✈️ Airborne: 🌱Reborn XXIII

Volume XXIII - March 3rd 2021

Airborne: Reborn / Volume XXIII / March 3rd 2021

In the aerial mobility world this week we found soothing sounds from California, a million dollars in India, Europeans who prefer not to SPAC and an eyebrow-raising eVTOL meet-up with the man of the moment in Miami.

First-of-their-kind electric aircraft were being assembled in the US and taxiing in the UK whilst a tech billionaire set his sights on giant airships powered by - you guessed it - hydrogen…

There was new money for one American drone company, a new board member for another, DJI went all FPV, a Starship landed at last - along with news of two more space SPACs.

A nice Japanese man invited us to fly around the moon him and a rocket scientist from New Zealand ate his hat. Oh, and NASA were unhappy with being given $850 million.

All make sense? With all that and more - it’s Airborne: Reborn XXIII.

Charles Osborne - Founder

Sam Chandra - Asia-Pacific Lead, Aviation


Joby Aviation did the unthinkable and released video of their eVTOL air taxi taking-off - with actual, real-world sound! Hear from Founder and CEO JoeBen Bevirt - and the aircraft he’s dedicated a decade of his life to developing - in footage released this week. We also highly recommend watching this conversation from today where Paul Sciarra (Chair of Joby Aviation and co-founder of Pinterest) and Reid Hoffman (Joby investor and founder of LinkedIn) talk about the company, the SPAC merger and their vision of a an all-electric future for aerial mobility (via Joby Aviation, LinkedIn News):

Volocopter raised an additional €200m / $240m USD - but *not* via a SPAC merger! Instead the company opted for a good old fashioned Series D round of venture capital funding. Existing investors were joined by BlackRock, Avala Capital and Atlantia S.p.A - bringing total funds raised to date to €322m / $389m USD (via Volocopter).

ePlane - an eVTOL startup from Bengaluru, India - have raised $1m USD from four investors; Speciale Invest, Java Capital, FirstCheque.vc and the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad’s CIIE incubator (via The Economic Times).

Miami’s enigmatic Mayor Francis X. Suarez revealed that he’d met with the Archer Aviation founders Brett Adcock and Adam Goldstein (along with UAM stealth start-up founder and Uber Elevate pioneer Nikhil Goel) in Florida this week (via @FrancisSuarez):

🔋 BATTERY-ELECTRIC ⚡️

Air Race E, the Airbus-supported electric racing series will now feature a VTOL class, an ‘Open’ class, and a ‘Performance’ class - each aimed at the development of different sub-systems to “greatly increase our ability to meet the needs of the industry” (via Aerospace Testing International).

The Rolls-Royce ACCEL program (Accelerating the Electrification of Flight) chalked up another milestone with a successful taxi test of the ‘Spirit of Innovation’. Key partners include power electronics maker YASA and battery startup Electroflight (via Rolls-Royce, Telegraph):

The UK’s NEBO Air will be offering sightseeing, shuttles and flight training in the Pipistrel Velis Electro (via CH-Aviation).

The high and low-voltage components of NASA / ES Aero’s 14-propeller X-57 are working together for the first time, as the team at Edwards Air Force Base in California move towards a first flight scheduled for later this year (via Gizmodo, NASA):

🌱 SUSTAINABLE AVIATION FUEL 🛢

Ryanair announced they had joined an EU initiative which makes recommendations on EU policies related to SAF (via The Irish Times).

✈️ OTHER SUSTAINABLE AVIATION NEWS 🌱

Google co-founder Sergey Brin intends to build airships powered by hydrogen fuel cells. Brin’s baby - Lighter Than Air Research - aims to build a 1.5 MW system to power blimps that traverse the world, in an effort to decarbonise air transport (via Input).


🔍 INSPECTION 📏

Skydio secured a $140m Series D investment - catapulting the commercial drone company to unicorn status. Andreessen Horowitz’s Growth Fund led the round that saw existing investors joined by UP Partners. The company’s focus on autonomy is cited as a primary reason for their success, as well as a diverse portfolio of customers ranging from EagleView (roof inspection) to the US Army (via BusinessWire).

🎯 COUNTER-DRONE 🦅

Australia’s DroneShield have entered into a co-operative R&D agreement with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate. The research will focus on fixed and semi-fixed counter UAS technologies (via DroneShield).

🚁 DRONE DELIVERY 📦

Former Assistant Secretary of the US Air Force Dr Will Roper (whom many will know from his support of Agility Prime) has joined US middle-mile drone delivery flight specialists Volansi (via PR Underground).

🎮 BVLOS 🔭

DJI unveiled their new FPV Drone targeted specifically at First Person View (FPV) flying, along with a new one-handed motion controller (via DJI):


🚀 LAUNCH 🌎

SpaceX launched their tenth Starship test vehicle (SN10) from Boca Chica in Texas on a 10km altitude test flight and…successfully landed it back on the pad for the first time! (via SpaceX):

Meanwhile Rocket Lab made two big announcements this week:

  1. The company will go public via a merger with Vector Capital’s Vector Acquisition Corporation (Nasdaq: VACQ) SPAC - making a $750 million financial runway available to the business courtesy of Vector, BlackRock and Neuberger Berman

  2. They’re also developing a new, bigger rocket - the Neutron. CEO Peter Beck billed the launch vehicle as a “purpose built, mega constellation building machine” indicating the firm is betting strongly on the medium lift-market, an evolution from their small-sat beginnings (via CNBC, RocketLab):

🛰 SPACE INFRASTRUCTURE 🌉

NASA are stressing the importance of commercial competition in their procurement of lunar landing hardware, after ‘only’ receiving $850m from Congress in 2021 for their Human Landing System (HLS) - a mere quarter of what was bid for. Dynetics, SpaceX and Blue Origin are the three players vying for ‘Option A’ contracts, of which a maximum of just two will now be awarded in April (via Cabell Standard).

‘Space-as-a-service’ provider Spire Global will merge with NavSight Holdings in a reverse listing with a market cap of $1.6 billion USD. In the deal $475 million will be released for the company with new investors Tiger Global, BlackRock and Hedosophia coming on board (via Yahoo! Finance).

🌔 SPACE TOURISM 🏝

Japanese entrepreneur and billionaire Yusaku Maezawa revealed details of how people can apply to be amongst the eight people who will fly around the moon with him in 2023 as part of the SpaceX dearMoon mission (via yousuckMZ):


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