This mechanical engineer from IIT Delhi set up a pioneering aviation company in the US and is developing a hybrid regional plane which he hopes to one day bring to India.
Ashish Kumar, an IIT-Delhi engineer and CEO and founder of startup Zunum Aero, is on his way to developing hybrid electric planes, which are set to pave the way for a golden era of fast and affordable electric air travel.
The company, based in USA’s Washington state, is developing 10- to 50-seater aircraft, which it says will offer unmatched speeds and reduced costs for flights. The company claims that the hybrid planes will have 80% lower emissions and the low operating cost will allow airlines to offer cheap fares.
The aircraft will primarily operate on battery power with an aviation diesel or turbine range-extending power generator available as backup, a report in the Fortune said.
Kumar, who has a PhD in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering from Cornell University, has worked as a professor of engineering at Brown University in his early career, and as a research fellow at the Sandia National Laboratories. He has also held leadership roles in Microsoft, Google, Dell, and McKinsey.
Kumar recently told the Times Of India, “Our planes will be way cheaper for airlines to operate. They will not go as high as commercial aircraft due to the distances they will be covering. While they will be slower than other planes, their ability to land at airstrips closer to final destination will significantly reduce door-to-door time for flyers.”
The company is being backed by Boeing and JetBlue and they hope to have the first prototype flying in two years and begin commercial production in the early 2020s.
Kumar’s company has been hailed as a pioneer in electric aviation. It was founded in 2013 with the vision to develop 1,000-mile electric air networks to bring fast and affordable travel to every community.
Whilst the aircraft are being designed for the US initially, Kumar plans to sell the same one day in India.