Detroit startup unveils Sigma Six aircraft to elevate cargo and passengers above traffic
Detroit — Local startup Airspace Experience Technologies unveiled a prototype of the Sigma Six aircraft at the Detroit auto show's first Air Mobility Experience on Wednesday. The vehicle is designed to, "elevate cargo and traffic above the existing roadways," ASX CEO and co-founder Jon Rimanelli said.
The Sigma Six is a battery-powered electric vertical takeoff and landing vehicle that began flight tuning and testing in August. The aircraft's first tethered flight test was completed earlier in September; it can reach speeds of 150 mph in eight seconds.
“New vehicle technologies are enabling all-new classes of aircraft and ground vehicles to help improve the quality of life for people and enhance economic performance,” Rimanelli said in a news release. “Gridlock traffic and carbon emissions are a big problem. We need to do something different. We built a vehicle with smart, quality engineering that can serve a broad purpose, in all modes and continue to evolve into the future.”
ASX hopes to reduce fuel waste and save commuters time by flying them to destinations in the Sigma Six.
"The reality is, we're still stuck in traffic. We're confined to the existing roadways. We're confined to the existing highways," Rimanelli said. "We can take off, skip traffic and essentially get to the other side five times faster."
The Sigma Six was designed with mass production and safety in mind, Rimanelli said. Engineers minimized moving parts to reduce failure modes and manufacturing costs.
"The way we designed this aircraft ... we designed them so we can rapidly produce them," Rimanelli said. "We use all high run rate mass production techniques used in automotive ... so basically, we can produce these things as fast as a vehicle."
ASX has also designed a fully autonomous ground vehicle to attach containers to the Sigma Six. The containers are designed for use in a variety of environments and can carry cargo and passengers, Rimanelli said. Other potential uses for the Sigma Six include defense and emergency response.
"It can lift a ton, that's 2,000 pounds of anything and move between cities, airports and suburbs," Rimanelli said. "From a cargo standpoint, we can move cargo between factories and distribution centers, basically streamlining the movement of goods, materials and components."
ASX says the estimated market potential of the Sigma Six is $1 trillion by 2040 and $9 trillion by 2050 and that Michigan companies, like ICAT Logistics and MyFlightTours, have placed orders for Sigma Six aircraft pending certification by the Federal Aviation Administration. The U.S. Navy has also expressed interest in the company through a letter of intent, Rimanelli said.
The Sigma Six is around three to four years away from FAA certification and is expected to start moving passengers by 2026 or 2027, Rimanelli said. A ride on the Sigma Six will cost the same as an UberX, he added.
"I could move a ton of cargo for under 80 cents a mile," Rimanelli said. "As battery technology improves, that price will go down."
ASX is a Detroit-based company founded by Rimanelli in 2017. The Sigma Six prototype has been "designed and built right here in Detroit," Rimanelli said.
Funding for the Sigma Six comes from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation through the Michigan Mobility Funding Platform and the Office of Future Mobility and Electrification's test site partner, the Michigan Unmanned Aerial Systems Consortium, according to an ASX news release. The Detroit-based non-profit NextEnergy and Republic financial technology firm also provide support.
“Having the Michigan Economic Development Corporation and NextEnergy as partners in testing is very exciting. Our vision for this project is not only about creating a more efficient transportation system, but also growing an industry that can have a significant impact on Michigan," Rimanelli said in a news release.
At the auto show, Rimanelli invited other automotive original equipment manufacturers to collaborate with ASX.
"I'd like to take this opportunity to invite the automotive industry, the government, and academia to join us and innovate the future of Air Mobility," he said.