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Title:
UNMANNED AERIAL VEHICLE SHIPPING CONTAINER
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2020/197416
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
System are described for cargo transportation comprising a container adapted for the storage of cargo and adapted for transportation by UAV. The container has features of a shell defining and interior space adapted for the containment of one or more cargo items. The container has a closable aperture in the shell allowing access to the interior of the shell and for cargo insertion into the interior of the shell. For adjustability of the centre of gravity of UAV by movement of cargo items within the container, one or more inflatable bladders located, at least in part, about the periphery of the interior space. Variable or controlled inflation of the bladders is provided to allow insertion of cargo into the shell interior when in a deflated state and stabilise the cargo, and permit centre of gravity adjustment within the interior when in an inflated state.

Inventors:
CHAN KELVIN PUI KIT (NZ)
GRANT ANDREW STANLEY (NZ)
MARR MICHAEL JOHN (NZ)
PARK MATTHEW JAMES (NZ)
Application Number:
NZ2020/050031
Publication Date:
October 01, 2020
Filing Date:
March 30, 2020
Export Citation:
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Assignee:
KIWIRAIL LTD (NZ)
CHAN KELVIN PUI KIT (NZ)
GRANT ANDREW STANLEY (NZ)
HITCHCOCK PHILLIP MURRAY (NZ)
MARR MICHAEL JOHN (NZ)
PARK MATTHEW JAMES (NZ)
International Classes:
B64C39/02; B64C17/02; B64C17/08; B64D1/08; B64D45/00; B65D77/24; G01G19/20; G01M1/12; G01V7/16
Domestic Patent References:
WO2017123711A12017-07-20
Foreign References:
US20110084162A12011-04-14
US20190047707A12019-02-14
US20180229833A12018-08-16
US20060038077A12006-02-23
US9550561B12017-01-24
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
MURPHY, Simon John et al. (NZ)
Download PDF:
Claims:
Claims

1. A system for cargo transportation comprising a container adapted for the storage of cargo and adapted for transportation by UAV, the container comprising:

a shell defining and interior space adapted for the containment of one or more cargo items, and a closable aperture in the shell allowing access to the interior of the shell; one or more inflatable bladders located, at least in part, about the periphery of the interior space;

wherein the one or more bladders are adapted to allow insertion of cargo into the shell interior when in a deflated state and stabilise the cargo within the interior when in an inflated state.

2. The system of claim 1 , wherein the system further comprises a controller configured to cause inflation of the one or more bladders in response to a signal indicative of cargo being loaded within the shell.

3. The system of claim 2, wherein the system further comprises a sensor configured to sense at least closing of the closable aperture in the shell, the sensor configured to output the signal to the controller in response to the closing of the container.

4. The system of any one of claims 1 to 3, wherein the one or more inflatable bladders comprises at least two bladders located forward and aft of the cargo within the container relative to a longitudinal axis of the UAV; and the system further comprises a controller configured to:

receive one or more signals indicative of the longitudinal position of the UAV centre of gravity;

determine the location of the UAV centre of gravity is outside of a predetermined longitudinal limit; then

output a signal operable to cause selective inflation of one or more of the two inflatable bladders such that the cargo is shifted within the container along at least the longitudinal axis towards the centre of gravity.

5. The system of any one of claims 1 to 4, wherein the one or more inflatable bladders comprises at least two bladders located on each side of the cargo within the container relative to a lateral axis of the UAV; and the system further comprises a controller configured to:

receive one or more signals indicative of the lateral position of the UAV centre of gravity;

determine the location of the UAV centre of gravity is outside of a predetermined lateral limit; then

output a signal operable to cause selective inflation of one or more of the two inflatable bladders such that the cargo is shifted within the container along at least the lateral axis towards the centre of gravity.

6. The system of any one of claims 1 to 5, wherein the one or more signals indicative of the longitudinal and/or lateral centre of gravity is determined by at least one of:

one or more sensors arranged to sense the mass of the UAV; one or more sensors arranged to sense the mass of the UAV at two or more locations on the UAV indicative of the centre of gravity;

one or more sensors configured to determine power consumption and/or speed of one or more motors adapted to turn a rotor of a multirotor aircraft;

one or more sensors configured to determine the angle of one or more flight control surfaces during level flight, and the UAV is a fixed wing aircraft.

7. A container apparatus adapted for transportation by a UAV, the container comprising: a shell and a lid attached by a hinge to the shell, the shell defining and interior space adapted for the containment of one or more cargo items;

one or more inflatable bladders located within the interior space;

wherein the one or more bladders are adapted to allow insertion of cargo when in a deflated state and stabilise the cargo within the container when in an inflated state.

8. The apparatus as claimed in claim 7, wherein the shell comprises:

at least one surface adapted to mate with an airframe of the UAV, and

at least one surface which forms at least part of an aerodynamic surface when attached to the UAV.

9. The apparatus as claimed in claim 7 or 8, wherein the one or more inflatable bladders comprises at least two bladders located relatively forward and aft of the cargo within the container relative to a longitudinal axis of the UAV.

10. The apparatus as claimed in any one of claims 7 to 9, wherein the one or more inflatable bladders comprises at least two bladders located on opposing lateral sides of interior space within the container relative to a lateral axis of the UAV.

Description:
UNMANNED AERIAL VEHICLE SHIPPING CONTAINER

Field of the invention

The invention generally relates to a system to deliver a package via an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), and in particular to a shipping container adapted to optimise the centre of gravity of the UAV.

Background to the invention

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) comprise a variety of vehicles, from conventional fixed wing airplanes, to helicopters, and are used in a variety of roles. They can be remotely piloted by a pilot on the ground or can be autonomous or semi-autonomous vehicles that fly missions using preprogrammed coordinates, global positioning system (GPS) navigation, etc. UAVs also include remote control helicopters and airplanes used by hobbyists.

UAVs can be equipped with cameras to provide imagery during flight, which may be used for navigational or other purposes (e.g., to identify an address). UAVs can also be equipped with sensors to provide local weather and atmospheric conditions, and other conditions. UAVs can also include cargo bays, hooks, or other means for carrying payloads.

Newer generation UAVs can also provide significant payload capabilities. As a result, UAVs can also be used for delivering packages, groceries, mail, and other items. The use of UAVs for deliveries can reduce costs and increase speed and accuracy. However, there is a desire to standardise the dimensions shipping container used for items in a delivery logistics environment such that logistics distribution centres and logistics distribution robotics can be simplified.

However, UAV performance can be affected when the centre of gravity of the aircraft is not optimised and standardised shipping containers can mean that an item to be shipped may have a weight distribution which is not optimised for a UAV centre of gravity, or may cause dynamic changes to the centre of gravity.

It is an object of the present invention to go at least some way toward improving the performance of UAVs used to transporting a standardised shipping container or which improves or at least ameliorates some of the abovementioned disadvantage or which at least provides the public with a useful choice. Other objects of the invention may become apparent from the following description which is given by way of example only. In this specification, where reference has been made to external sources of information, including patent specifications and other documents, this is generally for the purpose of providing a context for discussing the features of the present invention. Unless stated otherwise, reference to such sources of information is not to be construed, in any jurisdiction, as an admission that such sources of information are prior art or form part of the common general knowledge in the art.

Summary of the invention

Accordingly, in one aspect the invention consists in a cargo transportation system

comprising a container adapted for the storage of cargo and transportation by UAV, the container comprising: a shell defining and interior space adapted for the containment of one or more cargo items; one or more inflatable bladders located about the periphery of the interior space; wherein the one or more bladders are adapted to allow insertion of cargo when in a deflated state and stabilise the cargo within the container when in an inflated state.

In some embodiments, the system further comprises a control system configured to cause inflation of the one or more bladders in response to a signal.

In some embodiments, the signal is provided in response to the closing of the container.

In some embodiments, the one or more inflatable bladders comprises at least two bladders located forward and aft of the cargo within the container relative to a longitudinal axis of the UAV; and the system further comprises a control system comprising: a controller configured to: receive one or more signals indicative of the longitudinal position of the UAV centre of gravity; determine the location of the UAV centre of gravity is outside of a predetermined longitudinal limit; then output a signal operable to cause selective inflation of one or more of the two inflatable bladders such that the cargo is shifted within the container along at least the longitudinal axis towards the centre of gravity. wherein the one or more inflatable bladders comprises at least two bladders located on each side of the cargo within the container relative to a lateral axis of the UAV; and the system further comprises a control system comprising: a controller configured to: receive one or more signals indicative of the lateral position of the UAV centre of gravity; determine the location of the UAV centre of gravity is outside of a predetermined lateral limit; then output a signal operable to cause selective inflation of one or more of the two inflatable bladders such that the cargo is shifted within the container along at least the lateral axis towards the centre of gravity.

In some embodiments, the wherein the one or more signals indicative of the longitudinal and/or lateral centre of gravity is determined by at least one of: one or more sensors arranged to sense the mass of the UAV; one or more sensors arranged to sense the mass of the UAV at two or more locations on the UAV indicative of the centre of gravity; one or more sensors configured to determine power consumption and/or speed of one or more motors adapted to turn a rotor of a multirotor aircraft; one or more sensors configured to determine the angle of one or more flight control surfaces during level flight, and the UAV is a fixed wing aircraft.

In another broad aspect the invention consists in a container adapted for transportation by UAV, the container comprising: a shell and a lid attached by a hinge to the shell, the shell defining and interior space adapted for the containment of one or more cargo items;

one or more inflatable bladders located within the interior space; wherein the one or more bladders are adapted to allow insertion of cargo when in a deflated state and stabilise the cargo within the container when in an inflated state.

In some embodiments, the shell comprises at least one outer surface adapted to mate with an airframe of the UAV, and at least one other surface forms at least part of an aerodynamic surface when attached to the UAV.

In some embodiments, the one or more inflatable bladders comprises at least two bladders located forward and aft of the cargo within the container relative to a longitudinal axis of the UAV.

In some embodiments, the one or more inflatable bladders comprises at least two bladders located on each side of the cargo within the container relative to a lateral axis of the UAV.

In another broad aspect the invention relates to any one or more of the above statements in combination with any one or more of any of the other statements.

Other aspects of the invention may become apparent from the following description which is given by way of example only and with reference to the accompanying drawings. As used herein the term "and/or" means "and" or "or", or both. The term "comprising" as used in this specification and claims means "consisting at least in part of". When interpreting statements in this specification and claims which include that term, the features, prefaced by that term in each statement all need to be present but other features can also be present. Related terms such as "comprise" and "comprised" are to be interpreted in the same manner.

It is intended that any reference to any range of numbers disclosed herein (for example, 1 to 10) also incorporates reference to all rational numbers within that range (for example, 1 , 1.1 , 2, 3, 3.9, 4, 5, 6, 6.5, 7, 8, 9 and 10) and also any range of rational numbers within that range (for example, 2 to 8, 1.5 to 5.5 and 3.1 to 4.7).

The entire disclosures of all applications, patents and publications, cited above and below, if any, are hereby incorporated by reference. This invention may also be said broadly to consist in the parts, elements and features referred to or indicated in the specification of the application, individually or collectively, and any or all combinations of any two or more of said parts, elements or features, and where specific integers are mentioned herein which have known equivalents in the art to which this invention relates, such known equivalents are deemed to be incorporated herein as if individually set forth.

To those skilled in the art to which the invention relates, many changes in construction and widely differing embodiments and applications of the invention will suggest themselves without departing from the scope of the invention as defined in the appended claims. The disclosures and the descriptions herein are purely illustrative and are not intended to be in any sense limiting.

Brief description of the drawings

The invention can be better understood with reference to the following drawings. The elements of the drawings are not necessarily to scale relative to each other, emphasis instead being placed upon clearly illustrating the principles of the invention. Furthermore, like reference numerals designate corresponding parts throughout the several views.

Figure 1 is an illustration of an exemplary multirotor type UAV adapted for the transportation of a shipping container.

Figure 2 shows cargo to be shipped relative to what is often a fixed dimension shipping container. Figure 3 outlines a process implemented by configured control logic whereby the centre of gravity of a UAV is optimised prior to flight.

Figure 4 outlines a process where a process implemented by configured control logic whereby the centre of gravity of a UAV is optimised prior to flight by movement of the cargo within the shipping container.

Figure 5 illustrates a system which includes the processor, a sensor and a CG adjustment mechanism.

Figure 6 illustrates a system configured for implementation of the system outlined in Figure 4.

Figure 7 outlines a process whereby the CG of a UAV is determined during flight. A shipping container is loaded with cargo a step 70 and loaded to a UAV at step 71

Figure 8 illustrates a system whereby a UAV 100 has a processor 105 configured to receive one or more sensor inputs 122 indicative of CG position, such as tail trim, or rotor speed as outlined in the above examples.

Figure 9 shows the shipping container 200 with an inflatable device 220 installed on the interior of the container.

Figure 10 depicts the inflatable device in an inflated form.

Figure 11 shows the inflatable devices in deflated form.

Figure 12 shows the inflatable devices in inflated form.

Figure 13 shows an exploded view of an exemplary embodiment of a container having a shell closed by a hatch.

Figures 14(a) to (d) show stages of airbag inflation for cargo stability and CG adjustment. Figure 15 and Figure 16 show the container attached to the exterior of a VTOL type aircraft. Figure 17 shows a cycle-courier with the container attached as a backpack.

Detailed description of the invention

Exemplary methods and systems are described herein. It should be understood that the word“exemplary” is used herein to mean“serving as an example, instance, or illustration.” Any embodiment or feature described herein as“exemplary” or“illustrative” is not necessarily to be construed as preferred or advantageous over other embodiments or features. More generally, the embodiments described herein are not meant to be limiting. It will be readily understood that certain aspects of the disclosed systems and methods can be arranged and combined in a wide variety of different configurations, all of which are contemplated herein.

The term“unmanned aerial vehicle,” or UAV, as used in this disclosure, refers to any autonomous or semi-autonomous vehicle that is capable of performing some functions without a physically-present human pilot. Examples of flight-related functions may include, but are not limited to, autonomous flight, sensing its environment or operating in the air without a need for input from an operator, among others. Further, embodiments herein are described in relation with aerial vehicles and flight paths. However, these embodiments are equally applicable to land or sea based vehicles capable of following a navigable path.

When an unmanned vehicle operates in a remote-control mode, a pilot or driver that is at a remote location can control the unmanned vehicle via commands that are sent to the unmanned vehicle via a communications link. When the unmanned vehicle operates in autonomous mode, the unmanned vehicle typically moves based on pre-programmed navigation waypoints, dynamic automation systems, or a combination of these. Further, some unmanned vehicles can operate in both a remote-control mode and an autonomous mode, and in some instances may do so simultaneously. For instance, a remote pilot or driver may wish to leave navigation to an autonomous system while performing another task such as operating on-board sensors, emitters, or a mechanical system for picking up objects via remote control.

Various types of unmanned vehicles exist for various different environments. For example, unmanned vehicles exist for operation in the air, on the ground, on the water, underwater, and in space. Unmanned vehicles also exist for hybrid operations in which multi-environment use is possible. Examples of hybrid unmanned vehicles include an amphibious craft that is capable of operation on land as well as on water or a floatplane that is capable of landing on water as well as on land.

A UAV may be autonomous or semi-autonomous. Some functions could be controlled by a remote human operator, while other functions are carried out autonomously. Further, a UAV may be configured to allow a remote operator to take over functions that can otherwise be controlled autonomously by the UAV. Further, a given type of function may be controlled remotely at one level of abstraction and performed autonomously at another level of abstraction. For example, a remote operator could control high level navigation decisions for a UAV, such as by specifying that the UAV should travel from one location to another (for example, from a launch or loiter position to a premises), while the UAVs navigation system autonomously controls other navigation decisions, such as the specific route to take between the two locations, specific flight controls to achieve the route and avoid obstacles while navigating the route, and so on. Other examples are also possible. A remote operator could also control other aspects of the UAV such as movement of a camera. A UAV can be of various forms. For example, a UAV may take the form of a rotorcraft such as a helicopter or multirotor, a fixed-wing aircraft, a lighter-than-air aircraft such as a blimp, a tail-sitter aircraft, and/or glider aircraft, among other possibilities. Further, the terms“drone”, “unmanned aerial vehicle system” (“UAVS”), remotely piloted aircraft (“RPA”) or“unmanned aerial system” (“UAS”) may also be used to refer to a UAV.

Figure 1 is an illustration of an exemplary multirotor type UAV 100 which may be adapted for the transportation of a shipping container 200. The shipping container is adapted to be attached to or loaded into the UAV for transportation from an origin to a destination. The shipping container 200 is typically designed specifically for use with a UAV or a range of UAVs. To support integration with a logistics system, the container 200 is typically one of a range containers, each with a set of predetermined dimensions. The predetermined dimensions enable hardware, such as storage and transportation robotics, to be

harmonised.

The UAV has flight control electrics such as a microprocessor and a range of senses used as part of a flight control system. The control electronics is typically housed within the UAV 105 and a wired and/or wireless interface provided for communication with any ground based electronics 130. Communication between the UAV and any ground based system may be facilitated by convention wired or wireless interfaces 131. Ground based electronics may be used, for example, for uploading flight plans or communicating information to the UAV, such as data or commands used for pre-flight and flight control.

The size of a cargo item loaded into any of the range of available containers seldom precisely fills the internal volume of the shipping container thereby leaving the cargo unrestrained within the container. Figure 2 shows an item to be shipped 210 relative to what is often a fixed dimension shipping container with a loading aperture 201. Cargo 210 may be substantially restrained from movement within the container by using packaging filler materials as is commonly understood. Flowever, even restrained cargo within a shipping container presents a centre of gravity problem when the shipping container is to be used with a UAV. Any UAV has a centre of gravity which should be optimised for any particular aircraft. For example, for a multirotor device, the centre of gravity is typically at or close to the middle of each rotor. In a fixed wing device, the centre of gravity may be at or ahead of the centre of pressure of the wing. While the shipping container may be located on the UAV such that the centre of gravity is optimised, the cargo placement or even the inherent weight distribution of the cargo inside the container may cause a substantial change to that centre of gravity. Embodiments of the invention discussed herein relate to systems and methods for securing an item within a shipping container, sensing and optimising the centre of gravity of a UAV before flight, and/or sensing and optimising the centre of gravity of a UAV during flight.

Embodiments of the invention are implemented by control logic, hardware or a combination of control logic and hardware. Control logic may be implemented by a computer, microprocessor, embedded system, discrete circuit or a combination of any of these elements. The control logic may be implemented as part of a flight control system on-board the UAV, or as part of ground based electronics, or a combination of on-board and ground based systems where these systems are in communication during at least a pre-flight phase

Figure 3 outlines a process implemented by configured control logic whereby the centre of gravity of a UAV is optimised prior to flight. As illustrated by Figures 1 and 2, cargo 210 is loaded into a shipping container 200 at a first step 30 then that loaded container attached to a UAV 100 at the second step 31 . Before flight, the CG of the UAV is estimated at step 32. For a multirotor UAV, the CG may be determined by, for example, by corner-weighting the UAV.

The UAV depicted in Figure 1 has landing gear 106 which supports the UAV airframe and flight control logic, typically implemented by a processor 105. An arrangement of force sensors 120 located between the landing gear and landing surface detects an indication of the CG of the UAV. A UAV is typically optimised when the CG is at or proximate to the middle of the rotors. Accordingly, the CG may be adjusted at step 33 by repositioning the shipping container. The CG may be further refined by this detection and adjustment process until the CG reaches or is within an allowable limit from the optimum CG location. The CG adjustment mechanism might be a human implemented process, or it may be a mechanical system such as a lead screw which may be turned by a motor to displace the shipping container relative to the UAV airframe. The UAV is optimised for flight 35 when the CG is at an optimum location or within an allowable displacement from an optimum position.

Figure 5 illustrates a system which includes the processor 105, a sensor 120 and a CG adjustment mechanism 50. The processor 105 is configured to receive one or more sensor 120 inputs which are indicative of the CG position of the UAV. Upon determining the CG, and determining the CG is outside an acceptable displacement from the optimum CG, the processor is then configured to output one or more control signals to a CG adjustment mechanism 50 operable to cause CG movement. For example, the signals may be a visual indication of the CG or the change required to the CG to a human operator, or a signal receivable by a control interface operable for mechanical adjustment of the CG by shifting one or more loads on the UAV. UAV loads may be items such as the shipping container, the battery, or more sophisticated systems which involve mechanical displacement of one or more rotors relative to the UAV airframe.

In some embodiments, the shipping container 200 is configured to allow adjustment of the position of cargo 210 within the container. For example, where the container is much bigger than the cargo, there is opportunity to move the position of the cargo within the container.

Figure 4 outlines a process where a process implemented by configured control logic whereby the centre of gravity of a UAV is optimised prior to flight by movement of the cargo within the shipping container. As illustrated by Figures 1 and 2, cargo 210 is loaded into a shipping container 200 at a first step 30 then that loaded container attached to a UAV 100 at the second step 31. Before flight, the CG of the UAV is estimated at step 32. Accordingly, the CG may be adjusted at step 42 by repositioning the cargo within the shipping container. The CG may be further refined by this detection and adjustment process until the CG reaches or is within an allowable limit from the optimum CG location as indicated by step 44. The CG adjustment mechanism might be a human implemented process, or it may be a mechanical system such as a lead screw which may be turned by a motor to displace the cargo within the shipping container. The UAV is optimised for flight 45 when the CG is at an optimum location or within an allowable displacement from an optimum position.

Figure 6 illustrates a system configured for implementation of the system outlined in Figure 4. The processor 105 is configured to receive one or more inputs from sensors 121 located outside of the UAV which are indicative of the CG position of the UAV. Upon determining the CG, and determining the CG is outside an acceptable displacement from the optimum CG, the processor is then configured to output one or more control signals to a CG adjustment mechanism 51 operable to cause CG movement. For example, the signals may be a visual indication of the CG or the change required to the CG to a human operator, or a signal receivable by a control interface operable for mechanical adjustment of the CG by shifting the cargo within the shipping container.

In some embodiments, the CG is determined during flight. For example, the CG of a multirotor may be determined from motor operation parameters such as power consumption and RPM. Further, the CG of a fixed wing aircraft may be determined by the trim of roll and pitch control surfaces. Figure 7 outlines a process whereby the CG of a UAV is determined during flight. A shipping container is loaded with cargo a step 70 and loaded to a UAV at step 71 . The UAV may then take flight and the CG determined from one or more in-flight indications at step 73. An inflight indication on a multirotor may be, for example, that forward motors are rotating faster or consuming more power than rear motors for a fixed flight attitude. This would indicate the front motors are working harder which in turn is indicative of a CG position which is too far forward. Generally, motors which are working harder during steady flying conditions are indicative of that motor/rotor carrying more load. At step 75, a CG adjustment mechanism is activated to optimise the CG, by, in the above example, moving mass away from the motor or motor which is performing more work. For a conventional fixed wing aircraft with traditional tail empennage, elevator trim from a neutral position is indicative of a non optimum CG. Steps 73 and step 74 may be repeated during flight as part of an iterative CG adjustment process as indicated by step 75.

Figure 8 illustrates a system whereby a UAV 100 has a processor 105 configured to receive one or more sensor inputs 122 indicative of CG position, such as tail trim, or rotor speed as outlined in the above examples. The processor 105 is configured to determine whether the CG is optimised and output a signal operable to cause CG adjustment. For example, the processor is configured to determine the CG is beyond an allowable limit and outputs a signal to control the position of a load on-board the aircraft to move the CG to within an allowable limit.

It is generally important for any UAV that cargo is substantially restrained from movement once located in an optimum position inside the container or at least once optimum CG is achieved. Figures 9 to 12 illustrate embodiments of a CG securement mechanism which may be used in conjunction with the above described control processes and systems.

Figure 9 shows the shipping container 200 with an inflatable device 220 installed on the interior of the container. In some embodiments, the inflatable device 220 is a bladder having a stretchable membrane 205 arranged to form an interior for enclosing a pressurised gas. To facilitate inflation and deflation, a pneumatic conduit 221 is provided and adapted to couple pressurise gas from a pressurised source to the inflatable device 220.

Figure 9 depicts the inflatable device 220 in a deflated form, and Figure 10 depicts the inflatable device in an inflated form, where the device has expanded to fill the interior space of the container 200 and surround the cargo 210. In an inflated form, the cargo is substantially prevented from moving within the container. In circumstances where the cargo is moved within the container to make CG adjustments, the inflatable device 220 is preferably inflated once the optimum CG of the UAV has been achieved. In other

circumstances, the inflatable device 220 is inflated to secure the cargo 210 within the container 200 such that CG adjustments can be made without being affected of movement of the cargo within the container.

In the embodiment depicted in Figure 9, the inflatable device 220 is located at the top of the container so as to expand downward when inflated. In this way, the position of the cargo within the container is maintained.

Figure 11 and Figure 12 depict an alternative exemplary embodiment whereby there are multiple inflatable devices. In this example, an upper inflatable device 220 is provided in conjunction with opposing lateral inflatable devices 222, each with a pneumatic conduit 223 for control of inflation or deflation. Figure 1 1 shows the inflatable devices 220, 222 in deflated form and Figure 12 shows the inflatable devices in inflated form. In this

embodiment, it may be preferable for the lateral devices 222 to inflate before the upper device 220. In this way, a cargo item is centred within the container by the laterally devices 222 before being restrained by the upper device 220.

Where pneumatic inflation of the inflatable devices is implemented, a pressurised air source may be shared with a pneumatic lock mechanism which may be applied to the container. For example, a pneumatic sequence lock may be implemented to secure the container for transport, and the sequence of pneumatic lock may be used to also control an inflation sequence.

Other implementations are possible such as hydraulic and mechanical actuated

displacement of pads or similar restraint providing devices within the container interior.

It will be appreciated that where inflatable devices are controlled on-board a UAV, that harmonisation with the system and process outlined in Figures 1 to 8 is possible. For example, in some embodiments the inflatable devices 222 provide a CG adjustment mechanism operable for control of the position of cargo within the shipping container 220. In this way, CG adjustments may be made during flight to optimise CG by shifting cargo within the container to a position which moves the CG toward an optimum location. Figure 13 shows an exploded view of an exemplary embodiment of a container having a shell 300 closed by a hatch 301. A hinge 302 couples the shell 300 to the hatch 301 to allow opening and closing of the container. An arrangement of airbags is located within the container, including forward aft orientated airbags 303 and side to side airbags 304. A control system 305 such as electronics and/or pneumatics may be provided to control inflation or deflation of the airbags. The airbags are positioned around the periphery of the shell 300 such that a cavity for positioning cargo 210 is provided in between them.

Figures 14(a) to (d) show stages of airbag 303, 304 inflation for cargo stability and CG adjustment. In Figure 14(a), the airbags are deflated, opening the interior of the container for receiving cargo. In Figure 14(b), a cargo item is plated in the container. Figure 14(c) shows the forward and aft orientated airbags inflated to stabilise the cargo in the longitudinal direction relative to placement on the UAV. Figure 14(d) shows a first laterally positioned airbag 304a overinflated relative to an opposing laterally positioned airbag 304b such that the cargo is positioned off-centred.

In some embodiments, the precise positioning of the cargo by selective inflation of the airbags is controlled via a feedback from a UAV CG detection mechanism. For example, one or more of the above described CG detection systems is used to make a determination of the UAV CG position. Selective inflation or deflation of particular and/or pressure control of the airbags located about the periphery of the cargo within the container is used to make adjustments to that determined CG by adjustment of the position of the cargo within the container.

Most aircraft, especially fixed wing type, are more sensitive to a longitudinally offset centre of gravity. Therefore in some embodiments, the container has forward and aft located airbags to adjust the longitudinal position of the UAV centre of gravity. In other embodiments, airbags are provided only laterally and this may be provided by orientation of the container relative to the UAV airframe, for example, by rotating the container ninety degrees.

In some embodiments, the shell is formed with aerodynamic considerations to allow placement on the exterior of an airframe. Figure 15 and Figure 16 show the container attached to the exterior of a VTOL type aircraft 310. A VTOL aircraft offers benefits of low speed take-off and landing similar to a multi-rotor aircraft, yet typically faster and more efficient forward-flight. The container and/or contents of the container may be shifted relative to a UAV airframe to allow for CG adjustment. To allow movement of the container relative to the airframe, the airframe is equipped with a rail which allows the container to slide. An on-board stepper- motor or actuators or external robotics is used to control the position of the container on the rail.

The container is preferably compatible with multiple transportation options which may form part of a logistics network. For example, Figure 17 shows a cycle-courier 320 with the container attached as a backpack. Compatibility with multiple transportation options avoids having to repack cargo during phases of transportation.

Where in the foregoing description reference has been made to elements or integers having known equivalents, then such equivalents are included as if they were individually set forth. Although the invention has been described by way of example and with reference to particular embodiments, it is to be understood that modifications and/or improvements may be made without departing from the scope or spirit of the invention.