Autonomous flight systems developer Reliable Robotics has raised $100 million to bring its Remotely Operated Aircraft System into commercial service. Coatue Management led the Series C funding round, which was supported by past investors and took total fundraising to date to more than $133 million.
According to the California-based company, the new funds will support its plans to certify an aircraft for commercial cargo services, starting with Textron's Cessna Grand Caravan. It is working to establish its own cargo operator to be an early adopter of the autonomous technology, which involves licensed pilots remotely supervising all aspects of each flight, including taxi, takeoff, landing, and parking.
Like rival technology developer Xwing, Reliable Robotics says that such operations could greatly expand the viability of air services, especially to relatively remote communities. Its system will have the capability to autoland aircraft on smaller airstrips in rural and remote areas without requiring costly infrastructure.
In March, the company completed a series of test flights controlled by a ground-based pilot at its headquarters in Mountain View, California. From a distance of over 50 miles, the pilot instructed a Cessna 208 Grand Caravan to taxi, takeoff, and fly over a populated area, and then land, while communicating with air traffic controllers via the aircraft’s onboard radios.
According to Reliable Robotics, it expects to take another two years to achieve certification for its remote-pilot technology. Initially, the company is focused on converting Cessna Caravans mainly for freight operations, but it sees potential to do the same for other aircraft types and for other applications. It recently launched a partnership with artificial intelligence and machine learning specialist Daedalean.
Several previous investors backed the latest funding round, including Lightspeed Venture Partners, Eclipse Ventures, Teamworthy Ventures, and Pathbreaker Ventures.