Sabrewing, developer of the Rhaegal series of heavy-lift VTOL cargo drones, has announced an exclusive representation agreement with Arabian Development & Marketing Co. (ADMC), including an order for 102 Rhaegal-B aircraft valued at $600 million.
ADMC is headquartered in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The five-year renewable agreement includes exclusivity for Saudi Arabia, the Gulf Cooperation Council and the Pan-African region, where ADMC will soon begin taking additional aircraft orders. The deal also includes establishing aircraft assembly and maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) facilities throughout the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Africa to service the Rhaegal-B fleet.
“We are very pleased to have ADMC as our Middle Eastern business partner,” stated Ed De Reyes, chairman and CEO of Sabrewing, in a press release. “It’s a perfect fit for Sabrewing and ADMC management in our mutual quest to pioneer unmanned VTOL cargo aircraft development/manufacturing and dominate this market sector by being the first to market this extraordinary aircraft.”
ADMC general manager Ayman Zeibak said the agreement “brings an emerging-technology, heavy-lift, unmanned cargo capability to the Middle Eastern and the Pan-African marketplace. It also brings advanced technologies in composites manufacturing, drone development and avionic sensor integration to our region.”
Sabrewing unveiled a prototype of its Rhaegal-A hybrid-electric cargo drone in May during the U.S. Air Force’s virtual launch event for Agility Prime. The company has received a $3.25 million Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase II contract from AFWERX, the Air Force’s innovation arm, to develop the aircraft, including its detect-and-avoid system and ability to navigate autonomously in GPS-denied environments. The aircraft can also be remotely piloted for commercial operations.
Rhaegal-A is a test vehicle that will provide a parallel development path for the larger Rhaegal-B, which is targeting a VTOL payload of 5,400 pounds (2,450 kilograms), or as much as 10,000 lb. (4,500 kg) for operations in which the vehicle takes off and lands on runways like a conventional airplane. The turbo-electric drivetrain will enable a range of up to 1,000 nautical miles (1,800 km) and speeds of up to 200 knots (370 km/h).
Steven Chikos, ADMC’s senior aerospace/defense advisor, said that the company’s selection of Sabrewing’s design was influenced by the Rhaegal-B’s capability and low operating costs, with the latter projected to be 50% to 60% less than crewed cargo aircraft with similar payload capacity.
Sabrewing recently claimed to be one of four eVTOL developers to have filed a type certificate application with the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration. ADMC will soon be accepting deposits for production-line position orders for the Rhaegal-B. The companies said they anticipate deliveries to begin in the fall of 2021.
Sabrewing told eVTOL.com on Sept. 29 that its Rhaegal-A flight test program has been unable to progress due to COVID-19 restrictions, but that it is making progress on the Rhaegal-B using the digital engineering process recently championed by the Air Force. “We design, analyze, test, build, and fly the aircraft using a digital twin in the computer first,” CEO Reyes explained by email. “Once we’re sure that the aircraft is airworthy, we can start building the aircraft with a 95% certainty of how it will fly.”