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Seaflight's ultra-efficient cargo drone

June 26th 2024

 

A drone to take a bunch of stuff a long distance.

The who-what-where-why-when of Seaflight's new program to build AURAE, an ultra-efficient uncrewed flight demonstrator.

Seaflight's Aurae long range electric cargo drone

Seaflight's rugged AURAE cargo drone will be designed and built by a consortium of Australian partners and suppliers, leading up to flight testing in early 2026.

© Seaflight Technologies Inc.

Seaflight is setting off on a new path - one we've been on since last year but it's finally time to talk about it!

 

We're building a battery-electric cargo drone that can take off from very short runways almost anywhere, and cover very long distances using today's battery tech. We're using clever aerodynamics to do it.

 

Who?

We're Seaflight Technologies, a US-based developer of electric aircraft. We teamed up with Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia, and put together a consortium of Australian-based industry and government partners to secure $1.5m AUD ($1m USD) in direct and $1.5m AUD ($1m USD) in partner funding to build a full flight demonstrator of our uncrewed cargo aircraft. The project is funded by the Australian Government's Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development, Communications and The Arts, via their Emerging Aviation Technology Partnerships program (EATP). There are indeed a lot of partnerships needed to make something like this happen, and we'll be formally announcing them and introducing you to the companies, organizations and individuals as we go!

Seaflight's been working on this tech in wind tunnels both real and virtual, with funding and contracts from the US Air Force and the National Science Foundation. Now it's time to build the real deal. Our team for this is a bit obsessed with aerodynamic magic - between us we've designed cars that broke electric land speed records and hit the podium in F1, had flying robots published in Nature, flown solar aircraft that never wanted to come back to earth, and helped countless other projects go further and faster on land and in the air.

What?

The AURAE uncrewed long range cargo drone (since you ask - this is aerospace, we needed an acronym. Australian Ultra-efficient Regional Aircraft - Electric. Aurae happen to be wind nymphs in Greek mythology, the plural of Aura. It's often easier to explain our tech as being the use of magical wind nymphs, some investors understand this much better than physics).

 

As you can see in the imagery, it's a fixed-wing aircraft with what looks like a very conventional layout. Think of it as the... as the... the Ford Transit Van of the skies. That's not very sexy. But think of the most effective, widespread, long-lived planes... they're fantastically utilitarian. The 737, the Cessna Caravan. If you want to deliver Amazon packages, you don't send a Bugatti to do the job of a Ford Transit.

 

AURAE is designed to carry 3 loaded pallets of goods up to around 800km (500mi).

Now this drone just happens to have some clever aerodynamic flow control baked in to the wings where we can create very high lift at takeoff and landing, so extreme short field operations are possible without adding any extra complex, expensive, heavy propulsion. That then means the wings can be as skinny as possible for cruise, which is where the big efficiency gains come - as much as 30% more range than the same platform doing the same thing but without the flow control wings. That's a lot of improvement. That's like getting into a DeLorean and coming back all excited with batteries from the 2030s, except it's available now, and it makes literally any electrified aircraft go further with less energy used.

Why?

Batteries are notoriously short on energy density when it comes to flying. Ok, wait a few years for them to get better... and squeeze a one or two more % efficiency out of powertrains, I guess... maybe take a few kg out the airframe... hmm. This is going nowhere fast. The emissions are still piling up. But what about aerodynamics? If you can double the aerodynamic efficiency of the whole system, you can get pretty close to double the range. Now we're talking.

 

Our research shows that if a very simple, (related...) very affordable electric aircraft can fit those 3 loaded pallets of goods and cover up to 800km (500mi) distance, then the "green penalty" associated with switching to electric flight starts to disappear. Ultimately, performance is really about how much things cost to do. If the $-per-kg-per-km gets equivalent or lower than today's alternatives for anything that gets flown, it's possible to create a whole new layer of logistics below the current network. This makes is viable to provide cost-competitive same-day flown service to places that have nothing like that now - lack of rapid availability of fresh food, medical supplies, and vital goods is a major economic handbrake that can now be removed for literally billions of people around the world. That's why our mission is to accelerate an electric and equitable future for flight.

Where?

You'll see AURAE soaring first over Queensland. Australia is, famously, a bit huge. With vast distances separating regional and remote areas from the major cities, in a country that's acutely affected by rapidly accelerating climate change, it's no surprise that Federal and State governments have a very keen interest in technologies that can improve access without burning more fossil fuels. We couldn't be more excited to go back to Australia with Seaflight after a series of successful small-scale flight tests with prior prototypes in 2023, and to work with a range of partners who are all pulling in the same direction to put Australia at the forefront of advanced aviation technologies for huge social impact.

When?

The AURAE aircraft will take to the skies in early 2026 for a series of flights that push the envelope for endurance, while also proving out our ability to operate from very short airstrips. The drone is being designed as a direct pre-cursor for a production version to follow.

Seaflight's Aurae long range electric cargo drone flies over outback Australia

Seaflight's rugged AURAE cargo drone will feature aerodynamic flow control that allows it to take off and land from runways shorter than a cricket field loaded with three pallets of goods.

© Seaflight Technologies Inc.

Australian Government funds Flight Demonstrator

June 24th 2024

 

Seaflight Technologies kicks off $2m electric cargo drone project with Australian Government funding  

Seaflight Technologies secured $1m USD in direct funding and $1m USD of partner support from Australia’s Emerging Aviation Technology Partnerships (EATP) program, to build and fly it's long range cargo drone in 2026.

 

Seaflight heads a consortium partnered with academic lead Macquarie University in Sydney, to showcase innovative Aerodynamic Flow Control as key tech to achieve record-breaking all-electric aircraft range and efficiency.  

Seaflight's Aurae long range electric cargo drone

Seaflight's rugged AURAE cargo drone will be designed and built by a consortium of Australian partners and suppliers, leading up to flight testing in early 2026.

© Seaflight Technologies Inc.

LOS ANGELES, June 24th 2024 – Seaflight Technologies, a leading developer of ultra-efficient large scale drones, today announced funding win with partner Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia, from the Australian Government’s Emerging Aviation Technology Partnerships (EATP) Program.

The award includes $1.5m AUD ($1m USD) in direct funding and another $1.5m AUD in in-kind support from a consortium of Australian companies and organizations, for a total of $3m AUD ($2m USD) to design and build Seaflight’s long range cargo drone demonstrator, dubbed Aurae.

 

Aviation accounts for around 2.5% of all global greenhouse gas emissions, growing rapidly to around 4% by the 2030s. The sector urgently needs to decarbonize. Battery-electric propulsion is extremely efficient, but today the low energy density of batteries compared to fossil fuel make the adoption of even small electric aircraft prohibitive for most operators – heavy, expensive, and with low range and payload.

 

Seaflight, a 2 year-old startup based in Los Angeles and Sydney, has developed a novel form of Aerodynamic Flow Control that can enhance electric range and payload by up to 30% without having to wait for better batteries. It is a system that actively improves the lifting capability of wings for takeoff and landing, allowing them be downsized even when operating from runways as short as a cricket field. Slender wings with less surface area result in lower aerodynamic drag in cruise, enabling longer distances with larger payloads.

The new funding accelerates the development of the Aurae fixed wing cargo drone demonstrator, a precursor to a production product that would make point-to-point flown cargo cost-effective for billions of people across the world that currently have little to no access to same- or next-day service.  Aurae will make its first flights in early 2026 and build up to an eventual range of 800km using a fraction of the energy used by today’s small planes, showcasing record-breaking efficiency.

 

Seaflight Technologies’ CEO Dr. Graham C. Doig said “We’re thrilled to be able to create this drone in Australia and demonstrate our aerodynamic flow control technology as a major unlock for electric range and efficiency on fixed wing aircraft. When we originally put together this proposal, we experienced tremendous support and generosity from a range of companies and organizations all eager to make this a landmark project in Australian aviation, there’s clearly intense ambition to place the country at the forefront of the electric revolution and Seaflight will play a major part in that now”

Dr. Sammy Diasinos, project lead researcher at Macquarie University, said “this project gives students and researchers at the university a chance to help make electric flight more available, sooner. Our expertise with aerodynamic optimization and vehicle design means that we can be a decisive factor in realizing Seaflight’s goal of greatly improving electric aircraft range through clever engineering. That can have a very significant impact on how aviation benefits regional Australia in the coming decades”

This award follows separate funding for Seaflight’s aerodynamic flow control technology, including a contract from AFWERX (a program for the US Air Force Research Lab (AFRL)), and a grant from the National Science Foundation, both of which helped develop different aspects of the technology that is now being integrated into Seaflight’s Aurae cargo drone.

Senator Anthony Chisholm, Assistant Minister for Regional Development and Education, said “We’re already honouring our commitment to build a Future Made in Australia by partnering with industry through this program to develop innovative aviation technologies that can make a real difference for communities, particularly those in regional, rural and remote Australia. This includes drones and remotely-piloted aircraft that will ensure remote communities get access to the health services they need, and the cargo makes its way onto the shelves at the local grocer."

For more information or high resolution images, media@seaflight.tech

About Seaflight Technologies

Seaflight Technologies is building the world’s most efficient fixed wing cargo drone to eliminate the “green penalty” associated with electric aircraft cost and performance. Seaflight’s ambition is to use aerodynamic technology to rapidly accelerate an electric and equitable future for flight by enabling record-breaking range and payload capabilities, without having to wait for better batteries. Seaflight is based in Los Angeles and Sydney. The company is venture backed by Y Combinator and 7 Percent Ventures among other top-tier investors. Seaflight previously secured R&D funding from the US Air Force and the National Science Foundation.

About Macquarie University

Macquarie University is a global top 1% research institution in Sydney, Australia, founded in 1964, and serving over 43,000 students - 6000 of which are part of the Faculty of Science and Engineering.

About the EATP Program

EATP is an initiative of the  Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development, Communications and The Arts designed to accelerate the trial and adoption of next-generation drone technology that can benefit regional and remote Australia. Twelve projects will share in nearly $13.5 million of federal funding to develop and deploy emerging aircraft technologies that will support Australian industries in the aviation sector, including initiatives to grow manufacturing and digital farming, enhance regional connectivity and supply chains, improve outcomes for regional and remote First Nations communities and address regulatory barriers.

US Air Force Partnership

June 2024

 

Seaflight Technologies partners with the US Air Force on ultra-efficient aerodynamic technology

Seaflight will demonstrate how its advanced aerodynamic flow control can benefit next-gen electrified platforms

Seaflight awarded Air Force AFWERX funding

(Los Angeles, California) – Seaflight Technologies Inc. announced it has been selected by AFWERX (a program of the Air Force Research Lab (AFRL) for an SBIR contract focused on using aerodynamic flow control to increase range and efficiency for electrified aircraft - a pressing challenge in the Department of the Air Force (DAF) and other sectors within the Department of Defense (DoD). Electrified flight reduces reliance on liquid fuel in remote or austere locations and allows for quieter, low emissions flight, yet the energy density of batteries remains poor compared to traditional fuel. As the US Department of Defense increasingly focuses attention on the Pacific as well as emerging threats in the Arctic, the challenge exists in providing persistent presence and logistics capability over long distances - something that electric flight is not able to provide with today's capabilities.

Seaflight Technologies aims to change this paradigm by demonstrating clever, affordable use of aerodynamic innovation, enabled by new electric aircraft architectures. By increasing airflow temporarily over the wings at takeoff, without adding the extra mass, cost and complexity of Distributed Electric Propulsion, Seaflight has shown it's possible to preserve invaluable short takeoff and landing (STOL) capability from improvised or unprepared strips, while reducing the overall wing area needed for cruise by up to 40%. That reduction in wing area means a reduction in drag, which in turn significantly improves the range that can be obtained using existing, widely available batteries. The goal is a simple and effective system that can eventually apply to any fixed wing aircraft.

 

Seaflight's founder and CEO, Dr. Graham C. Doig, stated "Seaflight has been focused since the start on figuring out the most effective aerodynamic technologies to accelerate an electrified future for aviation. Our aerodynamic flow control technology, which we first started working on with the National Science Foundation, has shown strong potential for short takeoff and landing while also enhancing range and payload. Those benefits are essential for transporting cargo using today's batteries.  Working with the Air Force is a logical nest step for taking this to a flying prototype, and we're excited to help address "tyranny of distance" problems that are pervasive in the Pacific."

 

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Air Force, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. government.

About Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL)

The Air Force Research Laboratory is the primary scientific research and development center for the Department of the Air Force. AFRL plays an integral role in leading the discovery, development, and integration of affordable warfighting technologies for our air, space and cyberspace force. With a workforce of more than 12,500 across nine technology areas and 40 other operations across the globe, AFRL provides a diverse portfolio of science and technology ranging from fundamental to advanced research and technology development. For more information, visit www.afresearchlab.com.

 

About AFWERX

As the innovation arm of the DAF and a directorate within the Air Force Research Laboratory, AFWERX brings cutting-edge American ingenuity from small businesses and start-ups to address the most pressing challenges of the DAF. AFWERX employs approximately 325 military, civilian and contractor personnel at six hubs and sites executing an annual $1.4 billion budget. Since 2019, AFWERX has executed 4,697 contracts worth more than $2.6 billion to strengthen the U.S. defense industrial base and drive faster technology transition to operational capability. For more information, visit: www.afwerx.com.

Seaflight ends wingship development program

May 2024

 

Seaflight Technologies ends wingship development program

After a series of world-first flights, sub-scale prototype CC is retiring to make way for a new program

Seaflight is shifting focus to a major new aircraft platform - and ending further development of our ultra-low altitude "ground effect" wingship drones.

Why?

In 2023 we completed a series of world-first flights in Australia with our 6th Generation wingship, CC. These were the first ever ground effect drone flights out over the open sea, in challenging tropical post-cyclone conditions. It was the culmination of 18 months of cutting edge prototypes that saw hundreds of kilometers flown with complex maneuvers just a few ft over the waves. Seaflight's drones pushed the ultra-low altitude flight envelope beyond anything achieved by others dropping many times the capital.

But we are data-driven - gains in some areas do not outweigh drawbacks in others when it comes to commercial viability in the private sector.

We are completing the transition of the “SeaSense” ground effect autonomy suite to our existing customers in the Department of Defense, but we’ll miss flying with CC. Here are a few more onboards, zooming over the Coral Sea, redefining what’s possible for sustained ultra-low altitude flight, and making a little bit of maritime *and* aviation history.

Next – with some big announcements coming up and a stellar lineup of new partnerships, Seaflight is doubling down on revolutionary aerodynamic technology as the unlock for industry-wide range & performance improvements to make electric flight as impactful as possible, as soon as possible, for those who will benefit the most. That has always been our guiding mission.

Seaflight x Airhart Aeronautics

April 2024

 

Seaflight Technologies Inc. and Airhart Aeronautics Inc. partner to bring advanced flight controls to Seaflight prototypes.

Airhart and Seaflight will also explore collaboration on potential future DoD projects.

Seaflight partners with Airhart Aeronautics

Seaflight Technologies has partnered with Airhart Aeronautics Inc. (Long Beach, California) to bring advanced flight controls to upcoming prototypes of its ultra-efficient drones. Airhart's mission is to create general aviation aircraft that are easy for anyone to fly, replacing traditional controls with a modern interface and fly-by-wire. "Airhart have shown that they are experts in the flight controls space through demonstrating their own fly-by-wire systems inside rapid development timeframes. They understand what it takes to develop reliable and unique software for aviation and that's exactly why Seaflight is teaming up", said Seaflight founder and CEO Graham Doig.

The two companies will collaborate on an upcoming half-scale cargo drone prototype that is the culmination of Seaflight's work to create a simple, reliable, cost effective electric drone. The partnership also extends to Seaflight supporting Airhart's moves into the Defense Tech space. Both of these LA-based companies emerged from the storied Y Combinator accelerator in Silicon Valley, and are simultaneously advancing the goal of a safe, efficient, 21st century ecosystem of software-defined aviation.

December 2023

 

Seaflight completes year-long prototype test campaign with a series of world-first flights

Missions over the Coral Sea in Queensland, Australia, were the first ever autonomous "ground effect" flights over open ocean, among other records.

Seaflight completes wingship testing

A few world-firsts were achieved during Seaflight Technologies' sub-scale prototype drone testing off the coast of Far North Queensland, Australia. The week-long test campaign was the culmination of 1.5 years of flying multiple wingship prototypes, and was designed to push the limits of what's possible when flying autonomously just a few feet above the surface of the ocean for maximum aerodynamic efficiency.

Our friendly flying robot CC Seaflight completed multiple mission loops near Townsville not far from the Great Barrier Reef, covering over 10km per flight and multiple flights per day. Testing was originally postponed by the arrival of Cyclone Jasper, a category 4 storm that provided some challenging wind and sea states long after it passed the region, meaning that Seaflight's trials were a real test of the conditions!

To the best of the company's knowledge this was the :

🌊 First uncrewed wingship - an ultra-low altitude "wing in ground effect" or WIG craft - to fly out over the wide open sea, anywhere in the world (nowhere to hide from wind and waves, it was the real deal!)

🏝️ First uncrewed wingship to fly in the tropics
(testing in the most challenging and relevant conditions - high heat, high humidity)

⚓ First uncrewed wingship to fly with formal regulatory assignment of vessel type (WIG) including allocation of a unique vessel identifier from the Australian Maritime Safety Authority
(points the way for next steps towards commercial operations with a larger version)

🦘 First ground effect craft of any kind to fly in Australia in >20 years
(since the Flightship in the early 2000's)

🔋 Add the word "electric" to any of the above, of course!

🐠 All impossible without the help of ReefWorks, Australia’s tropical marine technology test ranges, at the Australian Institute of Marine Science!

September 2023

 

Seaflight Technologies and the Australian Institute of Marine Science sign MoU to explore wingship testing.

The two parties will also evaluate ideas to use Seaflight's wingships for scientific missions.

Seaflight signs testing agreement for Australia
Seaflight x Australian Institute of Marine Science

Seaflight Technologies has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) at the ReefWorks Tropical Marine Technology Test Range near Townsville in far north Queensland.

 

The two parties will work towards establishing an approach for testing Seaflight’s unique remote-piloted wingships at the site. This will help to further advance systems designed to ensure safe and efficient flight at ultra-low altitude over the sea.

 

AIMS ReefWorks is currently one of the very few sites in the world where testing of autonomous craft can be undertaken in tropical conditions, making it the ideal place to put Seaflight's wingships through their paces in challenging conditions representative of real service environments.

One of the company's aims is to make sure that the next, larger prototypes the company makes are also working drones that can be of high value for missions that involve oceanic research and awareness. As a result, Seaflight and AIMS will also explore ideas for how to use Seaflight’s drones to help with scientific missions on the Great Barrier Reef and other marine sites around Australia. While watching out for crocs.

July 2023

 

Seaflight Technologies and Volant Autonomy partner to build trusted autonomy into cargo drones

The two companies will explore collaborative funding opportunities alongside technology integration trials.

Seaflight partners with Volant Autonomy
Seaflight x Volant Autonomy

Swindon, UK -- July 16th, 2023 -- Seaflight Technologies, a US developer of ultra-efficient large drones for logistics, and UK-based Volant Autonomy, a leading provider of AI-enabled trusted autonomy for drones, formalized a Memorandum of Understanding in person at the Royal International Air Tattoo in the UK (RIAT 2023). The agreement sees the two companies collaborating on technology development and funding opportunities with regards to safe and effective drone flight in maritime environments at low altitudes.

 

Seaflight have been developing battery electric drones called Wingships. They transport air cargo between island and coastal populations by flying within approximately one wingspan of the ocean. Internationally, flying in this way is regulated by the Coast Guard and the International Maritime Organization rather than aviation authorities. It also takes advantage of aerodynamic efficiencies which extend electric range and payloads beyond those currently possible with conventional planes. Seaflight's mission is to create equitable access to low-cost, low-emission flown cargo for communities that are also among those most affected by climate change caused by fossil fuel emissions.

 

“Safe and proven autonomy, even with a remote pilot in the loop like we have, is needed so we can provide the most efficient and lowest-cost logistics service possible in areas where low cost matters the most” said Seaflight’s CEO and co-founder, Dr. Graham Doig. He continued, “Volant Autonomy has already demonstrated maritime operations in complex, low-altitude drone operations over the English Channel. They’ve been working on solutions for GPS-denied environments too for the defense context. When we saw that combination of existing experience and cutting-edge AI, we saw a unique partner that can dramatically accelerate our path to establishing reliable and safe operations with our wingships.”

 

Volant Autonomy’s approach is based on Deterministic Agile Risk Intelligence (DARI), the company’s certifiable and patent-protected core tech. It allows an unequaled level of risk visibility for the next generation of uncrewed aircraft, using any sensor, to handle any scenario, on any platform for any customer. Volant also specializes in risk aware flight planning, to reduce risk exposure by up to 95% before taking off.

 

Volant’s CEO, Dr. David Cleaver, said “Seaflight’s Wingship approach is extremely exciting and presents a strong business model for operations. Flying in ground effect, over the sea, it is possible to simultaneously increase efficiency and range whilst also reducing regulatory, and therefore platform, cost significantly. For this to be viable it needs an onboard autonomy that is primed for the environment, something we have been developing and flight-trialing for over 6 years”. 

To learn more about Seaflight, visit https://www.seaflight.tech

To learn more about Volant Autonomy, visit https://volantautonomy.com/

 

Contact:
media@seaflight.tech

 

About Seaflight Technologies Inc.: Seaflight is a Los Angeles-based company with subsidiaries in the UK and Australia. The company is developing the world’s most efficient battery electric drones to transport several hundred kilograms of cargo over distances that would not be possible with conventional aircraft. Seaflight was founded in 2022 by a team that collectively broke two electric international land speed records and worked on multiple commercial electric vehicle and military aviation platforms. The company has already flown several sub-scale prototype electric wingships and has backing from the US National Science Foundation to develop cutting edge aerodynamic technologies. Seaflight is backed by investors including Y Combinator, 7 Percent Ventures, Collaborative Fund, Climate Capital, Asymmetry Ventures and Gaingels, alongside angel investors including tech entrepreneurs Jude Gomila and Guillaume Luccisano, and Matt Bellamy from the band Muse.

 

About Volant Autonomy: Volant is a UK-based University spinout developing certifiable autonomy for flight. A vital step in integrating uncrewed aviation into the airspace system which will unlock the potential of uncrewed platforms. Volant’s technical approach is to consider decision-making across the ground and air-based infrastructure to produce a full-stack autonomy solution. Crucially the resulting Artificial Intelligence is deterministic and certifiable through current aerospace regulations. Volant has been awarded multiple UK government research grants worth over $5mn and is backed by private investors including Creator Fund, 7 Percent Ventures and several high-profile angel investors.

July 2023

 

Seaflight Technologies Inc. Awarded Competitive SBIR Funding from the U.S. National Science Foundation

R&D funding accelerates work on high-lift aerodynamic technology for more efficient electric flight.

Seaflight awarded National Science Foundation NSF Funding
Seaflight awarded National Science Foundation Funding

LOS ANGELES, CA -- 9th July 2023 -- Seaflight Technologies Inc., a developer of ultra-efficient large drones for logistics, has been awarded a U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I grant for $275,000 to improve the efficiency of electric flight. Once a small business is awarded a Phase I grant, it is eligible to apply for Phase II funding and supplements totaling up to $2 million.

Seaflight’s project will implement a novel form of what’s known as aerodynamic circulation control. This actively changes the airflow over a wing to produce very high lift only when it is needed, for instance to enable a quick, short takeoff. It then helps to reduce aerodynamic drag for the remainder of the flight.

 

Reduced drag means significantly more range and payload will be possible even with today’s battery technology. This addresses one of the main barriers to more widespread adoption of batteries for regional air cargo and passenger flights.  

Founded in 2022, Seaflight has already flown several sub-scale prototype electric wingships – craft that can take off and land on water but fly close to the surface of the sea. The goal is to help bring low-cost, low-emission flown cargo to island and coastal populations that are also among those most affected by climate change caused by fossil fuel emissions.

Seaflight CEO and Principal Investigator on the project, Dr. Graham Doig, said “Seaflight’s mission is to accelerate an electric and equitable future for flight. That means electric flight for meaningful impact today, not ten years from now when batteries are better. The aerodynamic efficiency unlocked by our circulation control is a huge part of making that possible.”

Seaflight’s Lead Aerodynamics Engineer, Dr. Johan Melis, added “Our goal is to basically double the range that an electric aircraft can fly, using clever aerodynamics to do it. The future of flight doesn’t look like today’s planes.”

 

All proposals submitted to the NSF SBIR program, also known as America’s Seed Fund powered by NSF, undergo a rigorous merit-based review process.

 

“NSF accelerates the translation of emerging technologies into transformative new products and services,” said Erwin Gianchandani, NSF Assistant Director for Technology, Innovation and Partnerships. “We take great pride in funding deep-technology startups and small businesses that will shape science and engineering results into meaningful solutions for today and tomorrow.”

 

Seaflight intends on demonstrating its new aerodynamic technologies in flight tests marked for early 2024 and is actively building partnerships to accelerate commercialization.

 

To learn more about Seaflight, visit https://www.seaflight.tech

 

Contact:
media@seaflight.tech

 

About Seaflight Technologies Inc.: Seaflight is a Los Angeles-based company with subsidiaries in the UK and Australia. The company is developing the world’s most efficient battery electric drones to transport several hundred kilograms of cargo over distances that would not be possible with conventional aircraft. Seaflight was founded in 2022 by a team that collectively broke two electric international land speed records and worked on multiple commercial electric vehicle and military aviation platforms. The company is backed by investors including Y Combinator, 7 Percent Ventures, Collaborative Fund, Climate Capital, Asymmetry Ventures, Gaingels, alongside angel investors including tech entrepreneurs Jude Gomila and Guillaume Luccisano, and Matt Bellamy from the band Muse.

 

About the U.S. National Science Foundation's Small Business Programs: America’s Seed Fund powered by NSF awards more than $200 million annually to startups and small businesses, transforming scientific discovery into products and services with commercial and societal impact. Startups working across almost all areas of science and technology can receive up to $2 million to support research and development, helping de-risk technology for commercial success. America’s Seed Fund is congressionally mandated through the Small Business Innovation Research program. The NSF is an independent federal agency with a budget of about $9.5 billion that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. To learn more about how NSF helps unlock future technologies for national and societal impact, visit: https://beta.nsf.gov/tip/latest.

April 2023

 

Seaflight's 5th gen prototype "ground effect" wingship, CC, completes maiden flights.

The wingship will soon be the first autonomous ultra-low-altitude drone to fly over the open ocean

Seaflight wingship maiden flights

After completing its 5th electric cargo drone prototype inside 1 year, the Seaflight Technologies team has been out testing it's most fully-formed version, nicknamed "CC Seaflight". Several hundred kilometers of flying over multiple weeks has seen the wingship drone through troubleshooting and endurance testing in the build up to eventual trials at sea off the coast of California this summer.

CC is designed to fly in a regime called "ground effect", where the wings are close enough to the water that a cushion of high pressure builds up underneath, improving lift and allowing the wingship to either maintain speed at a reduced power (improving range), or to carry a heavier payload with the same power. Both of these are advantageous characteristics for electric aircraft given the current limitations of lithium-based batteries.

The sub-scale prototype has a wingspan of close to 8.5ft (2.6m) and is capable of flight over 80kts (>140km/h), although typical cruising velocity is less than half that. The drone can take off and land on water, making it a versatile performer, but it can also be launched from a catapult to facilitate quick turnarounds between flights, and to reduce reliance on the water and wind conditions.

The airframe is loaded with sensors including cameras, GPS, and both LiDAR and radar. Seaflight's in-house team developed software called "SeaSense" that allows the drone to fly at altitudes of less than 3ft (well within 1 wingspan of the water's surface) in a stable and controlled manner autonomously, while a pilot remains in the loop remotely. Eventually SeaSense will be extended to detect and avoid obstacles and respond to sensed and anticipated disturbances to ensure optimized flight over longer distances - for now  flight durations are capped at under 10 minutes of efficient electric flight within visual line of sight.

 

After refining the software further and testing in more challenging conditions, CC will take to the sea off the California coast this summer as a culmination of the flight test campaign.

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