This ex-Tesla analyst’s 200-mph drones deliver heavy parts up to 500 miles away and land on a moving boat

Interesting article on Volans-i drone capabilities by Patrick Chu from San Francisco Business Times

While working for Tesla Inc. four years ago as a senior operations analyst, Hannan Parvizian saw that shipping crucial auto parts back and forth to the electric carmaker’s service centers, warehouses and factories was a logistics problem that needed to be solved.

“We had this problem on a daily basis of trying to deliver certain parts to our service centers quickly, or get parts back to our main warehouse,” Parvizian told San Francisco Business Times’ media partner CNBC in an interview. “Looking at the numbers, I figured if someone could combine the use of drones with the component of b2b to deliveries, this would be very helpful for us, and companies like ours.”

That’s how Pavizian got the idea to form a startup in San Francisco that would build and use drones to deliver parts and equipment to factories, construction sites, mines, offshore oil platforms and ships sailing the ocean. He partnered up with Wesley Guangyuan Zheng, whom he met at Stanford University while Zheng was getting his doctorate in chemical engineering while Pavizian obtained an MBA. Zheng had worked at a Silicon Valley Tesla rival, Lucid Motors.

Together they co-founded Volans-i in 2015, first as a vertical-takeoff-and-landing drone maker and an on-demand delivery service for businesses. Volans-i received seed funding from Y Combinator startup accelerator and Lightspeed Ventures.

The unmanned aircraft they are using is unconventional as it has a twin-boomed fixed-wing configuration. It’s powered by rechargeable electric batteries for vertical take off and landing, and aviation fuel when flying horizontally at high speeds. The design enables the drone to fly as fast as 200 miles per hour with a maximum distance of 500 miles while carrying 20 pounds of freight, Pavizian said.

With a 20-pound payload, the drone could make the trip from San Francisco to Los Angeles in three hours. An airline flight over the same distance would take an hour and a half but would require an airport to land on. The drone could land on any 15-foot-by-15-foot flat surface, even a moving boat at sea.

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