Aviation

Merlin Labs Raises $105M in New Funding Round and Announces Work on C-130J Software

Merlin Labs, which develops autonomous flight technology, said Wednesday that the company has raised $105 million in new funding as it continues to develop a three-step approach to bringing autonomy to planes large and small — crawl, walk, run.

The Series B funding round was led by investments from Snowpoint Ventures and Baille Gifford, and includes “major participation” from existing investor GV. In 2021, Merlin raised $25 million in a Series A round led by venture capital firms GV and First Round Capital.

Boston-based Merlin primarily plans to use the new funding to increase its staff, particularly for software and avionics engineers, and to expand testing. The company will also continue to build part 135 air charter operations in New Zealand.

One of Merlin’s engineers works on their autonomous system in their hangar in Mojave, California. (Photo courtesy of Merlin)

Merlin aims to use its artificial intelligence technology to enable large aircraft to fly with reduced crews and small aircraft to require no crew. Last year, the Civil Aviation Authority of New Zealand awarded its first basis of certification for an autonomous flight system to Merlin.

The company says its AI technology is being integrated into existing cockpits to augment current flights and enable future autonomous flights. Ultimately, their goal with their autonomous system is to establish its ability to perform all the responsibilities of a human pilot through a “Feel, Think, Act” control loop. Their system uses GPS/INS, aerial data, and the Orientation and Heading Reference System (ADHRS) to continuously update the system with the aircraft’s three-dimensional position and position.

The company also said it has partnered with the Air Force to provide autonomy for the C-130J transport aircraft to improve safety and provide operational flexibility. Under the Other Transaction Agreement contract with the Air Force, Merlin plans to provide cockpit autonomy by implementing software and hardware to support pilots.

US Air Force Lockheed Martin C-130J Hercules aircraft. (Photo: US Air Force.)

Merlin flies its technology on a surrogate plane in Mojave, California.

On its website, Merlin says it has flown more than 400 autonomous missions and accumulated more than 800 flight hours in five aircraft models.

This article was originally published by Defense Daily, a subsidiary of Avionics International, and has been edited.

https://www.aviationtoday.com/2022/07/14/merlin-labs-raises-105-million-new-funding-round-announces-software-work-c-130j/ Merlin Labs Raises $105M in New Funding Round and Announces Work on C-130J Software

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