Cargo drone startup Natilus announced that it has closed a second round of seed funding with investment from Starburst Ventures, Seraph Group, Gelt VC, Outpost Capital and Draper Associates. The funds will go towards “aggressively scaling,” in anticipation of the startup’s first Federal Aviation Administration-approved flight for its 30-foot prototype. The test flight is scheduled for late 2017, and a commercial market launch is set for2020.
Pitching the startup’s propeller-driven drones as a cheaper alternative to conventional airfreight, and a faster alternative to maritime transport, Aleksey Matyushev, CEO of Natilus, called the second round of investment “an important milestone.” Matyushev added that the latest round of financing would allow Natilus to bring on additional staff to finish design of the company’s 12,000-pound e-commerce drone, while at the same time growing their flight-testing operation for their 2,200-pound, 30-foot prototype.
Along with the news, Natilus released additional images of the prototype of a 2-tonne payload freighter with a blended-wing body (BWB) configuration that Matyushev said was very close to the final product.
The latest version also shows an option for terrestrial landing gear. Previous images released by the startup show water landing capabilities, as well, which Matyushev said would allow the drone to bypass costly airport infrastructure.
Natilus hopes to have a full-scale, 60-meter, 90-tonne cargo payload drone ready to fly by 2020. Ultimately, the startup plans to manufacture hundreds of the cargo drones. Their target customers are integrator companies, such as UPS and FedEx, as well as medium-sized freight forwarders with customers like Whole Foods and Costco.