Starburst Ventures Invests in Natilus to Scale Large Cargo Drones

Today Natilus, a manufacturer of large aircraft drones, announced it has closed a second round of seed funding with investment from Starburst Ventures, Seraph Group, Gelt VC, Outpost Capital and Draper Associates. The funds will go toward the company’s aggressive scaling strategy, with the first Federal Aviation Administration-approved flight for its 30-foot prototype scheduled for late 2017, and a commercial market launch in 2020.

Just as the long-haul freight sector has made huge strides in efficiency gains and cost reduction due to technology innovation, the $15.5 trillion global freight market is poised for disruption as it strives to offer customers more cost-effective delivery solutions beyond the decades-old vessels and aircraft which serve as its primary sources of transport. Natilus has identified the sweet spot between sea and air freight in the international freight market, offering a large cargo-capacity UAV that challenges current incumbents on price and speed of commercial-scale freight delivery.

“Two years ago, Natilus gave its pitch for the first time at our Los Angeles selection committee, and that exposure led to its initial seed round,” said François Chopard, Founder and CEO of Starburst Ventures. “Today 47% of Starburst’s portfolio companies have now closed Series A rounds at an average of $10 million. We were pleased to provide the technical and business due diligence, and now investment, to take Natilus to the next level. That’s the perfect demonstration of our investment strategy in action.”

“Today’s freight sector is limited to just two choices when it comes to meeting customer demand – an expensive 14-hour route by air or a slow-going 21-day ocean trip. Why haven’t there been more options?” said Tuff Yen, Founder and President of Seraph Group. “Natilus’s value proposition, the ability to provide cost-effective cargo container-sized air options, creates a far-reaching impact on cost of goods, logistics, finance and commerce.”

Astral Aviation, a leading air freight provider in Africa, is “excited for Natilus’s progress in developing large cargo drones for the industry. Astral is looking to incorporate aerial vehicles such as Natilus into their African network to complement their current schedule and improve cargo connectivity in Africa,” said Sanjeev Gadhia, CEO of Astral Aviation.

Outpost Capital is a believer in globalization. “Over the last 10 years we’ve seen a stable increase in demand for cross-border air delivery. In China, the logistic industry has been developing rapidly domestically, and will be getting ready for global expansion – Natilus is positioned to do just that,” said Ryan Wang, Founding Partner of Outpost Capital.

Natilus’s large-scale drones will be comprised of carbon fiber composites while using existing turbofan and turboprop engines, scaling to a long-term vision of 950,000-pound airplanes carrying 120 tons over trans-Pacific routes. Its next vehicle, a 12,000-pound drone capable of carrying 2 tons over 1000 nautical miles, will feature retractable landing gear and will be capable of taking off and landing at local regional airports.

“The foundation of our thesis is to align and support the outliers that are pushing the boundaries in frontier tech, and we see Natilus as a first mover that is poised to impact global freight in a positive and meaningful way,” said Jake Chapman, Partner at Gelt VC. “With a high caliber team out of Boeing, Airbus and the drone sector, Natilus’s ability to dramatically reduce the cost and time of transporting cargo bodes well for the sector.”

“Natilus is well positioned to be the leader in fast inexpensive delivery of goods,” said Tim Draper, Founding Partner of Draper Associates. “It turns out that a self-flying vehicle can be more reliable and less expensive than one with a human in it.”

“Natilus’s partnerships with this incredible group of investors is an important milestone in our continued growth,” said Aleksey Matyushev, CEO of Natilus. “The new round of financing will allow us to scale the team to finish design of our 12,000-pound e-commerce drone, while at the same time growing our flight-testing operation for our 2200-pound, 30-foot prototype.”

About Natilus
Founded in 2014 by a group of aircraft designers and military drone specialists, Natilus Inc. is a manufacturer of large unmanned cargo aircraft which introduce a more cost-effective way to transport goods worldwide. Natilus is the next generation cargo carrier, a large cargo capacity UAV that can be operated at 50% the cost of a Boeing 777 freighter, with delivery capacity 120 tons over trans-Pacific routes.


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