Schmidt Futures supports Cloudline with $6M funding to expand aerial autonomy in the green industry

South African-based startup Cloudline recently announced that it has secured a whopping $6 million in funding, as the company is relentlessly striving to dominate the global market in carbon emissions-free autonomous flight. The funding round was spearheaded by Schmidt Futures, the philanthropic venture co-founded by former Google CEO Eric Schmidt and his spouse Wendy Schmidt. The seed round also saw several notable investors, such as pan-African funds Raba Partnership, Verod-Kepple Africa Ventures, 4Di, and other venture firms, pitching in.

The brainchild behind Cloudline, CEO Spencer Horne, conceived the idea for the company about six years ago. His vision was to create an efficient transport system connecting isolated communities to the global supply chain. This involves delivering large payloads using lighter-than-air uncrewed aerial vehicles. Horne’s inspiration for this ambitious project stems from a childhood fascination with trains and a broader passion for transportation technology, particularly aviation.

Spending two years at McKinsey and gaining valuable travel experiences in East African countries like Kenya and Uganda further solidified Horne’s determination to contribute towards solving the diverse infrastructure challenges faced by African communities. Notably, he was struck by how the drone delivery services introduced in rural Africa around 2016 were predominantly focused on single-dose medical deliveries.

Cloudline has made substantial strides since its inception, employing over 25 individuals, and is now fully equipped to spearhead the frontier of autonomous flight. The company has developed autonomous airships that provide a cost-efficient alternative to drones, helicopters, and satellites. Its comprehensive offering provides real-time data capture in remote regions that were previously inefficient and expensive to serve.

One of the groundbreaking features of Cloudline’s airships is their ability to cover over 400 km with a fully loaded payload of 40 kg and operate for 10 hours, boasting zero emissions and significantly reduced operating costs. These airships operate on helium gas for lift and solar power, with battery backup, ensuring that they’re not only efficient but also environmentally friendly.

As the first mover in this emerging market, Cloudline benefits from a robust first-mover advantage, particularly in integrating software with its hardware. This strong intellectual property position is vital to the success and sustainability of the startup. Amidst the advances Cloudline is making in the global market, it continues to exhibit strong interest from various customers, including governmental institutions and nature conservation initiatives.

Looking ahead, Cloudline is aiming to expand its sphere of influence in Africa by venturing into neighboring countries like Namibia and Mozambique, before setting its sights on the international market. With the impressive progress and recent successes, Cloudline is set for substantial growth as it builds on multi-million dollar enterprise contracts, marking the beginning of an exciting journey for the South African aerospace startup.


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