New York: A hybrid electric aircraft startup founded by an Indian-origin entrepreneur has received investments from aerospace giants — Boeing and JetBlue owing to its goal to develop alternative propulsion aircraft.
Zunum Aero, founded by Ashish Kumar three years ago in Kirkland, Washington is working to develop a an electric hybrid aircraft with potential for performance and efficiency improvements in a range of aerospace applications.
“I consider us very fortunate to have backers like JetBlue and Boeing,” Kumar told the Business Insider.
“We have been engaged with both companies for about a year, and both are as passionate as we are in this opportunity to reinvent regional air travel,” Kumar said.
The startup intends to use the financing to further develop its proposed regional aircrafts that hold 10 to 50 passengers for flights up to 1,000 miles.
The jets primarily operate on battery power with an aviation diesel or turbine range-extending power generator available as backup, a report in Fortune said.
Boeing said it made the investments in the startup through the ventures arm of a new group called Boeing HorizonX, an innovation cell focused on accelerating potentially transformative aerospace technologies, manufacturing innovations and emerging business models.
Boeing HorizonX is partnering with JetBlue Technology Ventures to invest in Zunum Aero.
“At JetBlue Technology Ventures, our goal is to be part of a disruptive force rather than the one being disrupted, and we seek new technologies that look to change the game,” it said in a statement.
“As a company that is also deeply committed to innovation in sustainable travel, we believe that Zunum and its quiet, environmentally friendly aircraft will light up a vast network of underutilised airports and reinvent regional travel,” JetBlue said.
In a statement, Boeing HorizonX vice president Steve Nordlund said Zunums hybrid electric technology was leading the way in the up-and-coming segment, according to the Business Insider report.
According to his profile on Zunum Aero website, Kumar has held leadership roles in Microsoft, Google, Dell, and McKinsey. His startup experience includes helping the launch Aeroxchange, now the largest electronic marketplace for the aviation industry.
He has a PhD in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering from the Cornell University.
Kumar spent worked as a professor of engineering at Brown University in his early career, and as a research fellow at the Sandia National Laboratories.