Ampaire, a California-based tech start-up working to retrofit airplanes with hybrid-electric powertrains, is expanding into eVTOL aircraft manufacturing with the acquisition of drone developer Talyn Air. Announcing the acquisition on July 20, Ampaire said the move will boost revenues and accelerate growth as it ventures beyond hybrid-electric propulsion systems to explore drone and eVTOL applications for both the commercial and defense sectors.
Talyn, which was founded in 2019 by two former SpaceX engineers, has secured numerous contracts from the U.S. Department of Defense, including the Air Force’s Agility Prime program, for the research and development of its eVTOL flight technologies. Like Ampaire, the company is headquartered in the Los Angeles area.
With its acquisition of Talyn, Ampaire will take over those contracts, which have a remaining value of more than $1 million, Ampaire co-founder and CEO Kevin Noertker told FutureFlight. So far most of Ampaire’s own revenue has come from government contracts, although the company has also begun collecting deposits on orders of its hybrid-electric conversion kits, he said.
Two-Stage Vehicles Combine Lift and Cruise
For the past five years, Talyn has been developing a unique eVTOL concept inspired by two-stage rockets and as of January 2022, it had raised $6.3 million in several funding rounds. The company is devising a new aircraft concept consisting of two vehicles: an eVTOL lift vehicle and a fixed-wing cruise vehicle. The lift vehicle would vertically lift the cruise vehicle to its required altitude before the two vehicles separate and the lift vehicle returns to its base. When the cruise vehicle reaches its destination, another lift vehicle could fetch it from the sky and bring it down to the ground.
This dual-aircraft configuration would have all the benefits of both eVTOL and fixed-wing aircraft—the ability to take off and land vertically without the need for runways, and the efficiency of a fixed-wing aircraft. For ordinary eVTOL aircraft, vertical flight and hover are the most power-intensive flight modes, so having a separate lift vehicle could save a significant amount of valuable battery power. With the battery technology available today, electric aircraft are already limited to short-range flights, and Talyn’s concept would serve as a sort of range extender.
Noertker said Ampaire will continue developing Talyn’s dual-vehicle concept, but it will incorporate a hybrid-electric powertrain rather than a fully electric, battery-powered system. Initially, Ampaire is focused on developing a lift vehicle that could potentially carry a number of different types of aircraft. In taking over Talyn’s work with the DoD, Ampaire will also be developing a hybrid propulsion system that could be integrated into aircraft built by other manufacturers.
Talyn co-founder and CEO Jamie Gull told FutureFlight that Talyn has already done flight tests with subscale aircraft, and it has begun building a larger prototype with a 35-foot wingspan and carbon airframe. Those projects are part of Talyn’s contracts with the Department of Defense, and Ampaire is now taking over the development and flight test campaign of the large-scale prototype, he said. According to Gull, Talyn has already signed multiple letters of intent with prospective partners and customers that the company has not yet publicly disclosed. Those LOIs will remain valid with Ampaire’s takeover of Talyn, he said.
Meanwhile, Ampaire is also actively flight-testing other hybrid-electric aircraft. The EcoCaravan, a Cessna 208B Grand Caravan retrofitted with Ampaire’s hybrid propulsion system, made its first flight in November 2022 and is still routinely conducting test flights, Noertker said, adding that the company is also still regularly flying its “Electric EEL” flight demonstrator, a hybrid-electric version of the Cessna 337 Skymaster. In total, Ampaire has flown more than 18,000 miles so far with its hybrid propulsion systems. The company intends to certify its EcoCaravan powertrain conversion kit by 2024.