The FAA has approved testing of the unusual flying boat, which designers view as primed for dangerous roles like firefighting and aerial application.
When we think of drones we tend to conjure images of miniature quadcopters flitting across the sky. That’s what makes the new FLYOX Mark II amphibious cargo drone so unusual. First, the thing is massive, with a ramp weight of 8,800 pounds and a 35-foot wingspan. It’s also the only drone we know of that’s also a taildragger and flying boat and a twin.
Last month the FAA approved a Certificate of Authorization (CoA) to set up flight operations for what is being touted the world’s largest commercial drone at Herington Airport in Kansas. Unmanned Aircraft International (UAI) headquartered in Casper, Wyoming, and Singular Aircraft of Barcelona, Spain, plan on flight testing the FLYOX Mark II Cargo Utility Drone, which its designers see as a safer alternative to risky flight ops like firefighting, crop dusting and search and rescue. The drone is expected to arrive in the United States from Spain in April.
Firefighting is seen as its main role, with a 530-gallon liquid tank about the same size as many other manned aircraft used to put out forest fires. The large tank also makes the FLYOX ideal for aerial application of crops, making Kansas a perfect place to test the drone. And because the tank can also carry fuel, the FLYOX could stay aloft for 50 hours at a time for SAR ops that would be impossible with a human crew.
The FLYOX doesn’t come cheap, however. Projected selling price is around $1 million a piece, making it one of the priciest civilian drones ever conceived. Plans call for building the aircraft in Kansas.