At first glance, Sortie Cargo’s RUAV-724 resembles a cruise missile. However, it is not a weapon at all. It has landing gear and space for cargo. Making it the first example of a fast unmanned cargo delivery aircraft and the latest example of how autonomous systems will transform the world in the near future.
Revealed at SAHA Expo 2022, the RUAV-724 has some surprisingly impressive specifications and innovative features.
Powered by a turbojet engine, the sleek, cruise missile-like RUAV-724 can travel at a maximum speed of 1,000 km/h. This is significantly faster than current autonomous delivery vehicles and slightly faster than most cargo jets. It will have a cargo capacity of 150 kg. This makes it ideal for the rapid delivery of critical components or weapons. Its range is up to 2,500 km, meaning that it would be capable of resupplying missions deep into contested territory.
The RUAV-724 is capable of vertical take-off with an added booster. This enables deliveries to be dispatched from within tight spaces, such as city streets or naval vessels. This is similar to many kamikaze drones, which use a booster to take off before switching to their main engine. Sortie Cargo has emphasised that the RUAV-724 has an advanced braking system which eliminates the need for a long landing strip.
One of the key features of the RUAV-724 is that it can drop cargo with a parachute. This is a game changer for the resupply of special forces units that are deep in enemy territory or troops who need to be resupplied in rugged terrain. Due to the relatively low cost and the fact that there is no risk of losing pilots, this aircraft is perfect for light cargo delivery in dangerous airspace. It also opens up the possibility for new tactics. For instance, infiltration teams can enter hostile territory without weapons or other gear. When the time comes, they can be quickly and safely supplied by airdrops from the RUAV-724.
All in all, the RUAV-724 is an innovative concept. It combines the speed and appearance of a cruise missile with the reusability and autonomous features of a UAV, yet it functions as a small cargo aircraft. Italy has already signed a contract. The smaller Sortie Cargo RUAV-A has been successfully tested. Meanwhile, Turkey plans to host flight tests of the 6-metre RUAV-724 later in the year.