Oct 14 Reuters - Reliable Robotics, a Silicon Valley startup aiming to automate conventional fixed-wing planes to ferry cargo and eventually passengers, raised $100 million from investors today.
The Series C round was led by New York-based Coatue Management, whose investment portfolio includes Rivian and Lime.
Robert Rose said the funds will allow the four-year - old company to continue developing a system designed to deliver cargo across a network of small regional airports in automated planes remotely controlled by human pilots.
Rose said they are looking to build a cargo carrier that will then operate on a larger scale, starting with fixed-wing aircraft like the Cessna Citation.
Eventually, Rose plans to expand the automated aerial cargo delivery business and then expand operations to include passengers, most likely in the latter half of the decade, said Reliable in an interview.
Reliable will employ some of the money to pursue related businesses, he said, including evaluating a number of new aircraft designs as our next step for automation. They include eVTOL planes developed by other startups and established aviation companies, as well as potential defense applications.
We intend to start operations early next year and then roll out automation as it becomes certified by FAA, said Rose, who is a licensed pilot and a former official of Tesla and Space-X.
He said the already-nascent business of automating smaller aircraft presents an opportunity to automobile manufacturers, such as Japan's Toyota Motor Corp, which is the manufacturing partner of eVTOL maker Joby Aviation.
If I were an automaker I would be looking at this space where one of the biggest challenges will be to make these things at scale and appropriate levels of reliability, Rose said.
The Series C round was joined by existing investors Lighspeed, Eclipse, Pathbreaker and Teamworthy.