First eVTOL to Fly Commercially in U.S. Begins Spraying Crops in California

Guardian Agriculture, which also claims the title of the first eVTOL to be certified by the FAA for commercial operations, began serving its first customer this week.

Guardian Agriculture eVTOL

Guardian Agriculture’s SC1 eVTOL can cover up to 60 acres per hour, the company claims. [Courtesy: Guardian Agriculture]

Much ado has been made about the commercial launch of electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) air taxis in the U.S., with the earliest entrants expected to begin passenger-carrying operations in 2025. However, one eVTOL manufacturer has already begun serving customers.

Massachusetts-based Guardian Agriculture on Monday announced that its Guardian SC1, designed for commercial-scale sustainable farming, began spraying crops for a customer in California’s Salinas Valley region. Guardian claims the aircraft is the first eVTOL design to fly commercially in the U.S., which would mark a key milestone for the emerging industry.

The company says its automated system can cover up to 60 acres per hour, comparable to conventional agricultural aircraft. The technology is fully programmable, and no manual controls are required to operate the aircraft. The idea is to allow farmers to customize their crop-spraying schedules, which the system can then repeat on its own as many times as desired.

With no pilot on board, the SC1 can carry up to 200 pounds. The 12-by-12-foot craft is compact enough to fit in the back of a flatbed truck, allowing farmers to transport and deploy it where they choose. A 100 percent electric powertrain provides propulsion—charging it and filling the aircraft’s tank with chemicals, combined, takes less than one minute, Guardian claims.

Guardian says its design is more efficient, sustainable, and safe than traditional agricultural aircraft while remaining cost-competitive with those models. It also claims to have over $100 million worth of customer orders, with each system selling for $119,000. Deliveries can be reserved with a fully refundable $500 deposit.

“This is a watershed moment for sustainable farming and a giant leap forward for eVTOL technology,” said Adam Bercu, Guardian founder and CEO. “While several companies are developing eVTOL technologies, we are now the only one that has both secured FAA approval to operate commercially nationwide, and that's actually started flying missions on behalf of paying customers.”

As Bercu alluded, Guardian received FAA authorization to operate the SC1 nationwide in March. Passenger-carrying eVTOL air taxis, expected to fly over densely populated areas, are simultaneously working through the agency’s type certification process. But the regulator so far has not greenlit any electric air taxi designs for safe operations.

In June, Guardian wrapped up a Series A fundraise led by Fall Line Capital, which netted it $20 million. The private equity firm’s executive team is largely composed of farmers. Guardian said it would use the money to ramp up large-scale manufacturing and expand commercial SC1 operations nationwide.

A few months later, the firm bolstered its executive leadership with the appointment of Matt Cherouny as vice president of supply chain and manufacturing. Cherouny previously held engineering leadership positions at Tesla before leading eVTOL air taxi manufacturer Beta Technologies’ manufacturing division. The company’s leadership also includes C-Level veterans of Apple, BAE, Sikorsky, and Uber.

While the start of Guardian’s commercial operations won’t directly impact the launch timelines of other eVTOL manufacturers, it may help the technology gain approval from the public. That’s if everything goes smoothly; a crash, on the other hand, could have the opposite effect. Either way, the SC1 should give onlookers below a taste of emerging designs.

At the same time, a successful start to Guardian’s operations (i.e. one without a crash) could help the FAA inform future certification processes and decision-making.

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Jack is a staff writer covering advanced air mobility, including everything from drones to unmanned aircraft systems to space travel—and a whole lot more. He spent close to two years reporting on drone delivery for FreightWaves, covering the biggest news and developments in the space and connecting with industry executives and experts. Jack is also a basketball aficionado, a frequent traveler and a lover of all things logistics.

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