SA aerospace startup Cloudline gets $6m funding
Cloudline, a South African aerospace startup, has raised $6 million in funding to spearhead carbon emissions-free autonomous flight globally. The seed round includes investment from Schmidt Futures, the philanthropic venture founded by former Google CEO Eric Schmidt and Wendy Schmidt. Other supporters include pan-African funds like the Raba Partnership, Verod-Kepple Africa Ventures, 4Di Capital, and various venture firms.
The startup specializes in autonomous airships that offer a cost-effective alternative to drones, helicopters, and satellites. These airships enable real-time data capture in remote and challenging-to-reach locations, presenting a solution for areas that are both difficult to access and expensive to serve. The key strengths of Cloudline's airships lie in their impressive range, endurance, and efficiency.
Having completed the regulatory approvals process, Cloudline has launched its commercial operations in South Africa. The startup is actively pursuing expansion into neighboring countries, namely Namibia and Mozambique, with subsequent plans to enter global markets.
Traditionally, helicopters and airplanes have been employed to serve poorly connected communities. However, their operational requirements for take-off and landing pose limitations, and their delivery methods may lack precision. Drones have emerged as a cost-effective alternative in aviation, facilitating the delivery of essential items to remote areas, particularly for medical purposes in East Africa. Nonetheless, drones have their limitations, including payload capacity. Scaling up existing drones to accommodate larger payloads is not a straightforward solution, as it leads to increased engineering complexity and manufacturing costs, eventually necessitating the use of carbon fuels. Cloudline addresses these challenges by offering a unique solution. The startup, which initially secured venture capital backing in 2019, including a $4.1 million pre-seed funding round, aims to overcome the constraints associated with conventional aviation and drone technologies. By focusing on autonomy and developing airships, Cloudline provides a cost-efficient alternative to existing delivery methods.