Indian eVTOL aircraft developer ePlane this week reported that it has raised $5 million through a pre-Series A funding round led by seed-stage investors Speciale Invest and Micelio Mobility. According to the Chennai-based start-up, the fresh capital will allow it to build multiple prototypes for its two-seat eVTOL design and begin the type certification process.
Founder Satyanarayanan Chakravarthy told FutureFlight that the ePlane team aims to start flight testing a quarter-scale prototype in March. It wants to start flying a full-scale prototype configured for cargo operations by July.
The planned production version of the aircraft is currently designated as the e200, in reference to its 200-kg (441-pound) payload. In addition to the quarter-scale e50 prototype, ePlane has an even smaller version called the e6. It has been using these models to evaluate alternative propulsion configurations, respectively ducted fans, and open propellers.
For passenger transportation, the company sees the e200 making short trips around cities of up to around 10 miles, with approximately 10 such flights expected to be possible on a single electric charge of the batteries. Initially, ePlane will market the vehicle to high-net-worth individuals who would fly themselves and also for taxi services offered through ride-sharing apps such as Ola.
The design features a short wing that ePlane says is adapted to allow low-speed operations and achieve a sweet spot in terms of maximizing the use of available power in urban air mobility operations. Chakravarthy said that his team has rejected any dependence on being able to swap out batteries between flights as being impractical given current regulatory and infrastructure limitations.
Venture capital group Speciale Invest was among the company's early backers in 2020, along with private investor Naval Ravikant, JavaCapital, First Cheque, and CIIE. Other contributors to the latest pre-Series A round include UTEC, 3One4 Capital, Red Start Labs, Prashant Pitti, Java Capital, Anicut, and Thought Ventures. An initial tranche of seed capital in 2020 provided the company with $850,000.