Reliable Robotics, a California-based autonomous aircraft startup, has raised $100 million in Series C funding as it seeks to launch commercial cargo operations in hard-to-reach areas.
The funding round was led by tech investor Coatue Management, whose investments include mobile banking app Chime. Coatue was joined by other investors:
- Lightspeed Venture Partners
- Eclipse Ventures
- Teamworthy Ventures
- Pathbreaker Ventures
Total fundraising reached more than $133 million.
The company, which launched in 2017 and is led by former SpaceX and Tesla engineer Robert Rose, says the funds will allow the company to scale its team to support its first aircraft certification program and expedite the launch. Eventually, the company plans to expand to passenger service, as well.
Its remotely operated aircraft system seeks to retrofit and automate fixed-wing airplanes and handles all phases of flight including taxi, takeoff, landing, and parking, while certificated pilots remotely supervise each flight from a control center.
The system has the capability to autoland on smaller airstrips in rural or remote areas without requiring additional infrastructure. So far, it has tested the system on a Cessna 172 Skyhawk and a Cessna 208 Caravan with plans to expand to larger airframes, as well as electric and hybrid-electric platforms.
The company says it is positioned to unlock access to thousands of underutilized regional and municipal airports around the country, expanding air transportation options for cargo and eventually passengers.
“Automated aircraft present a massive opportunity to transform the cargo industry over the next several years,” said Jeff Drees, a new member of the Reliable team and a former co-owner and chief commercial officer of Ameriflight, the largest regional air cargo carrier in the world. “Remotely piloted cargo delivery provides a huge advantage with low-cost, anytime, anywhere flights that increase aircraft utilization and availability.”
The company has received key authorizations from the FAA for the flight of experimental unmanned aircraft. In 2019, it demonstrated remote operation of a large commercial aircraft over a metropolitan area, marking an aviation first for a private company in the United States. The company also announced a partnership with NASA as part of the Advanced Air Mobility National Campaign to further real-world flight testing of its system.
“We intend to bring unprecedented safety and reliability to today’s commercial aircraft,” said Rose, co-founder and CEO of Reliable. “Close collaboration with our public institutions, strong backing from visionary investors and keen interest within the cargo industry further accelerates our mission to expand everyone’s access to air transportation.”