Prof Satyanarayanan Chakravarthy, who is ambitious about democratising technology and fostering sustainable development, has been an aerospace engineering professor at IIT-M since 1998. He has founded and also heads the National Centre for Combustion Research and Development (NCCRD), one of the world’s largest research centres that houses state-of-the-art infrastructure for combustion research.
In 2017, he came across the concept of electrification of the automotive industry and realised the need to shift towards greener technologies. Being a part of the aerospace ecosystem, he wondered, ‘Why not electrify aircraft?’
With a vision to make flying ubiquitous, Ubifly Technologies Private Limited, better known as, came into existence in 2019.
As an Urban Air Mobility (UAM) startup, it aims to ease on-road traffic congestion in cities by offering safe, sustainable, and affordable flying services
The Chennai-based startup had also received its Design Organisation Approval (DoA) from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) earlier this year, making it the first private Indian company to receive the certificate for an electric aircraft.
“It was a crucial first step in certifying our flying taxi for commercialisation,” says Chakravarthy.
The ePlane Company was part of TechSparks 2023, YourStory’s flagship tech startup event held recently in Bengaluru, and made it to YourStory’s Tech30 list, as one of the 30 most promising Indian startups of 2023.
The startup has so far raised $5.85 million in its seed, Pre-Series A, and Series A rounds. Also, it is in talks with investors for its Series A round which will be around $10 million, the startup confirmed during its interaction with YourStory.
Building compact long-range eplanes
The startup has four prototypes—e6 or Atva; e50, a mid-sized cargo variant; e200, a full-sized airplane; and e100, A cargo variant of the passenger flying electric taxi (e200) that can ferry up to 100kg payload per trip.
The e6’s quiet electric motor paired with up to 6kg payload capacity makes it one of the most sustainable logistics solutions providing breakthrough cost-effectiveness. e50 is India’s largest drone that can carry up to 50 kgs payload. They have successfully flight-tested this prototype.
e100 is the cargo variant of the passenger-flying electric taxi (e200) that can ferry up to 100kg payload per trip.
While e200 is its flagship product with a two-seater flying electric taxi. The ePlane e200, is India’s first eVTOL (electric Vertical Take-off and Landing) transportation system. Measuring 5m in length and width, it is essentially the size of two adjacently parked cars. It is hoping to improve flying experiences by transporting people from their doorstep to their end destination 10x faster.
The ePlane Company’s products can operate out of any rooftop with no additional infrastructure requirements, allowing for quick onboarding and offboarding of commuters.
“We’ve completed the first phase of certifying our propeller and are developing the prototype of the passenger flying taxi (e200). Once development is complete, we shall start flight trials for commercialisation and certification. Once we go to market, we’ll proceed to build the five-seater, like a regular ground taxi, and still be the most compact aircraft of that class in the world,” states Chakravarthy.
The ePlane Company is currently commercialising Atva (also known as the e6). Further, it has segregated brands to address cargo and passenger market segments.
“Atva is now a product under a brand of ours named ‘Amber Wings’,” says Chakravarthy.
The hybrid configuration (fixed wing + VTOL) paves the way for multiple hops on a single charge. It claims to provide up to 10x faster in comparison to conventional methods in surveying, monitoring and mapping in mines, power transmission utilities, construction sites etc. Pharma and quick commerce deliveries of up to 6kg payload are promising applications of Atva as well.
Further, prototyping of the e50 and e200 is underway.
The startup is currently in a pre-revenue stage. Going forward, the startup aims to leverage the sales platform for its cargo variants (Atva and e50). While the passenger ePlane shall operate as a flying taxi service for daily commuters.
Speaking about future plans, Chakravarthy adds, “We’re working towards further prototyping and flight testing for certification of our eVTOL aircraft. Post this phase, we aim to commercialise by 2025 – 26.”
Edited by Affirunisa Kankudti