✈️ Airborne: 🌱Reborn XXX

Volume XXX - May 1st 2021

Airborne: Reborn / Volume XXX / May 1st 2021

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So please tell your friends, family, colleagues - anyone you think might have an interest in reading about the future of flight using this nice big share button:

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Next month we’ll post the prize out to wherever in the world our lucky winner resides.

Back to business; this week we’ve got funding for Swiss and British eVTOL developers, a hydrogen powered hard landing, sustainability strategies, VR training and drone news from Africa and California to Scotland and Singapore.

And to round off Volume XXX of Airborne: Reborn there are rocket updates from Brazil to the Arctic Circle and news that one of history’s great aviators sadly slipped the surly bonds of Earth.

Charles Osborne - Founder

Sam Chandra - Asia-Pacific Lead, Aviation


Swiss Dufour Aerospace announced funding from Session VC - enough money to take their aEro3 manned eVTOL “into pre-production and certification.” Their prototype is one of few to have flown publicly and performed a real-life transition from vertical to horizontal flight (via Dufour).

The UK’s Autonomous Flight (founded by Martin Warner) meanwhile raised £5m as part of a £25m Series A round to develop their Y6S Plus aircraft. Not bad for a concept that has only seen “simulation tests” so far (via Commercial Drone Professional):


🌍 ROAD TO NET-ZERO 🌲

Here’s a nifty summary on what lies ahead for the airline industry as they try to decarbonise. SAF, battery electric, offsetting and investments are all discussed - thanks Michael Baker (via BTN).

The UK has become the first major nation to officially include aviation in their legally-binding carbon emissions reduction targets. As a reminder the UK are targeting net-zero by 2050 (via CAPA).

Vista Jet have committed to ‘carbon neutrality’ by 2025, likely through carbon offsets, as they already do for some 80% of their operations (via FlightGlobal).

🅷 HYDROGEN ₂

ZeroAvia’s hydrogen propulsion testbed - a Piper Malibu Mirage - crash landed in a field just outside Cranfield Airport, the cause is under investigation (via AIN):

🔋 BATTERY-ELECTRIC ⚡️

LG announced they are betting BIG on batteries. In a keynote speech at “Battery Day” (not the Tesla one) on Friday, Choi Seung-Don - head of the conglomerate’s electric vehicle division - announced a $27 billion sales target for 2024 and plans to commercialise Lithium-Sulfur batteries by 2025. Specifically he stated “lithium-sulfur batteries will first be used for flying objects such as drones” (via Korea IT News).

🌱 SUSTAINABLE AVIATION FUEL 🛢

Ryanair have donated €1.5 million to Trinity College Dublin to develop Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF), zero-carbon aircraft propulsion and for noise mapping. The announcement came at the same time Ryanair committed to powering 12.5% of it’s flights with SAF by 2030 (via The Irish Times).


Queensland’s drone test facility is complete. Headline resident Boeing are developing their Advanced Autonomous Platform Technologies (AAPT) project at the site (via Queensland Country Life):

🚁 DRONE DELIVERY 📦

After a successful $5.1m seed round last week, San-Fran based Mighty Fly are advertising for new testing and engineering roles. The female-led firm is developing the MF-100, a hybrid lifter-pusher eVTOL with a whopping 965km range and 45kg payload. Investors include 500 Startups, At One Ventures, Global Founders Capital, Graph Ventures, and Halogen Ventures (via Aerospace Testing International & MightyFly):

Skyports and Kenya Airways’ emerging tech subsidiary Fahari Aviation are teaming up to explore medical, logistical and inspection use cases alongside Kenya’s leading public and private institutions (via Logistics Update Africa).

Ireland based delivery service Manna Aero have raised a $25 million Series A round led by Draper Esprit. Existing investors Dynamo VenturesAtlantic Bridge, and Elkstone also participated and Team Europe joined the party (via Manna).

🎮 BVLOS 🔭

The Aircraft Owners & Pilots Association (who represent views of the general aviation community in the US) are voicing concerns over the integration of light aircraft into unmanned traffic management (UTM) systems (via AOPA).

HEROTECH8’s drone-in-a-box solution is being deployed for ship-to-shore deliveries and inspections in Montrose Port, UK. Neuron Innovations are coordinating the operation, with Flock providing insurance. Notably pilots are situated 450-miles away at the campus of Cranfield University (via The Courier):

🔍 INSPECTION 📏

The Singapore Land Authority are slinging a drone-in-a-box solution from DroNet around their southern islands. It’ll result in a projected 40% saving on maintenance costs through early detection and reduced work for their island inspection teams (via The Straits Times):


🚀 LAUNCH 🌎

The Brazilian Air Force and Space Agency are contracting Virgin Orbit to supply launch capability. The move will see the Alcantara Launch Centre become an orbital launch facility overnight, and Brazil a space-faring nation…a taste of things to come? (via Spaceref).

RFA Space (Rocket Factory Augsburg) will be firing their small sat launch vehicle from Norway’s new Andøya Space launch site - North of the arctic circle - from 2022 (via High North News).

Europe's Vega rocket took the small satellite dispenser SSMS (Small Spacecraft Mission Service) “rideshare" vehicle into orbit for the second time, alongside three other payloads which included Europe’s highest resolution imaging satellite to date (that we know of) the Pléiades Neo 3 (via Space.com).

⭐️ MEGA CONSTELLATIONS ⛓

France’s Eutelsat are buying a 24% stake in OneWeb for $550m, who also launched their sixth mission to low earth orbit (LEO) with 6 satellites on board the Arianespace ST31 mission (via SpaceNews).

The FCC have approved lower, 550km orbits for Starlink’s next 3,000 or so satellites (via Silicon Republic).

🌕 MOON TRAVEL 👨‍🚀

Michael Collins - who piloted the Apollo 11 command module around the moon in 1969, whilst his more famous crew mates Neil and Buzz messed about in the dust bowl below - sadly passed away at the age of ninety. The test pilot’s storied career saw him fly everything from the F-86 Sabre and F-104 Starfighter to B-52s and Canberras. We highly recommend reading his book - ‘Carrying the Fire: An Astronaut’s Journey’ (via Interesting Engineering):

Elon roasted Bezos on Twitter with a “Can’t get it up (to orbit) lol” slight, after Blue Origin failed to get any sniff of the $2.9B NASA contract for two lunar missions incl. a lander. Blue Origin are now filing a 50-page appeal to the Government Accountability Office in protest. The other losers - Dynetics - are doing the same (via Hollywood Life):

🛰 SPACE INFRASTRUCTURE 🌉

Luxembourg’s SES are placing two of their ground stations next to Microsoft data centres in Phoenix, Arizona and Quincy, Washington. The satellite operator who pitch themselves as a “content connectivity provider” say the placings will provide customers with “an almost cloud like experience” (via DCD).

🌔 SPACE TOURISM 🏝

Blue Origin have announced they will be taking paying passengers aboard their New Shepherd crew capsule (via Observer):


VR in aviation is official 👍. For the very first time, training using virtual reality technology will be credited towards gaining a pilot’s license. The European Aviation Safety Agency has certified a Robinson R22 helicopter training system designed by VRM Switzerland (via Flightglobal):

Airbus are adding automatic landing, takeoff and navigation capabilities to their Flightlab helicopter testbed. Their UpNext division announced a partnership with LiDAR developer Luminar Technologies (LAZR) to mature these features along with touchscreens, head-mounted displays and computer vision under a project codenamed Vertex (via New Atlas):

Meanwhile stocks in Luminar Technologies (LAZR) jumped 15% on announcement of the collaboration (via Investor’s Business Daily).


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