Skip to main content

This industrial drone is capable of lifting an astonishing amount of weight

Delivery drones are something being explored by everyone from Amazon, which announced its Amazon Prime Air initiative in 2016, to medical organizations looking for a new way of transporting transplant organs.

While drones have plenty of advantages over road-based vehicles, they have a big limiting factor: They can only carry fairly lightweight items. Getting a book delivered to your home sounds pretty reasonable. But a sofa? Don’t bet on it, right?

Well, don’t make that wager with the folks at San Francisco-based startup ZM Interactive because you’ll quickly find yourself down a few dollars. The company, which develops drones, has just unveiled its new xFold drone line, which is capable of lifting objects weighing up to 1,000 pounds.

There are multiple xFold drones, ranging from a small model — the xFold Spy, able to lift up to 15 pounds — to a 12-propellor beast called the Dragon H that’s able to haul the aforementioned 1,000 pounds. The drones are modular, allowing different configurations of arms to be attached. Each drone has a carbon fiber body and can be flown in quadcopter form with four propellers, or with six, eight, or 12 propellers. The drones are functionally the same, but scaled up according to the payload they’ll need to carry.

xFold drone
ZM Interactive

The xFold name comes from the fact that they can fold up to be made more compact for transportation.

“Even the biggest drone that can lift 1,000 pounds can fold up so that it can fit into a regular-sized SUV car,” Ziv Marom, CEO of ZM Interactive, told Digital Trends. “That makes them really easy to transport to get to select applications such as search-and-rescue missions, for example.”

Marom said that the ability to handle heavier cargo payloads has gotten xFold plenty of interest from a variety of industries. This includes the Navy, which wants to use the drones to transport cargo from shore to naval vessels at sea, the construction industry, which wants to use them as an alternative to cranes, and the wind turbine industry, which is hoping to use them for repairs.

The drones cost anywhere from $5,000 for the smaller model to upward of $100,000 for the 1,000-pound carrier. Marom noted that there is a bit more complexity to it than that.

“Each drone comes in so many different configurations, so it’s really hard to say the drone costs [a particular amount],” he said. “It depends on the location, the mission, the weather. We can tailor the drone specifically to the mission or to the client. You can switch between configurations, removing arms or using different arms with different models.”

Editors' Recommendations

Luke Dormehl
I'm a UK-based tech writer covering Cool Tech at Digital Trends. I've also written for Fast Company, Wired, the Guardian…
Snapchat’s pocket-sized Pixy drone takes to the skies
Snapchat's Pixy drone.

Snap has unveiled its first camera drone -- Pixy.

A promotional video (below) shows a group of friends sending Pixy skyward to capture footage of the trio as they goof around in the countryside.

Read more
Wing is live in Dallas, poised for drone delivery domination
A Wing delivery drone in flight.

“Unfortunately, I can't talk about that,” said Alexa Dennett, Marketing & Communications Leader for Wing, Alphabet’s drone delivery subsidiary, speaking politely but firmly. While the stonewalling was delivered in a friendly, even mildly apologetic, manner, it was clear that there wasn’t going to be any wiggle room. Wing wasn’t talking. At least, not about that. Not yet.

The refusals punctuated our conversation at multiple points. Is Wing profitable for Alphabet? “Unfortunately, I’m not able to talk about our financials.” How does Alphabet view success for Wing? “Obviously, I can't talk to the specific internal metrics.” How big is the team? “We're adequately staffed to meet our ambitious growth targets. I'll keep it at that.”

Read more
It’s part drone, part plane, and headed to the skies in 2025
autoflight prosperity i

At nine-thirty in the evening, one otherwise nondescript day in November 1954, a Belgian man named Roelants was riding his bicycle in the village of Dudzele, West Flanders. As he passed a dairy, he witnessed a bright light rapidly descend from the sky. As he cycled closer, the light -- which he now realized was some kind of flying object -- rose vertically into the sky and then, suddenly, transitioned to a horizontal flight mode and took off at high speed like a jet plane. The entire incident, which played out in seconds, was entirely silent.

Roelants’ story -- one of many, many similar reports described over the years -- contained lots of the hallmarks of the unidentified flying saucer sighting. These much speculated-upon vehicles were usually assumed to be otherworldly for the primary reason that, put simply, real terrestrial aircraft don’t fly that way.

Read more