Japan's Yamato Holdings has teamed up with Bell Helicopter Textron of the U.S. to jointly develop an unmanned "flying truck" as the logistics industry turns to technology to overcome a shortage of workers, Kyodo News reported.
Yamato eyes using the flying truck for medium-to-long-distance cargo shipments, rather than small home deliveries. The cargo container will be designed so that it can be smoothly loaded onto
trucks and other vehicles. The companies will test-fly a roughly 1.5-meter-long prototype carrying about 30 kg by August 2019.
Bell Helicopters will build the body while Yamato will create the container for cargo. The craft will ascend vertically to a designated height and then travel horizontally, carrying up to 450 kg at roughly 160 kph.
Yamato’s answer to manpower shortage
Not unlike other countries, Japan's logistics industry is raising prices for home deliveries and shifting shipments from trucks to boats or rail. Yamato is hurrying to develop next-generation delivery methods that can alleviate obstacles such as aging drivers, issues that are expected to grow worse down the road, the Kyodo report said.
Japan's economy and transportation ministries began to debate rules for flying cars at a public-private panel in August that touched on logistics uses. A road map will be compiled as early as this year, with an eye toward commercialisation by the middle of the next decade.
Such vehicles are expected to help ease traffic jams in urban areas and be used in mountainous areas and remote islands as well as in the event of natural disasters.
Nol van Fenema