While the majority of the EV action takes place on ground, the human desire to fly high remains undiminished. In industrialised economies, small electric planes are already being commercialised, but Indian companies aren’t far behind. The founders of the ePlane Company, based at the Indian Institute of Technology Madras (IIT-M), are working on what they hope would be the country’s first air taxis, as well as cargo transport planes small enough for last-mile delivery.
Satya Chakravarthy, an IIT-M professor, and his student Pranjal Mehta Co-founded the ePlane Company. They’re currently testing a scaled-down prototype and hope to have their first cargo plane ready by the end of the year. The entrepreneurs have also recently raised $1 million in their series A round of funding.
Their first plane, the e200, is expected to be one of the world’s smallest two-seater planes, capable of vertical take-off and landing in a space no larger than a mid-sized sedan’s parking space. The plane is intended to be lightweight, weighing roughly 600 kg, with a range of 200 kilometres per charge and the ability to land on a typical metropolitan concrete rooftop.
“The professor has been teaching for 24 years, and I’m 24 years old,” Mehta jokes. “But our average age works out fine,” Chakravarthy quips. The duo started out working on a helicopter-based urban mobility venture, but quickly transitioned to the electric plane option as the more attractive option, and they have been at it over the last two years or so.
Unlike driving a car, flying poses different problems. For example, it’s impossible to just pack a massive battery into the structure—it requires a difficult balancing act between making the aircraft light enough to take off and fly while maintaining a reasonable range. The inventors of the ePlane Company are also working on ways to use the wings to keep the plane in the air and stable rather than relying on the rotors for power.
According to the professor, Chakravarthy and Mehta want to offer a price to the end client that is comparable to an Uber service, “with a 10X reduction in time” taken for the trip. The aircraft’s regulatory clearance will take two to three years. That suggests that commercialization will begin in 2025, with the cargo plane first, and then the passenger jet. We can’t wait to soar like an eagle over the city’s trafficked landscape.