Skydweller Aero Inc. is a US aerospace company developing solar-powered aircraft solutions capable of achieving perpetual flight with unprecedented payload capacity for both defense and commercial industries. On April 19, 2021 the Oklahoma City-based startup announced the successful flight demonstration of the company’s initial aircraft control, actuation, and sensor technology systems, following scrupulous software design, installation, and ground testing.
According to the company’s press release, the company conducted preliminary testing of its proprietary autonomous software while measuring and evaluating multiple open-loop system identification inputs; the purpose of the testing was to collect data on aircraft’s static and dynamic characteristics at various altitudes. The company calls this a “crucial step” in the company’s preliminary flight test campaign, concluding with an optional piloted take-off and landing. Once complete, Skydweller intends to transition to fully autonomous flight testing.
“This successful flight test demonstrates the incredible evolution of this aircraft since its acquisition,” said CEO Dr. Robert Miller. “Leveraging rapid development and engineering processes, Skydweller Aero has now begun collecting and analyzing real-world data to further refine and expand the software capabilities necessary for achieving autonomous flight. We are well on our way to meeting our ultimate objective—perpetual flight.”
In order to prepare for this monumental step in Skydweller Aero’s flight test campaign, the company worked to design key software and hardware components which they claim boost efficiency, integration, and connectivity. With these improvements, the company is one step closer to its end goal of unmanned capabilities.
“We are very pleased with our latest flight test and evaluation,” said Co-Founder and Chief Strategy Officer John Parkes. “With renewed fervor for zero-emission unmanned systems solutions, we believe Skydweller Aero is well-positioned to—not only prove our platform’s airworthiness and commercial viability—but also demonstrate that clean technology can enhance aircraft performance.”
In addition to being named a Venture of the Year Finalist at the Oklahoma Venture Forum Awards on May 12th, 2021, the company notably achieved the highest altitude reached and sustained in horizontal flight by a solar powered aircraft. This ground-breaking test flight was conducted on Sunday, April 18th in Albacete, Spain, home to the company’s provisional site for ground operations and demonstrations.
To learn a little bit more about Skydweller Aero, we sat down with the company’s founder and CEO Robert Miller.
- How did you get started?
- During my time in aerospace and defense, truly persistent intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance (ISR) was unattainable, or at least felt like it. The technology wasn’t available for record endurance, which was so vital for our warfighters. My partner, John Parkes, and I have decades of experience in both the defense and commercial sectors. We simply recognized a need and felt passionate about addressing it.
- Any exciting news or updates on Skydweller Aero that you’d like to share?
- There are many exciting things ahead for Skydweller Aero this year! We’ll be continuing our flight test campaign, continuing to prove out our autonomous systems technology, which will culminate in an autonomous take-off and landing prior to unmanning the aircraft and beginning fully autonomous flights. We will also be announcing our official Skydweller location in Oklahoma City.
- Robert, was your experience like as a participant in the OKLAHOMA VENTURE FORUM as a Venture of the Year Finalist?
- It was a great experience to be recognized amongst top entrepreneurs in Oklahoma. We came to Oklahoma because of the incredible pro-business community and stellar federal and state leadership—Oklahoma Venture Forum and the yearly award ceremony are great examples of this state’s commitment to innovation and entrepreneurship. It was a great honor to win in our first year since announcing our global headquarters in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
- Who is your competition and how do you plan to compete with them?
- What we are seeing is different companies striving to address the same challenges in unique ways. We don’t necessarily view others as competitors. Ultimately our goal is the same, and we believe there is a solution that involves a multi-platform approach.
- Looking back, are there lessons learned or is there anything that you would have done differently?
- Of course, there are lessons to be learned, and there is no day that goes by without growing and learning. Every day is a new challenge. That’s what makes this exciting, and that’s what inspires our engineers. But I like to focus on the future. What can we do better today? How can we progress? How can we bring perpetual flight to the world?
- What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
- Entrepreneurship takes a lot of courage. Expect a lot of people to challenge you – listen, be willing to take constructive criticism. But at the end of the day, if you don’t believe in yourself and what you’re bringing to the table – your product, your service – and how it can positively impact others, how can you expect others to believe in your vision?
- Where do you see the business in the next 10 years?
- Our mission has always been to empower and more secure and connected work both domestically and abroad. We are confident that in 10 years that goal will be realized. We’re excited to address customers’ challenges and see the company flourish.