An Israeli firm working on flying cars is looking for $40 million and a strategic partner⁠— the founders are open to set up the plant in India

Urban Aeronautics
  • The company has been working on the project⁠— in which India’s Tata Group has a small investment⁠— for the last two decades
  • The founders told Business Insider that they see a company like Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) as a potential partner.
  • The Yoelis see the flying car useful as an ambulance for health emergencies to start with, something that government or private hospitals and civic bodies can incorporate into their fleet.
  • Check out the latest news and updates on Business Insider.
Israel-based Urban Aeronautics is developing flying cars called the CityHawk powered by hydrogen fuel cells. The company has been working on the project⁠— in which India’s Tata Group has a small investment⁠— for the last two decades and is currently looking to raise money and gain a strategic partner in the last financing round.

The founders told Business Insider that they would consider India for manufacturing and see a company like Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) as a potential partner.

Rafi Yoeli, the inventor and designer behind the Urban Aeronautics flying car.​Rafi Yoeli

“We are looking for $40 million, possibly in tranches and maybe not all at once. The amount of money will take us to full-scale development at the beginning of manufacturing of the unmanned vehicle,” said Janina Frankel-Yoeli, the vice-president of marketing at Urban Aeronautics.
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“We are at a stage in 2020 where we are looking for serious agreements with strategic partners. We believe that Stage B will end in some kind of M&A. We need a lot more than $40 million to actually finish the program, certify it and then switch to hydrogen, certify that as well, and launch it into the market,” said Rafi Yoeli, the inventor and designer behind the Urban Aeronautics flying car.

The India connection

The company currently has private investors, one of which is Tata Industries. However, Tata while responding to Business Insider queries said, “Tata Industries is a very minor investor in Urban Aeronautics. We do not have any further guidance to offer.” It has also partnered with French company Safran, which supplies all power and requirements.

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“We have signed an agreement with certain parties, not in India yet, but we are definitely looking forward to it. Really for the manned-aircraft, which we think has a lot of potential in India,” Rafi said.

Rafi thinks a lot of aircraft makers in India can be a great strategic partner for their company. “There are a lot of aircraft makers in India we know Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), there was some point where Tata could have been a partner. I think they went in different directions. But, they are still invested,” he said.

“We are a private company and setting up a manufacturing unit in India is a big advantage for us,” he added.

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How does a flying car look?

The company aims to deploy these flying cars like Uber in the sky. No, it’s no more a dream or merely a fiction the company has already developed its “first tone, full-scale flying car, as you can see it is still unmanned. It is called comran. It already has 300 autonomous flights behind it,” Rafi Yoeli.

Urban Aeronautics

CityHawk is a six-seater vehicle, with a uniquely compact footprint and no external wings or rotors. “It is indeed the size of a car. It is 2.25-metre wide at this time and approximately 6 metres long, more of a van. But it takes off vertically. It can carry 100s of kilograms, and it is designed to the same standard and same procedures as you design a bell two helicopter,” Rafi Yoeli told Business Insider.

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The Yoelis see the flying car useful as an ambulance for health emergencies to start with, something that government or private hospitals and civic bodies can incorporate into their fleet.

As of now, flying vehicles including drones are tightly regulated in India, and it may be a while before the country opens up to flying cars, or is even able to afford them on a large scale. However, allowing a manufacturing unit is an opportunity to attract investment, to create jobs for some of the country’s bright engineers, and the subsequent knowledge transfer will make the country a fertile ground for future innovations in a space that is yet to take shape.

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