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Volansi raises $ 50 million for high-speed autonomous drones



Volansi (formerly Volans-i), which provides vertical takeoff and landing drone delivery services to commercial and defense customers, today announced a $ 50 million round. The company plans to use the funds to accelerate its go-to-market efforts as it expands into new territories around the world.

The coronavirus pandemic has resulted in on-site orders around the world, limiting restaurants and other businesses to delivery or pick-up options. Drones and autonomous vehicles can limit unnecessary contact between workers, couriers and customers and potentially reduce the spread of infection. Among the recent examples, ziplines have flown drones COVID-1

9 tests from parts of Ghana into the country’s capital. Alphabet’s Wing drone business continues to provide commercial supplies to customers. And DJI has reached out to the homeless in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and helped strengthen social distancing guidelines in Daytona Beach, Florida.

Volansi was founded in 2015 by Hannan Parvizian, Senior Operations Analyst at Ex-Tesla, and Wesley Zheng, former engineer at Lucid Motors. After receiving seed capital from Y Combinator, the San Francisco-based startup led a project that reportedly set a record for the delivery of drones using cellular networks to aid in a 97-mile simulated journey in 2017.

Volanis

Volansi offers several unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that all use open source and platform-independent control systems that enable “fully” autonomous flight. Thanks to redundant communication systems, which are activated when GPS is not available, the UAVs can take off and land on moving platforms with minimal ground infrastructure.

The VOLY C10 (code name Gemini), which Volansi claims has completed operations in the US, Africa, and the Caribbean, can carry payloads of up to 10 pounds and fly at 60 miles per hour for 60 minutes (about 50 miles). Meanwhile, in addition to its 10-pound sensor payload, the beefier VOLY C20 (code name Megamouth) can handle up to 20 pounds and travel at over 75 mph for over eight hours.

Assembling the UAVs takes one or two people 15 minutes, according to Volansi, and was designed to fit in the back of a truck. Customers can optionally hire Volansi team members for missions and deliveries, with prices applying to industries such as construction, oil and gas, mining, and healthcare.

Volansi became involved in humanitarian aid after opening its manufacturing facility in Concord, California. The company worked with Merck and the nonprofit Direct Relief to develop a drone-based medical care system in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria. More recently, Volansi worked with the North Carolina Department of Transportation and the United States Aviation Administration to conduct tests and cargo delivery flights under the UAS Integration Pilot Program (IPP) with a view to ramping up operations in the future.

Reports show that the commercial drone industry continues to grow rapidly, albeit from a small base. A 2017 forecast by Gartner predicted the number of commercial drones sold that year would exceed 174,000. In 2016 alone, around $ 454 million was thrown at UAV startups.

Volansi plans to eventually release new UAVs that will allow longer-range flights. The company claims to have tested prototypes that can travel 500 miles at top speeds in excess of 200 mph.

Icon Ventures led the Series B round in Volansi, which featured Lightspeed Venture Partners and Y Combinator, as well as new supporters Harpoon Ventures and Merck Global Health Innovation Fund. This brings the company’s total to over $ 75 million.

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