Sigma Six, the vertical take-off intermodal electric drone

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There is wind inside the convention building that hosts the North American International Auto Show (Naias) in Detroit, a stone’s throw from the Canadian border, which is just across the river. It is not the classic draft because the premises are armored (President Joe Biden will arrive in a few hours) and not even an air conditioner. These are the six propellers ignited by Airspace Experience Technologies (ASX), a Detroit company that aims to “transform mobility”. And that in 2025 it should be ready, as explained by its chief engineer, the limping Gregory Peterson, to go on the market with its “clean, silent and connected aviomobility”.

The Sigma Six is ​​a maxi drone developed to “hook” a wagon and fly from one place to another: the total weight is about 1,800 kilograms thanks to the use of composite materials such as carbon fiber. It is a zero-emission intermodal option applicable to both passenger transport (up to eight people) and freight transport. In the case of the latter with completely autonomous driving.

A low mobile platform with two axles and eight wheels loads the carriage / container and carries it under the drone which hooks it and then takes off vertically. Peterson explains that there is no need for large spaces, the pitch used for a helicopter is more than sufficient, compared to which the Sigma Six would be far more efficient and rational, so as to have costs comparable to those of a truck, to comparison of which would be faster. Meanwhile, the van and helicopters are already there, while the ASX has yet to convince potential customers of its potential.

Regarding the price, Peterson explains that that of the bimodal vehicle is “a fraction” of the cost of a helicopter which, remember, you pay at least 5/6 million dollars. The hypothesis is, however, of at least one million dollars. Inside the salon, the flying object of ASX seems quite bulky: the width is almost 12 meters and in height it exceeds 3.6, but in open spaces it is not so much.

The six electric motors power each propeller with a noise level of less than 70 decibels. The maximum speed is estimated around 320 km / h, even if the cruising one is around 200. The range reaches 160 kilometers, which at least in the intentions should be enough to guarantee the movements imagined for the Sigma Six. Its experimental debut as a cargo is scheduled for next year, which will be followed in 2024 by the tests of the one intended for passenger transport. The target, prior to the debut at the Naias, was 2,500 units marketed in the United States by 2026. The load capacity is 900 kilograms and Peterson explains that in addition to the electric power supply, the hybrid option is also being studied. A good story: all for a bit of a spin.

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