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Sabrewing Aircraft Company, Inc., a startup that has designed and is building an unmanned vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) Group 5 regional cargo carrier drone, has announced that it has attracted significant investment from the Drone Fund, Idaten Ventures, and several other investors.
The Drone Fund was the lead investor, providing $1.8 million in funding; with Idaten Fund and other backers each investing in the round as well. The Drone Fund and Idaten Ventures financed the company’s angel funding in January 2018. The completion of this recent funding round provides funding to complete the full-sized pre-production prototype of Sabrewing’s Rhaegal air vehicle and to begin preliminary flight testing in anticipation of a Series A round in the third quarter of 2019.
Kotaro Chiba, the general partner/chief dronist and co-founder of the Drone Fund, said, “The shortage of pilots is a serious problem globally. Japan has shortage of truck drivers for delivering as well. Sabrewing’s product as such is a semi-autonomous, remotely-piloted large cargo drone that will solve these critical issues, and the company has the potential to form a new transportation network using large drones.”
To date, Sabrewing has produced a 1/8 scale model of its first aircraft, following a thorough third-party Independent Verification and Validation (IV&V) of its internal engineering and analyses — and is actively testing hover, transition and other flight characteristics.
It was Sabrewing’s rapid development of its engineering and the completion and testing of its scale model that prompted Drone Fund, Idaten Ventures and other investors to fund the additional investment to complete the pre-production prototype. Sabrewing expects to close this final round by February with an additional $1 million in funding.
With continued interest from the Drone Fund and Japanese investors, Sabrewing has opened offices in Akasaka, Tokyo, Japan.
“We are excited to have the continued support of the Drone Fund and to have their continued interest in Sabrewing. Our partnerships with investors continue to grow in Tokyo and we are excited to open our office and have a presence in Tokyo so that we can continue to grow and expand our relationship with investors,” said Ed De Reyes, CEO of Sabrewing Aircraft Company.
Sabrewing’s Rhaegal air vehicle is a gas-electric hybrid that is capable of taking off and landing vertically — in mud, snow, ice, deep sand or unimproved landing areas — at speeds of up to 200 knots (370 kilometers per hour), and in weather that is all but impossible for manned aircraft.
The Rhaegal is remotely piloted for commercial operations and fully autonomous for military applications, and can deliver an 800-pound (366 kilogram) payload flying at altitudes of up to 22,000 feet (6,700 meters) and a range of up to 360 nautical miles (670 km).
The Rhaegal’s wings fold on the ground for easy ground handling and in the air for landing in tight spaces, and due to its “folding” nose (a la C-5 “Galaxy” aircraft), it requires no special equipment for loading or unloading cargo in remote locations.
Both of Sabrewing’s designs – the 800-pound-payload Rhaegal and the 4,400-pound-payload Wyvern aircraft — feature folding wings, folding nose, full pallet-sized cargo access, all-weather operation, and a first-of-its-kind five-sensor detect and avoid (D&A) system to autonomously navigate a path around conflicting obstacles and other air traffic. The D&A system is a collaborative effort between the University of California, Channel Islands; Oklahoma University; Garmin; FLIR; uAvionix; Iris Automation; Attollo Engineering, and Sabrewing.
Rhaegal’s possible uses include missions such as disaster/emergency response, forward-operating-position resupply and even casualty evacuation; while commercial missions include cargo delivery to locations that are not served by airports, roads or sea ports.
The Wyvern has the capability of carrying loads such as well casing, palletized loads, bulk cargo, fuel and can even provide service as a forest service water tanker.
Both Rhaegal and Wyvern are regional cargo-carrying aircraft in the same class as the Cessna 208 Caravan, Quest Kodiak or Pilatus PC-12 Porter aircraft. FAA certification of the Rhaegal is planned for 2023, followed shortly thereafter by certification of the Wyvern.
Sabrewing’s aircraft are not designed to compete with the Caravan, Quest or Porter – but rather to open markets for operators that are not available to conventional cargo aircraft.