Mothership Aeronautics is using autonomous solar-powered blimps to disrupt long-distance aerial data collection.
Mothership Aeronautics has raised a seed round of USD $1.45 Million to build and deploy its new TerraSoar Aerial Intelligence Airship. The round was led by Shatter Tech Venture Holdings and included Silicon Valley VC Draper Associates and Manila-based accelerator Cerebro Labs.
TerraSoar’s powerful combination of lighter-than-air lifting and high efficiency solar cells enables higher endurance and longer-range flights than possible with drones, while also operating heavy payloads like LiDAR. It is “a heavy duty floating data collector,” as Tim Draper calls it.
Over the next 18 months, Mothership Aeronautics’ will provide Aerial Intelligence to at least 6 customers in at least 3 industry verticals. One industry vertical selected is aerial inspection of long linear infrastructure such as energy and water pipelines, road and railroad.
There are currently 2,500,000 miles of operational energy pipeline in the United States. Inspections are performed by low-flying manned aircraft at an annual cost of $15,000 per mile for a market of $37Bn nationally. Inspection with the TerraSoar will bring reduced costs, improved safety and a higher actionability and quality of data.
Drones have been slow to break into the pipeline inspection business due to their short range and flight times and FAA visibility requirements. Currently the FAA limits operations of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles to within line-of-sight of the operator. At 9m length, TerraSoar can be seen at over 10x the distance of the largest inspection drones on the market. Mothership is also working on an FAA Beyond Visual Line of Sight waiver.
One way in which TerraSoar’s design differs from conventional airships is by its vectored propulsion system, allowing more control in harsh winds and turbulence. The TerraSoar can stop, hover and fly in all directions with precision usually only achievable by multirotor drones.
The name, TerraSoar, stems from a family of prehistoric flying reptiles. The Pterosaurs were the first vertebrates known to take to the clouds just as the TerraSoar is the first blimp-type drone to hit the drone inspection market and Mothership Aeronautics’ first Aerial Intelligence Craft.
Mothership Aeronautics was founded in California’s Silicon Valley in August 2016 by aerospace engineer Jonathan Nutzati. Jonathan became fascinated by solar-electric solutions while working at Tesla Motors, when he converted a Motorhome to run on solar in the company parking lot. With a $25,000 initial investment from Boost VC and collaboration with eBlimp, Mothership demonstrated a 7m long Proof-of-Concept solar airship, the Scout, within 3 months of its inception.
In the demonstration, the Scout achieved Infinity Cruise: a flight in which more power is generated by the solar panels than is needed to propel the aircraft. Infinity Cruise is the first step towards Aerial Persistence and a cornerstone upon which Mothership will develop its technology.
Mothership Aeronautics is now looking for collaborators in Aerial Intelligence projects and talented new team members to be part of our growing team. Mothership’s roadmap is full of exciting new innovations in the aerial persistence space such as airborne charging and logistics.