Pioneering autonomy for aviation company, Xwing has signed a memorandum of understanding for a proposed development partnership with Inmarsat to create a dedicated terminal and associated services for autonomous aircraft, utilizing their newly launched Inmarsat Velaris UAV connectivity solution.
Having recently announced its latest $40M funding round, $400M valuation and completion of the world’s first autonomous gate-to-gate flight of a commercial cargo aircraft, Xwing enters the partnership as one of the leaders in autonomous flight technology, Inmarsat says.
The company enables traditionally crewed aircraft to be converted into remotely piloted or autonomous planes, accelerating the introduction of autonomous technology in the airspace. Xwing plans to lead aircraft infrastructure, integration, testing and certification, and provide detailed knowledge on the Concept of Operations (CONOPS) required in air cargo processes.
“Working with Inmarsat to develop a pioneer command and control solution for the future of flight has been an incredible and rewarding opportunity for our team,” said Marc Piette, CEO and founder at Xwing. “As we inch closer to a future of widespread unmanned flight, it is more important than ever to develop the technology solutions needed to keep autonomous aircraft safe and efficient. Together with Inmarsat, we look forward to helping shape that future.”
Inmarsat brings world-class hardware design, testing and certification to the partnership, leveraging 30+ years of aviation industry expertise to develop the unmanned aviation communications solutions for the next generation of aircraft.
“There’s no denying that the future of flight is autonomous,” said Anthony Spouncer, Senior Director of UAVs and Unmanned Traffic at Inmarsat. “That’s why we’re delighted to be working with Xwing to develop the solutions necessary to ensure every unmanned journey is a safe one. With our innovative new Velaris UAV solution, secure hardware and airtime, unmanned aircraft will be better equipped to share the information needed by ground control and other aircraft, to integrate into commercial airspace, and to make fast and accurate decisions.”
The partnership begins as shortages throughout the aviation industry, including a pilot shortage, encourage autonomous aircraft and software development for both cargo and commercial flight. With estimates projecting a return to 2019 travel demand by 2025, there’s an expected global gap of at least 34,000 and up to 50,000 pilots within the commercial sector alone. Simultaneously, eCommerce demand continues to rise, recording a 32.4% increase in 2020 and therefore uncovering the need for autonomous cargo solutions at scale.
Xwing is already working with major logistics companies to complete deliveries, most recently focusing on urgent and impact-led regional shipments during the Covid-19 pandemic. In 2020, Xwing delivered PPE, school supplies, and doses of the Pfizer vaccine to the Navajo Nation Reservation. Currently, the company is working closely with the FAA for certification to bring its technology to the market.
Simultaneously, Inmarsat believes it is uniquely positioned to act as a catalyst for the safe and rapid growth of the Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) industry. They say their Velaris offering, powered by the Inmarsat ELERA global satellite network, “will bring integration of commercial drones into managed airspace and facilitate the market’s rapid growth, driving advances from cargo delivery and urban transport to emergency services and disaster relief.” The service will unlock new benefits across various aspects of business and society, while reducing the overall cost of operations and supporting the transport of people and goods in an environmentally friendly manner.