Venture capitalists are investing $7.5 million in start-up Whisper Aero, which aims to achieve a step-change in noise levels in electric propulsion systems for aircraft. The company, which is backed by former Uber Elevate executives Mark Moore, Ian Villa, and Jacek Kawecki, has declined to reveal details of what it describes as electric thrusters while promising that it will deliver “new technology that reinvents how electric motors can best produce thrust, in the absolute quietest fashion.”
Financial backing for Whisper Aero has come from Menlo Ventures, Connor Capital, Kindred Ventures, Abstract Ventures, Lux Capital, and Levitate Capital. Hollywood actor Robert Downey Jr. is reportedly also investing in the company, which has established headquarters in Crossville, Tennessee.
According to Whisper Aero, it has filed five U.S. patent applications covering the technology developed so far. The company says it is leveraging advances in computational fluid dynamics (CFD) and aeroacoustics analyses to develop its thrusters. It says that it has built test articles to evaluate several new propulsor designs but has not quantified its claims that these will deliver ultra-low noise signatures, as well as reduced weight and improved safety characteristics.
In an interview with Bloomberg, company executives indicated that the first of the new electric thrusters may reach the market as soon as 2023. Initially, they are expected to be used on smaller drones, but they would subsequently be available for eVTOLs and electric fixed-wing aircraft.
Uber Elevate co-founder Mark Moore, who had been that company's head of engineering, is Whisper Aero’s CEO. He left Uber after it sold the aerial ridesharing platform to eVTOL aircraft developer Joby Aviation in December 2020.
Ian Villa was Uber Elevate’s head of strategy and system simulation and was closely involved in building up its partnerships with prospective eVTOL air taxi operators, including Joby, Hyundai, OverAir, and Jaunt Air Mobility.
Jacek Kawecki is leading hardware development at the start-up. At Uber Elevate, he oversaw the development of component technologies and supply-chain strategies. Other members of Whisper Aero’s launch team have come from NASA, Northrop Grumman, and Flighthouse, as well as universities such as Brigham Young and Georgia Tech. The company is recruiting engineering staff with expertise in acoustics, electric powertrain technology, and aero-propulsive-acoustic CFD.
Whisper Aero’s headquarters is in a former resort and includes 40,000 square feet of laboratories, offices, and living accommodation for its 11 employees. The company says it intends to expand its collaboration with both the U.S. Air Force and the Army Research Lab, as well as explore potential opportunities through the FAA and Department of Energy.