Super heavy-lift drone manufacturer to open Florida plant. Photo courtesy of Griff Aviation North America
A Columbia Helicopters CH-47D Chinook has a maximum hook weight of 26,000 pounds. While there are no commercial unmanned aircraft systems on the market that can lift that much weight, there is one company set to compete in the heavy-lift market.
Griff Aviation North America's component supplier, Griff Aviation of Alesund, Norway, plans to build drones that can lift nearly one ton of weight, it said. The company has already built a prototype that can lift hundreds of pounds and is working on a larger one that can carry nearly 2,000 pounds. Based in Florida, the new assembly plant is set to build six drones each week for distribution throughout North America, with plans to increase capacity as needed.
Heavy-lift drones would be targeted mainly at the construction field or for other utility missions. But Griff Aviation said it plans to produce four basic airframes with options for up to 20 different accessory packages. The company hopes to accommodate the industrial, agricultural and military markets. Flight times can run from 20 to 45 minutes, depending on payload, with the option for added battery packs. With a 500-foot electronic tether, it can fly indefinitely.
The company claims its drones “will soon become the first and only” commercial drones certified by EASA, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and the FAA.
“The global consumer drone industry is expected to climb to a value of nearly $4 billion over the next ten years. Given that drone technology has so many numerous commercial, industrial, and military applications (the defense drone market is already worth around $8 billion), the future for drone growth looks incredibly bright,” the company said. “It is anticipated that in the U.S., the FAA will be soon be announcing major changes in the regulation of all drones weighing over 55 pounds and used commercially. Presumably this will open the floodgates for companies currently awaiting the green light from the authorities.”