If the world is soon going to be awash with delivery drones and air taxis, new heating and cooling units, and more wind turbines (and turbines of all types), then that technology is going to have to get a lot quieter.
Enter Whisper Aero. The Crossville, Tenn.-based startup is at the forefront of an aviation revolution that's going to need to be whisper quiet if it's successful.
That's why the (FootPrint Coalition Ventures-backed) company has raised $32 million in new funding from investors including Menlo Ventures, EVE Atlas, Capricorn Investment Group, and Connor Capital.
Whisper Aero has spent the last two years validating its core electric propulsion technology and is now ready to begin bringing the tech to market with its first customers in aerospace and defense.
The advantage of a near-soundless drone is obviously appealing to the military, but Whisper Aero has bigger aspirations.
Mark Moore, the company's' founder, was a former executive with Uber's big swing at flying taxis and next-generation mobility called Elevate. While Elevate was eventually sold to the electric vertical takeoff and landing tech developer Joby Aviation, Moore never gave up on achieving the Jetsons-era vision of flying cars as a future of mobility.
He just realized that getting there would require more efficient and quieter sources of thrust.
Enter the electric ducted fan system that Whisper has spent two years and nine prototypes developing.
"It's the quietest way to create thrust out there," Moore said.
The company's initial tests started out by putting a thruster on a stand outside the company's first offices and graduating to actually installing the thruster on a 55-pound drone and flying it at a test range in Tennessee.
"Our longterm perspective is mostly focused on civil aerospace and sustainable solutions for the future electric economy," Moore said.
These could be 9-seater passenger craft and large drones for delivery, but Moore acknowledged that those markets take a lot longer to develop.
But the tech is for more than just mobility... Anything with a blade -- from wind turbines to the carbon dioxide-sucking direct air capture systems that are currently de rigueur for any climate investment firm could benefit from being a little quieter.
"There’s some really exciting wind turbine designs that we think have enormous potential," Moore said. "Everything that needs to move air and that users would appreciate a quieter footprint and being able to do so with high efficiencies" could be a candidate for Whisper Aero's tech, according to the founder.
And all of this technology is going to be made in the USA, according to Ian Villa, the company's chief product officer. "Whisper is moving into two new facilities -- 2,000 in Nashville, and a 40,000 foot office in Crossville," Villa said. "That will be for our first production line and testing facilities for controlled static testing and acoustic testing."
Filling that space is going to take some aggressive hiring and Whisper is definitely in the market for talent, Villa said. And much of that talent will be from Tennessee.
"Tennessee is setting itself up to be a vibrant participant in the future electric economy," said Villa. "There are really huge investments that are being made in Tennessee… and it’s exciting that we’re part of that industrial investment future that Tennessee sees."
In fact, the state's investment fund LaunchTN, which backs new venture capital funds and startup companies focused on Tennessee invested in the most recent funding round for Whisper Aero.
Given the new capital and the breadth of industries that could benefit from Whisper Aero's technology, the company's executives think the sky's no limit for how high it can fly.