Air traffic management platform lands $120 million

- October 17, 2023 2 MIN READ
John Cusack as an air traffic controller, film Pushing Tin.
John Cusack as an air traffic controller in 1999 comedy-drama Pushing Tin.
A Canberra-based air traffic management startup has banked $120 million for plans to run the system from space.

The round in Skycraft was led by Australian arm of UK-listed fund manager Foresight, supported by CSIRO VC fund Main Sequence Ventures and Canadian pension fund OPTrust in a raise that took two years to complete. A previous $3.5 million raise was backed by Macquarie Group boss Allan Moss, Lennoxgrove Capital and Adcock Private Equity.

Founded in 2017, Skykraft is a transport infrastructure startup that developed a global air traffic management service able to cover remote and oceanic regions. The company has designed and built satellites to improve communications between air traffic control and aircraft flying over remote areas.

The funding will be used to roll out a constellation of hundreds of satellites in low-earth orbit that will use space-based VHF communications and surveillance, allowing aircraft to follow more efficient flight paths.

The first 10 satellites were launched this year, with further launches planned for next year to complete final in-orbit testing prior to the roll-out of the initial constellation of satellites in 2025.

While the aviation sector is dealing with increasingly congested skies it still relies on legacy systems using ageing ground-based infrastructure. As the 2014 disappearance of Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 demonstrated, a flight can still vanish from radar screens in remote areas such as the world’s oceans.

Skykraft CEO Dr Michael Frater said the satellite system will unlock significant efficiency gains in air traffic management (ATM) as well as capability improvements.

“Skykraft’s space-based ATM capability will deliver on a clearly identified need in the global aviation sector,” he said.

“Our partners share our confidence that Skykraft will be the key player providing the next generation of air traffic management services to the world.’Skykraft’s new investors include :

“Skykraft’s infrastructure solution has the capability to significantly enhance global aircraft tracking, minimise unnecessary air miles and improve aircraft sustainability”.

Main Sequence Ventures partner Martin Duursma said the startup’s work has the potential to transform aviation communications infrastructure.

“Their expertise in designing, building and operating satellite constellations enables them to provide global services that replace legacy systems,” he said.

“By reinventing transport infrastructure from the ground up using space-based platforms, they can increase air safety and address the gaps in surveillance and communications over oceans and remote regions.”