Reuters - Reliable Robotics, a Silicon Valley startup aiming at automating conventional fixed planes to ferry cargo and eventually passengers, raised $100 million from investors on Wednesday.
The Series C round was led by New York-based Coatue Management, whose investment portfolio includes Rivian and Lime.
Reliable co-founder and CEO Robert Rose said the funds will allow the four year old company to continue developing a system designed to deliver cargo via a network of smaller regional airports with automated pilots remotely controlled by human pilots.
Rose said that we look to build a cargo carrier that can operate at a large scale, beginning with fixed-wing aircraft such as the Cessna Citation.
Ultimately, Reliable 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, Rose said in an interview.
Reliable will use some of the money to pursue related businesses, he said, including evaluating a number of new aircraft designs as our next step for automation. Those include potential electric vertical takeoff and landing eVTOL aircraft being developed by other companies and established aviation companies, as well as electric defense applications.
We plan to begin operations early next year and then roll in automation as it is certified by FAA, said Rose, who is a licensed pilot and a former official at Tesla and Space-X.
He said that the still nascent business of automation 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 automobilemaker, I d be looking at this space where one of the biggest challenges will be to manufacture 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.