The Sukhoi Design Bureau has tested a prototype of a heavy vertical take-off and landing UAV, the Rostec state corporation reported.

“Specialists from the Sukhoi Design Bureau of the United Aircraft Corporation have successfully tested a prototype of a heavy unmanned aerial vehicle for vertical take-off and landing.

During testing, control algorithms and operation of takeoff, hovering and landing systems were tested on a complex flight stand made from domestic components,” the company’s website says.

Successful flight tests of the vertical take-off control system allow us to continue work on the project and ensure the ability to operate a fundamentally new transport and logistics system, Rostec added.

The project is at the stage of testing key technologies and basic technical solutions.

After completion of this phase, the developers plan to begin work on the development and organization of industrial production.

Hybrid powertrain

In the materials of the state corporation, the new OKB project is designated as an off-airfield-based unmanned transport system (BTS-VAB).

Specialists are working on this device on a proactive basis.

It is assumed that BTS-VAB will be intended for use by public and private organizations in the transport services market.

The device does not require specially prepared sites and airfield infrastructure for takeoff and landing.

This will make it possible to solve a wide range of transport and logistics problems, including delivering cargo for various purposes to hard-to-reach settlements where the transport network is poorly developed or there are no airfields, Rostec notes. 

According to the head of the BTS-VAB project, Evgeniy Rubtsov, the device being developed will combine the advantages of helicopters and airplanes.

“The hybrid power plant (of the drone. -


) includes an electric lifting power plant and a piston propulsion engine.

Vertical takeoff and landing are carried out by lifting engines located on the wing beams.

After takeoff, the gasoline engine comes into operation.

The wing increases fuel efficiency, and thanks to the possibility of vertical take-off, the construction of expensive airfield infrastructure and runways is not required,” said Rubtsov.

It also follows from Rostec materials that the BTS-VAB will be a fully autonomous machine that will be able to take off, fly along the route and land without direct human participation.

At the same time, the state corporation emphasizes that in the event of an emergency, the operator will be able to intervene in the control and change the route of the UAV.

The range of the drone (from its permanent base) should be 500 km, and the payload will reach 300 kg.

It is worth noting that the Sukhoi Design Bureau reported work on creating a device with similar parameters and operating principles back in 2022.

The project, called “Atlas,” was implemented in collaboration with the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology (MIPT).

The designers noted then that the speed of the Atlas would be more than 250 km/h with a total weight of the vehicle including cargo of about 1.5 tons. According to the authors of the project, the use of transport UAVs can reduce the cost of cargo delivery by 40%.

General Director of Aerocon JSC, aviation expert Eduard Bagdasaryan, believes that drones with similar characteristics can be useful to large transport companies, including Russian Post.

“300 kg payload and a distance of 500-700 km is a very popular transportation niche.

It is also important that the device can perform vertical takeoff and landing, that is, it does not need airfields.

So this is an interesting, promising and bold project,” said RT’s interlocutor. 

According to the head of the International Training Center for Unmanned Aviation, Maxim Kondratyev, a device with a lifting capacity of 300 kg, in addition to transporting goods, could in some cases also perform the functions of a flying crane.

“There are two main functions that such a drone would be useful for.

The first is cargo delivery.

The second is lifting objects.

After all, in fact, this is a flying crane that can lift weights and thereby help with the installation of various structures in hard-to-reach areas where it is difficult for equipment to reach,” the analyst said in a commentary to RT.

Such heavy UAVs can also be useful in the armed forces, the specialist added.

“The delivery of ammunition, medicine, food - all this could be carried out by such a drone.

In a war zone, as a rule, there is a problem with roads, so delivering cargo by air is a very good solution.

And unlike helicopters, UAVs are also safer for personnel and cheaper to operate,” says Kondratyev.

“One of the trends in the unmanned aerial field”

As analysts remind, cargo delivery is already carried out in Russia using ground-based autonomous robots.

In particular, a similar project is being implemented by the Yandex company.

Autonomous aircraft could also carry out such transportation, but this requires changes in legislation, explained Maxim Kondratyev.

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  • © Maxim Bogodvid

“Technologically, we are ready to use UAVs in this area, but the legislative framework does not yet allow this; there are various legal obstacles.

For example, there is no simplified procedure for applying for the use of airspace; you need to submit a flight plan in advance.

The issue of organizing emergency delivery of goods has not been resolved,” the expert believes.

In turn, the editor-in-chief of the portal Roman Gusarov notes that for the mass use of such drones, it is also necessary to debug a mechanism that allows a large number of UAVs to safely use the airspace.

“It will be necessary to resolve the issue of creating unmanned routes within the framework of existing air traffic.

We must make sure that no conflict situations arise in the air.

These are legal and technological problems,” the specialist explained in an interview with RT.

As soon as the regulatory framework is created and the practice of using transport UAVs is established, this area will begin to grow rapidly, analysts say.

“The widespread use of UAVs in the delivery sector is a very realistic prospect.

I believe that within the framework of the national project “Unmanned Aircraft Systems”, the shortcomings of the legislation will be eliminated and this area will begin to actively develop,” said Maxim Kondratyev.

In turn, Eduard Baghdasaryan believes that the use of UAVs for delivering goods is “one of the main trends in the unmanned aerial field.”

“Everything is heading towards the fact that a significant part of deliveries will be carried out by drones.

In this case, most likely, the emphasis will be on a cargo weight of about 300-500 kg, since from an economic point of view, the benefits of using UAVs in this niche will be most noticeable,” the analyst concluded.