SOUTH AFRICA – Cloudline, a South African aerospace startup, has raised US$6 million in funding to spearhead carbon emissions-free autonomous flight globally. 

The seed round includes investment from Schmidt Futures, the philanthropic venture founded by former Google CEO Eric Schmidt and Wendy Schmidt. Other supporters include pan-African funds like the Raba Partnership, Verod-Kepple Africa Ventures, 4Di Capital, and various venture firms.

The startup specializes in autonomous airships that offer a cost-effective alternative to drones, helicopters, and satellites. 

These airships enable real-time data capture in remote and challenging-to-reach locations, presenting a solution for areas that are both difficult to access and expensive to serve. The key strengths of Cloudline’s airships lie in their impressive range, endurance, and efficiency.

Having completed the regulatory approvals process, Cloudline has launched its commercial operations in South Africa. The startup is actively pursuing expansion into neighboring countries, namely Namibia and Mozambique, with subsequent plans to enter global markets.

According to TechCrunch, the genesis of Cloudline traces back six years when its founder and CEO, Spencer Horne, envisioned crafting a transportation system.

This system would link remote communities to the worldwide supply chain by leveraging the capabilities of lightweight uncrewed aerial vehicles for delivering sizable payloads.

Horne’s inspiration for this ambitious endeavor was deeply rooted in childhood memories. Growing up near a South African railway crossing fueled his passion for transportation technology, especially aviation.

Although Horne faced hurdles pursuing aeronautical studies in the U.S., as a Harvard graduate, his commitment led him back to Africa to pioneer advancements in the sector.

Before launching Cloudline, Horne invested two years at McKinsey, broadening his professional network and gaining profound insights into the multifaceted challenges confronting African communities.

His experiences, particularly in East African regions like Kenya and Uganda, illuminated the profound influence of infrastructure on the quality of life.

Recognizing a niche, Horne established Cloudline in 2019, amalgamating technology, transportation, and community-centric outcomes.

Cloudline distinguishes itself by emphasizing hardware in a relatively untapped market.

Today, the six-year-old startup garners significant attention, especially from governmental entities seeking platforms for diverse payload capacities, particularly multi-sensor payloads for aerial surveillance.

Cloudline’s innovative approach integrates visual, infrared, lidar, and other sensory data in unified flights, presenting a holistic data perspective.

This capability proves invaluable for utilities managing linear infrastructure like power lines, pipelines, railways, and roads, facilitating enhanced maintenance and security measures.

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