The €30 million venture loan will fund Skydweller SL operations in Spain and Italy.
The goal is to further develop and scale up the production of Skydweller’s zero-carbon emission autonomous aircraft capable of achieving perpetual flight.
This agreement is supported by the InvestEU programme, which aims to trigger more than €372 billion in additional investment over the period 2021-2027.
The European Investment Bank (EIB) has signed a venture loan agreement of €30 million with Skydweller SL to further develop and scale up the production of its solar-powered uncrewed autonomous aircraft for civil and security applications. The loan agreement, backed by the InvestEU programme, was signed by EIB Vice-President Ricardo Mourinho Félix and Skydweller CEO and Co-founder Robert Miller at the Web Summit 2023 in Lisbon.
The EIB financing will support innovation and growth investments, mainly in Spain and Italy, where the company will further develop and produce the most sophisticated, commercially viable and sustainably powered aircraft for applications across both the civil and security sectors. The operation is part of the EU Bank’s Strategic European Security Initiative (SESI), highlighting EIB’s support to the EU’s defence and security sectors.
The Skydweller aircraft will be suitable for a wide range of services such as telecommunications, intelligence and surveillance, for instance for humanitarian relief applications. This autonomous aircraft enables a new class of capabilities for telecommunications and remote sensing. Capable of carrying large payloads up to 400 kg, the battery and solar-powered propellers enable the Skydweller aircraft to remain airborne for much longer periods compared to traditional uncrewed autonomous aircraft.
Skydweller SL is a subsidiary of transatlantic aerospace company Skydweller Aero Inc., an international startup with offices in the United States and European operations headquarters in Spain. It employs more than 80 high-tech engineers in Madrid. Production will take place in Italy in cutting-edge composite manufacturing facilities, with current European flight test operations in Castilla-La Mancha (Spain).
The operation falls under InvestEU’s research, innovation and digitalisation policy area. The programme will support SESI and the ‘A Drone Strategy 2.0 for a Smart and Sustainable Unmanned Aircraft Eco-System in Europe’ initiative.
“We are very pleased to support Skydweller’s next generation of sustainably powered aircraft, thus contributing to the development of a zero-emissions aerospace industry. The project is also the latest example of how the EIB is leveraging the InvestEU programme to support and scale up ventures focused on deep tech innovation and digital technologies contributing to economic growth, decarbonisation, competitiveness and European strategic autonomy,” stated EIB Vice-President Ricardo Mourinho Félix.
European Commissioner for Economy Paolo Gentiloni said: “Developing innovative products requires funding - and this is where InvestEU can play a key role. I am delighted that, with this agreement, InvestEU will support investment in high-tech green and aerospace technologies, showing that advancing innovation and contributing to the green transition can go hand in hand.”
“The genesis of this aircraft and the vision to build a solar-powered aircraft platform capable of achieving perpetual flight operations with heavy payloads began in Europe. This EIB financing will enable us to take it to the rest of the world. The engineering expertise which we have in Spain is some of the best I have ever seen — they are a crucial part of the continuing journey of this aircraft and the wealth of engineering investment that it represents. The perfect safety record of our aircraft, proven performance in a wide variety of environmental conditions, conversion to cutting-edge autonomous flight control systems and our world-class team are the winning combination to make solar-powered, perpetual flight a reality,” said Skydweller CEO and Co-founder Robert Miller.
The EIB and the Strategic European Security Initiative (SESI)
Adopted in March 2022, SESI aims to mobilise investment in support of Europe’s dual-use security and defence systems by backing Europe’s technology industry and civilian security infrastructure. Through SESI, the EIB enhances its support to European defence and security by:
Supporting projects in dual-use RDI and security of civilian infrastructure (such as satellites, encryption and data security, dual-use hospitals, fencing and security measures for power plants and critical public communication infrastructure deployed in case of disasters).
Supporting projects with a focus on the development of cutting-edge technologies ranging from New Space, Artificial Intelligence and quantum technologies to cybersecurity and biosecurity (biosecurity refers to humans, food production, water supplies, etc.).
Strengthening institutional partnerships, especially with the European Commission (DG DEFIS), the EU Agency for the Space Programme (EUSPA), the European Defence Agency and NATO.
On June 16, 2023, the EIB Board of Directors approved an increase in the size of the dedicated SESI plan for security investment adopted last year. While the priorities identified remain valid, additional emphasis will be given to military mobility, space, green security, and critical infrastructure.
The InvestEU programme provides the European Union with crucial long-term funding by leveraging substantial private and public funds in support of a sustainable recovery. It also helps mobilise private investments for the European Union’s policy priorities, such as the European Green Deal and the digital transition. The InvestEU programme brings together under one roof the multitude of EU financial instruments currently available to support investment in the European Union, making funding for investment projects in Europe simpler, more efficient and more flexible. The programme consists of three components: the InvestEU Fund, the InvestEU Advisory Hub and the InvestEU Portal. The InvestEU Fund is implemented through financial partners that will invest in projects using the EU budget guarantee of €26.2 billion. The entire budget guarantee will back the investment projects of the implementing partners, increasing their risk-bearing capacity and thus mobilising at least €372 billion in additional investment.
Skydweller SL is a subsidiary of Skydweller Aero Inc., a cutting-edge aerospace company developing solar-powered aircraft solutions capable of achieving perpetual flight with heavy, powerful payload capacity. Utilising technology based upon the longest continuous renewably powered flight program in history, this fast-growing startup is developing a new class of unmanned aircraft, providing the persistence of geosynchronous satellites with the powerful sensing capabilities and the flexibility of a large, airborne platform. With a flexible payload system, including communications relay, 4G/5G cellular, day/night full motion video, satellite communication, imaging radar, and more, Skydweller will enhance commercial and government telecommunication, geospatial, meteorological, and disaster relief and humanitarian operations around the world, allowing customers to operate persistently in more challenging areas for longer durations, while reducing environmental impact.
Skydweller is a Spanish SME developing a solar-powered aircraft mostly for applications in Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR), civil security as well as potentially for telecommunications and geospatial mapping. The project will support the R&D activities, operating and capital expenditures of the company, focused on the pre-serial production of aircrafts and the integration capability of ISR payloads according to client specifications.
Today, the Board of Directors of the European Investment Bank (EIB) approved the “Strategic European Security Initiative” (SESI). The new EIB initiative aims to mobilise investment in support of Europe’s dual-use security and defence systems by backing Europe’s technology industry and civilian security infrastructure. Depending on demand, SESI will make available financing of up to € 6 billion for eligible projects.
The Board of Directors of the European Investment Bank (EIB) today agreed to scale up financing for European security and defence innovation and approved EUR 543 million business and clean energy investment.
Today, the European Union reached a major milestone in the implementation of the InvestEU programme with the signature of the Guarantee and Advisory Hub Agreements between the European Commission, the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the European Investment Fund (EIF). The InvestEU programme is a key pillar of the European Union’s largest ever stimulus package to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and help build a greener, more digital, and more resilient European economy. It can also support the European economy in addressing new challenges arising from major uncertainties linked to the global and security outlook.