citybiz+ TEDCO-Backed HopFlyt Raises $1.5M Series A

HopFlyt, a Maryland startup designing electric vertical takeoff and landing, or eVTOL, aircraft, has raised $1.5 million in Series A funding. So far, the six-year-old startup has raised $1.8 million, including pre-seed funding from Maryland Technology Development Corporation (TEDCO), according to CrunchBase.

The firm, based in Lusby, Maryland, is a service-disabled veteran-owned small business. It was founded in 2017 by Rob Winston, a retired U.S. Marine, and Lucille Winston, a former NASA engineer.

HopFlyt is developing three vertical mobility aircraft, which can take off and land vertically without requiring a runway. Its flagship vehicle is Venturi, designed for high speed and long range, with a defense version called Vortex receiving significant upgrades. The civilian version is designed for a 200-mile range, hitting a top speed of 200 mph. Venturi is expected to be ready for flights by 2025.

The other two aircraft being designed are the unmanned Cyclone, designed for long flights, and Squall, a lightweight, low-cost, “loitering” asset.

In 2022, HopFlyt secured a deal with Albers Aerospace, handing the Texas firm exclusive Department of Defense license for its Vortex aircraft, the military version of Venturi. Under the agreement, Albers made a $1 million equity investment and will additionally provide engineering and manufacturing services worth $5 million to HopFlyt.

“Albers Aerospace believes in HopFlyt. We also believe in the military application of the technology in the Group 3 and Group 5 classifications,” CEO John Albers said after the deal.

The Group 5 military version is to be designed to fly at 200 knots, at a range of over 500nm with a useful load over 1,000 lb. The Group 3 version will be able to fly for between 15 and 18 hours, with mission-relatable payloads.

HopFlyt has successfully completed flight demonstrations of Venturi and Group 3 prototype for Vortex. Since last year, Albers Aerospace is running Hardware-in-the-Loop (HWIL) bench testing and applying digital engineering to the design via its Model-Based Systems Engineering (MBSE) team.

Last month, HopFlyt tied up testing deals for Venturi in the engineering hub of Paducah, Ky. The Paducah operation is to be funded by Kentucky-based investment group Keyhorse Capital.

Rob Winston, who serves as HopFly’s CEO, received mechanical engineering degrees from Texas Tech. He earned a pilot’s licence at 16 and acquired his first aircraft at 19. As a U.S. Marine, Winston worked as an operational test pilot, aircraft program manager, NASA test engineer, and aircraft designer and builder before creating HopFlyt.

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Lucille Winston, who serves as president, tested International Space Station hardware for NASA. She was an aircraft propulsion engineer for the US Navy, and serving as lead engineer for aerospace defense programs before co-founding HopFlyt.

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The Maryland Industrial Partnership Award and TEDCO have been among the earliest backers of HopFlyt. Since 1998, TEDCO’s portfolio companies have generated more than 10,000 jobs, and made an economic impact estimated at $2.3 billion. Its portfolio companies have also contributed over $100 million in direct state and local revenue. TEDCO’s recent investments include Foretrace, SeeTrue, Linshom Medical, Warrior Centric Health and Givhero.

HopFlyt is incorporated
Maryland Industrial Partnership Award with University of Maryland
Pre-seed Funding from TEDCO (Maryland Technology Development Corp.)
Aircraft Concept Designed
First Subscale Prototype Developed and Flown
First Patents Awarded
Initial Aircraft Structural Design Completed
Full Scale Channel Wing Built for Test
Pre-Seed Round
Strategic Partnership with The Albers Group for Military Aircraft
Conceptual Design of Hybrid Unmanned Aircraft for USMC Warfighting Lab
Multiple DoD Contracts through Albers
Multimillion Private Funding
Designed Three Aircraft Variants
Test Flights of Squall Prototype
Funding from Kentucky Science and Technology Corp.
Began Series A Fundraising