Karem Aircraft Launches New Air Taxi Company with $25M Series A
Lake Forest, Calif. – July 15, 2019 – Karem Aircraft, Inc, a Vertical Takeoff and Landing (VTOL) vehicle developer, has announced a new spin-off venture dedicated to bringing its all-electric air taxi vehicle, Butterfly, to market. The new company is backed by a $25M Series A investment led by Hanwha Systems.
The new venture continues Karem Aircraft’s partnership with Uber for the development and deployment of its eVTOL technology for aerial ridesharing.
As part of its partnership with Uber, the new air taxi venture will manufacture vehicles for Uber’s network of all-electric air taxis in numerous cities worldwide. The Butterfly air taxi vehicle will enable aerial ridesharing customers to dramatically shorten their commutes and avoid traffic in densely populated urban markets. These electric vertical take-off and landing vehicles (eVTOLs) differ from helicopters in that they are far quieter, safer, more affordable, and more environmentally friendly.
The Butterfly design uses Karem’s Optimum Speed Rotor technology to power a vectored thrust vehicle with four large rotors mounted on the wings and tail. The Butterfly configuration solves the tradeoff between hover and cruise efficiency, creating an optimal vehicle design for aerial ridesharing. Butterfly’s large, slow turning rotors not only provide efficient lift, but also quiet acoustics which is key for operating at scale in cities.
The new air taxi company founding team includes CEO Ben Tigner, Chief Commercial Officer Ryan Doss, and renowned aircraft designer and serial entrepreneur Abe Karem, a pioneer in VTOL technology whose past inventions include the original Predator drone and the A160 Hummingbird unmanned helicopter. This marks the fourth company Mr. Karem has founded in the US with the first and second being acquired by General Atomics and Boeing, respectively, and the third, Karem Aircraft, continuing to operate today. Mr. Karem will serve as the Chief Designer for both Karem Aircraft and the new venture, splitting time between the two companies.
Hanwha Systems, a large Korean industrial conglomerate, is leading the $25M Series A investment into the new air taxi company, pending regulatory approval. Hanwha brings financial support, a deep history of manufacturing, and industrial scale to accelerate the Butterfly air taxi vehicle to market.
CEO Ben Tigner said, “We are thrilled to announce both the investment deal with Hanwha Systems and our creation of a new company to aggressively pursue the air taxi opportunity. The new company will be able to focus exclusively on bringing Butterfly to market, leveraging Karem’s optimum speed rotor technology, Hanwha’s industrial scale, and Uber’s ridesharing network. We look forward to the day when riders will be able to commute to work by flying above the traffic in one of our vehicles. Karem Aircraft will continue to serve the needs of its military customers; we are confident that each company is on a path for long-term success so that our technology can be applied in two distinct but important use cases.”
“We are also excited to be working with Hanwha as our lead investor; they bring tremendous industrial capability and experience, as well as a long-term vision for and commitment to shaping the nascent eVTOL market. We are confident that together we can bring a safe, quiet, eco-friendly, and affordable air taxi to the world, and in doing so change the way people move about their cities.”
Eric Allison, Head of Uber Elevate, said “Karem’s technology for making safe, quiet, and efficient air taxi vehicles excites all of us. Hanwha’s Series A investment in Karem’s new air taxi entity accelerates efforts to bring the Butterfly to market, and we look forward to flying riders in places like Dallas, Los Angeles, and Melbourne in the near future.”
About Karem Aircraft: Karem Aircraft is a privately-held aerospace development firm headquartered in Lake Forest, California. It is the third US company founded by renowned aerospace designer, Abe Karem, with previous companies acquired by General Atomics and Boeing. The company develops and manufactures rotorcraft based on Karem’s patented Optimum Speed Rotor technology focused on defense customers. Its team of world-class engineers, technicians, and professionals work to create innovative vehicles and improved mobility. The new Karem spin-off company will pioneer electric vertical takeoff and landing technologies for the civilian air taxi market.
About Hanwha Systems: Hanwha Systems is part of the broader Hanwha industrial conglomerate, a Global Fortune 500 company. Based in Korea, Hanwha’s businesses span aerospace & defense, chemicals & materials, solar energy, finance, leisure & lifestyle, and construction. As a strategic investor, Hanwha brings experience in avionics, system integration, and aerospace manufacturing.
About Uber: Uber has a goal of conducting air taxi flight demonstrations in 2020 and making aerial ridesharing commercially available to riders in 2023, with its first Uber Air cities being Dallas-Fort Worth/Frisco Texas, Los Angeles, California, and Melbourne, Australia. Uber is partnered with Karem Aircraft’s new air taxi venture and several other experienced aircraft manufacturers to produce vehicles for the Uber Air aerial ridesharing network.
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Note: Hanwha announced the news on July 11, referring to an internal name “K4 Aeronautics” but the actual name of the spinoff will be announced in the future: “Hanwha to invest in US air taxi startup,” The Korea Herald, Thursday, July 11, 2019.