Perth institutional stockbroking and advisory firm Ashanti Capital has branched out from its usual small-to-mid cap advisory work and invested $5 million in a US high-tech solar and electric aircraft business.
Led by lifelong aviation enthusiast and former US airforce pilot George Bye, Bye Aerospace was founded in 2007 and is now embarking on in-air trials of its Sun Flyer electric plane and Stratoairnet solar-electric UAV, funded by the latest capital raise.
Once certified by the Federal Aviation Administration, the Sun Flyer will be used for pilot training, and Ashanti Capital founder and managing director Robert Hamilton said it had been tracking Bye Aerospace’s progress before making the decision to invest.
“We hope, and expect, Bye Aerospace to be at the forefront of fully certified electric aviation, bringing to market a revolutionary cost benefit against the pending crisis in demand for commercial pilots,” he said.
“The existing fleet of legacy flight trainers burn aviation gasoline, which adds considerably to the cost to flight training. Approximately 80 per cent of student pilots drop out training, stating cost as their No. 1 objection.
“The new, clean technology Sun Flyer effectively answers this objection with a five times lower operating cost as compared to the existing flight training fleet.”
The first flight of the Sun Flyer is due to take place imminently in Denver, Colorado, and from this point it is expected to take about two years to achieve FAA certification.
Mr Bye, who has two decades of experience as an engineer and entrepreneur, as well as a pilot, is supported by industry veterans such as former Cessna Aircraft Company president Charlie Johnson and aviation attorney John Knudson.
In the future, Mr Bye said he could envision the company developing its technology to create hybrid electric and motorised commercial aircraft.
“We’re first to market and we have that advantage and a tangible foothold in the market to build from. We will go from a two-seater, to four-seater, to six-seater and then we’ll add more batteries and a larger motor and we’ll go higher and faster and create new capabilities,” he said.
“It won’t be too many years time until there’s applications in what we’ll call regional or commercial use.”
Australian plans but no ASX IPO
Bye Aerospace views Australia as a key market for the business because it serves as the training ground for many pilots from neighbouring Asian nations, as well as being a foothold into the Asia Pacific region.
Mr Bye said the company had considered listing on the ASX, but after consulting with Ashanti Capital, both parties agreed the NASDAQ would be a better long-term plan.
The company has not set a timeline for a listing, but said it would be dependent on getting the FAA certification, and the subsequent revenue.
“That’s the pivot point when we’ll achieve large deliveries and mass revenue from production of the Sun Flyer,” Mr Bye said.
Bye Aerospace was only the second start-up investment for Ashanti. It has also previously backed food health technology firm Cubed Laboratories, which is listing on the ASX in April.
The Bye Aerospace investment was unique for the business in that it’s not linked directly to an IPO, but Mr Hamilton said the firm follows the battery metals space closely and was also close to finalising an investment in an “advanced lithium” business.
The Bye Aerospace raise was also supported by institutions in Hong Kong and Singapore and Mr Hamilton said he expected the institutional support to grow as the company hit its major milestones.