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Watch this huge autonomous cargo drone complete its maiden flight

Another delivery drone has just buzzed into view, and this one’s a giant.

Built by aerospace manufacturer Bell, the Autonomous Pod Transport 70 — or APT 70 for short — is a 180-cm-tall Vertical Takeoff and Landing (VTOL) aircraft that can carry cargo weighing up to 70 pounds at a top speed of 100 mph. Range comes in at 18 miles on a single charge.

The larger-than-usual quadcopter, complete with its centrally located cargo compartment, took to the skies for the first time this month for a test flight at Bell’s base in Fort Worth, Texas.

A video (above) of the successful outing shows the APT 70 using its four rotors to rise steadily into the air before tilting 90 degrees and switching to a propulsion system to push it through the sky, with its four legs utilized as wings for improved flight efficiency. As it comes into land, it tilts back into its standing position before gently touching down.

The flying machine can reach nearly twice the speed of similarly designed multi-rotor alternatives, and has been designed with a specific focus on rapid deployment, quick reconfiguration, and fast battery swap and recharge.

Bell says the APT 70, as well as the smaller APT 20 that it tested last year, can be used for a range of delivery tasks.

“The APT is designed to be capable of various mission sets, from package delivery to critical medical transport to disaster relief,” Bell executive Scott Drennan said in a release, adding, ”We believe this capability will change the way unmanned aerial systems are used commercially in the future.”

The company, which has more than 80 years of experience in the broader aerospace industry, is preparing to use the APT 70 in a simulated flight mission next year in a bid to demonstrate its readiness for full commercial operations once regulators eventually loosen the rules to allow flights in built-up areas and beyond the operator’s line of sight.

Bell is also working with Yamato, one of Japan’s largest door-to-door delivery firms, to incorporate the company’s package handling system into the APT 70 for a proposed drone delivery service.

The likes of Amazon and Alphabet-owned Wing are also working on drones for delivery, though their respective designs are much smaller than Bell’s. Last year, however, Boeing unveiled a sizable prototype drone capable of carrying a whopping 500 pounds of cargo.

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