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The ePlane Company raises $1 million to build a flying electric taxi


Bengaluru: The ePlane Company, a startup that is trying to build flying electric taxis to alleviate congestion in cities, has raised around $1 million in a seed funding round led by Speciale Invest and Indian American entrepreneur-investor Naval Ravikant.

The round, which is expected to help the startup through its prototyping stage in the next one year, also saw participation of Java Capital, FirstCheque.vc and Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad’s CIIE incubator.

Incubated out of Indian Institute of Technology, Madras, the company was founded by Satya Chakravarthy, a professor of aerospace engineering at the institute, along with Pranjal Mehta, who graduated from IIT Madras in 2019.

Together with a team of around 15 engineers, the duo has tested a small-scale unmanned prototype of its flying electric taxi and is on track to build and fly a larger model with a 50 kg payload by mid-2021.

eplane-team.ETtech

With a team of around 15 engineers, The ePlane Company has tested a small-scale unmanned prototype of its flying electric taxi and is on track to build and fly a larger model with a 50 kg payload by mid-2021.

“We’re building flying taxis for door-to-door commuting in cities, and while there are several similar efforts across the world, ours is a tech-centric approach,” CEO Mehta said. “We’ve developed IP here in Chennai on how to make a taxi like this extremely efficient and this has been proven in computer simulations.”
The startup is working to design and build a multi-rotor compact aircraft that can carry two occupants and have a range of 200 km.

Moreover, the aircraft is being designed for multiple short hops and to eventually land on rooftops and in front of a passenger’s doorstep.

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Chakravarthy said the vehicle will utilise conventional lithium-ion batteries, will be optimised to be quieter than a conventional helicopter and will also be far safer due to its multi-rotor design. The company has opted for a vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) design but will also use wings to produce aerodynamic lift during flight, making it more efficient.

The concept is similar to the British-built Harrier fighter aircraft but is dissimilar to a lot of global designs for flying taxis which either opt for a short runway or rely solely on rotors for flight.

“The taxi will be compliant with all of today’s regulations for aircrafts, so while we think autonomous flight will become the norm for such vehicles at some point, today’s regulations don’t permit this. We will therefore have a human piloted version, so for now we’re focusing on that,” said Chakravarthy.





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