Ascendance Flight Technologies has raised €10 million ($11.7 million) to support the development of its Atea hybrid-electric aircraft. In a funding round that closed last week, the French company was backed by investors including Habert Dassault Finance, Celeste Management, M Capital, Kima Ventures, and IRDI.
Announcing the funding, Toulouse-based Ascendance said it is on track to achieve type certification and service entry for the four-passenger model by 2025, albeit with further funding rounds needed to reach that point. The company said it aims to achieve a first flight with a prototype by 2024 in time for the Paris Olympic Games.
The Ascendance board of directors has been boosted with the appointment of several senior executives from the aerospace and automotive sectors including former Safran chairman Jean-Paul Herteman and former Renault executive committee member Jean-Christophe Kugler. Also on the board is Agnes Plagneux-Bertrand, who was head of Airbus’s E-Fan electric aircraft program, on which several of the start-up’s founders previously worked.
The new investment will support the recruitment of at least 15 more employees to boost Ascendance’s current team of 25. According to co-founder and CEO Jean-Christophe Lambert, the company is in talks with prospective partners and suppliers for the project. It already has support from Capgemini Engineering.
Work on the Atea is still in the design phase, with scaled prototypes being used to mature the planned architecture for the fixed-wing model. The latest funding round will support the construction of technology demonstrator units.
“This successful round of funding will allow us to focus on full-scale prototypes and patents in order to accelerate the development and industrialization of our technologies and products,” Lambert said. “We will also continue to recruit the best talents to shape a team that will impact tomorrow’s clean aviation.”
The Atea is to be powered by Ascendance’s proprietary Sterna hybrid-electric powertrain. The company says that Sterna’s modular design and “embedded intelligence” will allow it to support various different energy sources, including hydrogen.
The piloted fixed-wing design features a pair of ducted fans for vertical lift in the inner-wing section and a single three-bladed propeller in the nose. It is expected to deliver a range of up to 250 miles and speeds of 124 mph.
The Atea will use electrical power for takeoff and landing, with a turbine engine powering the cruise phase of flight when less power is needed. Lambert explained that this approach is mainly motivated by the desire to reduce noise and emissions, adding that the planned propulsion system could be switched to run on sustainable aviation fuel or hydrogen at a later date.