TDK Corporation’s subsidiary, TDK Ventures Inc. has added AutoFlightX to its venture capital portfolio. TDK focuses on demanding markets in the areas of information and communication technology and automotive, industrial and consumer electronics. The company has a network of design and manufacturing locations and sales offices in Asia, Europe, and in North and South America. In fiscal 2019, TDK posted total sales of USD $12.5 billion and employed about 105,000 people worldwide.
The announcement is the TDK Venture’s fourth investment since the launch of its corporate venture capital (CVC) fund in July 2019 with a goal of investing in innovative startups focused on digital and energy transformation while contributing to sustainability. AutoFlightX is a growing eVTOL manufacturer based in Munich, Germany and has 100 employees with the vision of developing an industry-leading high efficiency eVTOL vehicle.
“TDK’s multi-dimensional core competency in sensors, energy and power makes them our strongest partner so far,” CEO and founder of AutoFlightX Tian Yu said. “As we look into the horizon of tomorrow’s mobility, we are committed to bringing high-endurance eVTOL vehicles with the best reliability and safety. We are thrilled to have TDK as our partner because they are world leaders in commercializing advanced technologies and supporting hard-tech entrepreneurs like us.”
According to TDK Ventures’ Managing Director Nicolas Sauvage, the CVC sought companies that combine avionics and drone expertise with strong unit economics, paired with solid business models in the eVTOL space. For TDK Ventures, the ideal company would unlock a spectrum of use cases in inspection, cargo delivery and emergency responses, all without requiring an installed charging infrastructure base.
AutoFlightX’s 50 kg prototype can carry payloads of up to 20 kg and has a flight time of two to five hours continuous cruise. The company also has a pipeline of platforms that will carry up to 300 kg and can fly two to five hours, depending on the payload.
“We believe AutoFlightX’s innovations reflect a combination of the best consumer drone talent from China paired with the aviation engineering rigor of Germany,” Sauvage noted.
The AutoFlightX team explored customer pain points in traditional industries such as mining, oil and gas and emergency response. In such scenarios, consumer drones didn’t satisfy the needs for vertical take-off, long-duration cruise and hovering while carrying large payloads, so the company began developing an eVTOL solution. AutoFlightX has already signed on several customers in the mining and inspection industries with their V40 Whiteshark platform that can carry up to a 20 kg payload. The AutoFlightX team has also recently completed their first full maiden flight of a 300 kg platform, which can deliver medicine and other time-sensitive supplies of up to a 100 kg payload. Their 1000 kg platform is currently under development, with plans for initial flights in 2020. AutoFlightX believes their 1000 kg platform will ultimately pave the path to air taxis, which will hold up to four passengers and have a range of >300 km with a single charge.
Why it matters: TDK’s investment in AutoFlightX will provide needed capital to expand research and development efforts and means of production in the near term. Further, AutoFlightX larger product offerings will bring competition to other eVTOL manufacturers in Europe, including Volocopter among others. The companies manufacturing experience from China combined with its German-educated engineering force will offer a unique talent advantage in the aerial mobility space.