful participation in phase two of the Royal Navy Uncrewed Aerial Systems Heavy Lift Challenge (UASHLC) with Pelican Cargo, a fully autonomous and 100% electric, heavy-payload aircraft made by Pyka, the California-based leader in industrial autonomous electric aircraft technology. During the challenge, the drone operator demonstrated Pelican Cargo’s heavy payload capacity and extended range capabilities to an audience of senior members of the UK Ministry of Defence and the Royal Navy at the UASHLC test site in Predannack, Cornwall. 

Pyka’s Pelican Cargo aircraft, which was added to the Skyports Drone Services fleet in Q1 2023, is a revolution in uncrewed aerial systems (UAS) technology and is the world’s largest fully automated and 100% electric cargo aircraft. With a payload of up to 175kg, a range of up to 350km, and the ability to operate with minimal ground infrastructure, Pelican Cargo is designed to enhance on-demand delivery networks and enable reliable logistics in remote regions. The aircraft has joined Skyports Drone Services’ existing line-up of UAS solutions to complement and strengthen its heavy-payload autonomous electric flight capabilities. 

Through its successful completion of the second phase of the UASHLC, Skyports Drone Services demonstrated Pelican Cargo’s operational facility for long range beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) flights and maritime missions, as well as its ability to safely transport medical supplies and equipment within a humanitarian aid context for the Royal Navy. 

“Highly automated, heavy lift, BVLOS drone delivery operations are a gamechanger for hard-to-reach and remote places,” said Alex Brown, Director of Skyports Drone Services. 

“Watching Pelican Cargo take off from UK soil for the first time was a huge milestone that marks an evolution in our UAS capabilities. Our work on the Royal Navy Heavy Lift Challenge will continue to push the boundaries of uncrewed aviation to find cutting-edge solutions that support humanitarian aid and logistics operations. We’re proud to be recognised as a leading drone operator and apply our extensive operational experience to push the adoption of sustainable drone logistics solutions.” 

In the initial phase of the challenge, Skyports Drone Services worked with Pyka to customise Pelican Cargo for the Royal Navy’s unique selection requirements. The companies then completed ground demonstrations to secure their spot in phase two of the challenge, which gave them the opportunity to participate in live flight demonstrations at UASHLC’s Predannack test site.

“We are delighted to partner with Skyports Drone Services and proud to have deployed Pelican Cargo in the Royal Navy’s prestigious Heavy Lift Challenge,” said Michael Norcia, Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Pyka. 

“Pelican Cargo is one of the most technologically advanced solutions on the market for large-scale autonomous electric air cargo transportation. This demonstration proved Pelican Cargo’s technological suitability for the Royal Navy’s needs, as set forth by the UASHLC.” 

James Morris, Future Capability Group Maritime Head at MoD DE&S, said: “The purpose of Heavy Lift Capability has been to stimulate the market and accelerate platform technologies in the 100-200kg lift capability in order to de-risk future programmes of work within the Royal Navy and beyond. The UASHLC commercial approach has been key to enabling this acceleration, creating an eco-structure for industry to thrive within.”

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Entry into the UASHLC and the completion of successful flight demonstrations with Pelican Cargo represents Skyports Drone Services’ further development of operational expertise, their promotion of industry advancement, and commitment to pushing the boundaries of drone services for logistics, monitoring and survey use-cases. Phase three of the UASHLC will begin in 2024, with the Royal Navy and MOD continuing to explore use cases for heavy lift uncrewed aircraft.

About the UASHLC 

The Heavy Lift Challenge, developed jointly between the Royal Navy and DES FCG, seeks to explore and evaluate how commercially available remotely pilots air systems can be used in a Royal Navy context. The programme encourages commercial drone companies to develop solutions that have the potential to deliver vital supplies such as medical equipment and humanitarian resources to marine vessels and personnel at sea. The implementation of uncrewed aerial vehicles facilitates greater flexibility, reduced emissions and, importantly, increased personnel safety. 

About Skyports Drone Services 

Skyports Drone Services is the leading uncrewed drone airline. The company is on a mission to elevate access, safety and efficiency through the provision of best-in-class drone operations across a diverse range of industries and use cases, including maritime, healthcare, energy and infrastructure. 

Headquartered in London, UK, Skyports Drone Services operates across Asia, North America, South America, and Europe. The company’s investors include Deutsche Bahn Digital Ventures, Groupe ADP, Irelandia Aviation, Levitate Capital, Solar Ventus, The Goodman Group, Kanematsu Corporation, Ardian, F2i, GreenPoint, and ST Engineering Ventures. 

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About Pyka 

Pyka is defining the future of fast, environmentally friendly, and accessible aviation with industrial autonomous electric airplanes for commercial agricultural spray and cargo transport. Pyka’s proprietary technology includes autonomous flight control software, flight computers, high energy density batteries, advanced electric propulsion systems, and carbon composite airframes. To learn more about Pyka, visit