Astro Aerospace this week completed the acquisition of Horizon Aircraft, with the merged operation now set to pursue the development of three eVTOL vehicles. The planned portfolio will include Horizon’s five-seat, hybrid-electric Cavorite X5 aircraft, as well as Astro’s all-electric, two-seat Elroy and Alta models.
Horizon’s owners have sold the company in return for five million shares in Astro Aerospace, which says it is close to completing a planned listing to the Nasdaq stock exchange in the third quarter of this year. In trading on the OTC market yesterday, Astro stock closed at $2.85, valuing the company at a little more than $24 million.
The combined operation will be run by a new leadership team, with Astro director Patricia Trompeter appointed as CEO and Horizon co-founder Brandon Robinson named as president. Astro founder Bruce Bent will serve as executive chairman. The firm currently employs almost 20 people and this number is expected to double over the next 12 to 18 months.
According to a Securities and Exchange Commission 8K filing, Astro has committed to providing Horizon with at least $1.5 million as an operating budget over the first year. Its plan calls for work on the Cavorite X5 to be prioritized, and the Horizon’s owners will receive an additional two million shares if the company produces a working half-scale prototype of the Cavorite X5 within 12 months, reducing to 1.5 million shares if the task takes 18 months. Robinson told FutureFlight he is confident his engineering team in Ontario can get the first prototype built by the first quarter of 2022. The aircraft is expected to have a range of around 300 miles and to complete type certification by the end of 2024.
The Horizon team has already conducted more than 200 test flights with a sub-scale model of the Cavorite X5. The design features 16 ducted fans installed in the wing and canard, which are covered by the wing surfaces during the cruise phase of flight.
According to Trompeter, a former senior executive with GE Capital, she is in talks with several investment groups. She anticipates that this initial funding round could raise up to around $25 million and predicted that the planned Nasdaq listing will give Astro greater visibility among prospective investors.
The Elroy and Alta vehicles are being developed by another Astro subsidiary, called Infly, which is based in Bulgaria. The company is now seeking the necessary test aircraft certificate to allow it to begin flight testing with a scale model of the Alta. A full-scale example of the Elroy made its first flight back in 2018. Progress with both aircraft has slowed because Astro has been waiting for FAA guidance on rules covering owner-flown eVTOL aircraft used as personal air vehicles.
Unlike several other eVTOL aircraft developers, Astro plans to sell its vehicles directly to commercial operators. It sees potential for the Cavorite X5 to be used in applications such as longer-range air transport services, rather than the short-hop intra-urban business model planned by some other eVTOL aircraft developers.
Robinson, a former air force pilot and mechanical engineer, has an MBA degree and experience in managing aviation projects that he gained while serving in the Royal Canadian Air Force and running a previous aerospace engineering company. He formed Horizon with his father, Brian Robinson, who is its chief engineer.
Trompeter previously served as CFO at a division within GE Capital, where she participated in acquisitions and transactions valued at over $17 billion. Earlier in her career at the company, she was its controller and also held operations and quality leadership positions. She graduated from Marquette University's business administration program with a major in finance and economics.
Meanwhile, in market research conducted for Horizon by Pure Profile, 65 percent of 1,001 people interviewed in Australia, Canada, Germany, India, the Netherlands, Singapore, South Africa, the UAE, UK, and the U.S. said that they would be willing to use eVTOL air taxi services once regulators approve the aircraft. Among the main concerns expressed by survey respondents about the new mode of transportation were safety and pilot training, which were mentioned more than cost and comfort.
Individuals in the UAE were the most positive about eVTOL aircraft flights once these are approved in their home country (87 percent), with Indians close behind (82 percent). Among South Africans, 88 percent said they would fly in the new aircraft once approved in other countries, compared with 79 percent based on approval in South Africa itself.
The lowest comfort level was recorded among Canadian respondents, with only 39 percent saying they would use eVTOL aircraft approved in their home country, falling to 30 percent based on approval in another country. The respective numbers for respondents in the other countries were as follows: U.S., 63 and 54 percent; Germany, 68 and 61 percent; the Netherlands, 68 and 58 percent; Singapore, 65 and 69 percent; Australia, 54 and 53 percent; and the UK, 41 and 38 percent.