eVTOL (electric vertical takeoff and landing) aircraft startup The ePlane Company raised $5 million in Pre-Series A led by Speciale Invest and Micelio, where 3one4 Capital, UTEC (University of Tokyo Edge Capital), Anicut Capital, Infoedge, Thought Ventures, Java Capital and Firstcheque.vc also participated with angel investors Naval Ravikant (AngelList), Prashant Pitti (EaseMyTrip).
Founded in 2017 by Satya Chakravarthy and Pranjal Mehta, ePlane aspires to build an eVTOL compact taxi that can transport passengers as well as cargo. So far, it has built a proof-of-concept device that has a carrying capacity of six kilograms. The startup will use the freshly-raised funds towards hiring talent for research and development.
With the rapid adoption of unmanned aerial vehicles across various industries and use cases, and the government’s liberalised drone rules policy, the number of unmanned aircraft operating alongside manned aircraft in the Indian airspace is about to increase exponentially. Keeping this in mind, the Ministry of Civil Aviation had unveiled a policy framework for unmanned aircraft traffic management. (UTM)
The UTM policy framework defines an architecture and mechanism for managing unmanned aircraft traffic in very low level (VLL) airspace up to 1000 ft above ground level. This airspace is defined as the UTM Airspace. The framework establishes the roles and responsibilities of key stakeholders and a system of standards, procedures, technology and real-time data exchange that can facilitate the smooth operation of UAVs across the country.
“The USP is that we are making the most compact flying taxi in the world which has a hybrid design that uses both rotors and wings and a subscale prototype that enables it to fly slower than e-planes with compact wings would normally require. Further, our product will not have any dedicated infrastructure requirements and can make the city commute ten times faster at just 1.5 times the taxi fare, said Pranjal Mehta, cofounder, The ePlane Company.
He added, “The funding we have received demonstrates the confidence investors have in us. We are grateful for the support from both our Indian and foreign investors.”
Taxi aggregator startup Uber had plans to unveil a similar eVTOL “UberAIR” service by 2023, a plan that has hit a few regulatory roadblocks.