Sabrewing Aircraft Company this week logged the first commercial orders for its Rhaegal-B unmanned eVTOL cargo aircraft. Through a deal to buy 102 examples of the aircraft, Arabian Development & Marketing Co. (ADMC) has become the exclusive sales representative for Saudi Arabia; the five other states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), namely Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates; and Africa.
The agreement, announced on September 29, is valued at over $600 million, which implies a unit price for the aircraft of around $5.9 million. ADMC says it expects to soon start taking deposit-backed orders from prospective operators throughout the GCC region and Africa.
According to Sabrewing, the deal with ADMC will also result in the Riyadh-based company establishing aircraft assembly, maintenance, repair, and overhaul facilities in Saudi Arabia and some sites in Africa to service the Rhaegal-B fleet.
The hybrid-electric Rhaegal-B is intended to be remotely piloted for commercial operations and fully autonomously in military service. It is expected to be able to carry a 5,400-pound payload on sectors of up to around 1,150 miles, flying at altitudes of up to 22,000 feet and speeds of 230 mph.
Despite some delays to flight testing caused by disruption from the Covid-19 pandemic, California-based Sabrewing expects to achieve Part 23 certification from both the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration and the European Union Aviation Safety Agency at some point in 2022. ADMC will receive the first aircraft during the fourth quarter of 2021, and Sabrewing is also working on achieving certification in Saudi Arabia and the other countries served by its new distributor.
Sabrewing is one of four eVTOL developers now actively engaged in type certification campaigns with the FAA. According to chairman and CEO Ed De Reyes, it is the only company so far that has applied for a production certificate. This month, it was set to start building the first full-size Rhaegal-B prototypes at its facilities in the San Francisco Bay area.
The Rhaegal-B will be able to carry standard air freight industry unit load devices. It will have room for two LD-1 containers and four smaller LD-2 units or two LD-3s. The aircraft features folding wings to make it more maneuverable in tight spaces on the ground and also a folding nose to facilitate loading and unloading.
According to Sabrewing, the aircraft promises to deliver significantly greater payload and range than other eVTOL designs being developed for freight operations. If it operates in conventional takeoff and landing mode, it will have a maximum payload of up to around 10,000 pounds.
“This agreement brings emerging-technology, heavy-lift, unmanned cargo capability to the Middle Eastern and Pan-African marketplace. It also brings advanced technologies in composites manufacturing, drone development, and avionics sensor integration to our region,” commented ADMC general manager Ayman Zeibak. “In addition to transporting critical supplies to our most remote regions, high-tech local jobs are being created.”
Under its Agility Prime program, the U.S. Air Force is evaluating a smaller model called the Rhaegal-A under a $3.25 million contract awarded in April under the AFWERX Small Business Innovative Research Phase II project. The evaluation is intended to assess the autonomous aircraft’s detect-and-avoid capability, as well as confirm its ability to operate in environments where GPS signals are jammed or unavailable. The trials simulate operations with typical military cargo payloads and casualty evacuation missions.
De Reyes told FutureFlight that he hopes the U.S. military will eventually purchase a version of the Rhaegal-B that would be operated under the name Aleut. The indigenous Aleut community of St Paul Island in Alaska has agreed to let Sabrewing use the site for test purposes and has expressed an interest in using the aircraft for supply operations.
The Rhaegal-B is about twice the size of the -A model. Sabrewing is also working on a model called the Wyvern, which would be twice as large again.