Electra.aero announces $85M in new funding, much of it prompted by U.S. Air Force award
By Paul Brinkmann|January 26, 2023
Company plans to fly demonstrator and full-scale prototype of its hybrid-electric airplane
AIAA SCITECH FORUM, National Harbor, Md. — Advanced air mobility company Electra.aero, which is developing a hybrid-electric plane, announced today that it has raised new investment totaling $85 million, including $30 million from the U.S. Air Force AFWERX program, to develop a full-scale prototype.
Under the terms of the award, Electra must meet undisclosed milestones toward building and operating its pre-production prototype to receive the $30 million. These funds would come from AFWERX, the Air Force Agility Prime program and the U.S. Small Business Innovation Research program.
Electra, based in Manassas, Virginia, also is required to match the government funds with private funds. The company says it has exceeded that match by raising an additional $55 million from private investment, for a total of $85 million.
Electra is the latest AAM company to receive funding through Air Force programs. California-based Joby Aviation has such funding of up to $75 million, and Vermont-based Beta Technologies has similar agreements valued at up to $50 million.
Before it builds the full-scale prototype, Electra plans to unveil and fly a small demonstrator — a two-seat hybrid-electric craft — by April, founder and CEO John Langford told me in a video interview on Wednesday. The plane, which has yet to be named, will have a pilot aboard and fly on battery power supported by inflight charging via a gas turbine.
For its production aircraft, Electra is targeting a range of up to 800 kilometers and a 30% reduction in carbon emissions compared to equivalent conventional aircraft.
“This new award will help propel us to the final stages of developing our eSTOL [electric short takeoff and landing] aircraft,” Langford said. “The military obviously has tremendous interest in this because it offers some of the environmental benefits of electric propulsion, plus the cost advantages and longer range of our hybrid system.”
The company intends to first manufacture and sell aircraft for the cargo market, and then add seats for sales of a passenger version that would carry eight passengers and a pilot. The aircraft would need only the length of a soccer field to take off.
Langford said Electra intends to achieve FAA certification for its aircraft and operations by 2027.
“Our technology demonstrator is largely built but not complete,” he said. “All parts are either in Manassas, in fabrication or in transit to Manassas.”
The company has received previous rounds of funding from the Air Force and from investors including Lockheed Martin and Barzan Holdings, the procurement arm of Qatar’s Ministry of Defense.
Electra has 1,200 letters of intent to purchase the aircraft, including from Bristow Group, a Houston-based helicopter operator that has ordered 50. In the meantime, the company is about to select a commercial partner to develop a certified gas turbogenerator.
“We’re going to build like 10,000 of these things through about 2040, the first 12 years of production,” Langford said.
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