Pyka raises a $37m Series A to adapt its autonomous electric plane for cargo runs

Pyka, a battery-powered autonomous airplane maker targeting the aircraft spraying business market, added to our portfolio in 2017 as part of the YC S17 batch has just raised a $37m series A round that will enable them to further their mission to electrify and automate agricultural operations on farms and beyond.

As the team mission statement says “We believe that electrification and automation will make aviation safer, more affordable, and more accessible than has ever been possible in human history.”

Pyka has just unveiled the new cargo-carrying variant of their Pelican aircraft. Their initial Pelican aircraft can take off, perform complex spraying patterns, and land entirely autonomously. It can be checked and operated by a single person.

The updated Pelican has larger wings, four motors instead of three, a stronger structure, bigger batteries, improved payload capacity, and more. One of the key design achievements of the new aircraft is that there is no single point of failure. This means that, if any subsystem in the aircraft fails, there will be no catastrophic event. This is a big plus in autonomous, unmanned aircraft.

Michael Norcia, Co-Founder, and CEO explains:

“Our master plan is and always has been to leverage the technology we’re developing in agriculture for larger markets, so cargo and eventually passenger transit,”

Pyka intends to test the new Pelican out in low-risk situations like small inter-island commerce, making daily deliveries to places that normally would wait a week or more for a larger, piloted plane to load up enough to justify the trip.

The money raised will largely go towards boosting manufacturing capabilities, the aim is the production of a Pelican a month, getting them into the hands of excited customers as soon as possible.

You can read more about the round in the TechCrunch article here.

Zillionize is a seed round investor which has been investing in technology startups since March 2011. We look for early startups who we believe can see the future. We use a data-driven approach to identify startups we love and want to invest in for the long term. Zillionize has invested in a number of unicorns and we look forward to more of our portfolio joining this list in the years to come.