Marc Piette is the founder of a two year old autonomous aviation startup named Xwing, which has kept a low profile until today – they’ve been busy developing a software package for general aviation aircraft, helicopters, and eVTOLs that automates the flying process.
Xwing announced Tuesday that raised $4 million in a seed round. Investors included Eniac Ventures, Array Ventures, and John and Patrick Collison, Stripe founders. Nat Friedman (Xamarin), Microsoft, and GitHub, also invested.
The additional funding will advance the Xwing’s resources in aerospace engineering and software development.
Xwing currently has around a dozen employees – and many of which have substantial experience in the aerospace industry, working at companies such as Agusta Westland.
Piette sees several limiting factors in small passenger aircraft: the skill level and price required to learn how to operate an airplane outweighs the benefits. Light general aviation aircraft sales number in the thousands per year, while sales of cars number in the tens of millions.
The company is focusing on the key functions of autonomous flight, such as sensing, reasoning and control.
Xwing is also poised effectively to apply its solutions to many different platforms – their near plug and play compatibility for their software stack will enable hundreds of general aviation aircraft, helicopters, and flying cars and taxis to be autonomously operated.
Similar to an active monitoring automotive system, the Xwing Autonomy Flight Management System (AFMS) system continuously analyzes the surrounding environment and makes changes to flight path if conflicts are detected on top of flying a predefined route. Xwing stated that the AFMS will integrate with air traffic control, create flight plans to navigate through airspace, monitor aircraft systems, and more.
Xwing is currently in discussion with a number of large, unnamed aircraft manufacturers that are considering testing Xwing’s AFMS in their airplanes.
Why it’s important: Xwing is the first company to focus solely on the automated flight segment exclusively – and is benefiting from the smaller scope and intense direction of their product. While many eVTOLs are being designed to be autonomously operated, Xwing’s solution bridges the gap between piloted and non-piloted systems much more cost effectively and quicker than developing an entire new flight management and guidance system.