Two years later: How are the startups at the forefront of sustainable aviation in January 2022 holding up?

Sustainability | Jan 26, 2022 | By Satair | 5 min read

United Airlines and Virgin Atlantic are just two of many major airlines targeting zero-emission flights by 2050. Some have plans that look more promising than others, but there is undoubtedly a strong will within commercial aviation to become sustainable.

Governance is also moving in the right direction. Earlier this year, Denmark set itself a zero-emission target for all domestic flights by 2030, while Norway has targeted 2040 – signs that governments are taking aviation sustainability seriously too.

But it’s not easy. While other major industries are starting to make serious inroads by simply switching from fossil fuels to alternative energy, transport does not yet have a large supply of green fuel it can count on.

Most of the technology that will enable it to reach zero emissions by 2050 hasn’t been invented yet, but confidence is high that it is an achievable goal.

Race to net-zero brings in new aviation startups and investors

Mentoring like there's no tomorrow

Fully two years ago, Lukas Kaestner, the co-founder of the Hamburg-based incubator Sustainable Aero Lab, told the Satair Knowledge Hub that the “all-of-the-above approach to climate-neutral aviation” favoured by startups was the industry’s biggest hope to help it achieve its net-zero emission goals:

“I’m pretty confident that we will have a zero-emission industry some decades from now, but it doesn't necessarily have to be the same players that we see on the market today. We need to become a little more daring in terms of trying new stuff out, being more open, being more creative and letting more diverse players in."

In October 2021, six startups completed the inaugural Sustainable Aero Lab program, which involved them being partnered with investors, seasoned entrepreneurs and aviation experts. Since then, the Sustainable Aero Lab has mentored over 50 more.

The Satair Knowledge Hub took the opportunity to assess the credentials of the class of 2021, and now, in this updated article, we are checking on their progress, thus offering a barometer of how sustainable the industry is becoming, and how far it still has to go.


In early 2022, we reported how the US-based company Airflow was developing electric short take-off and landing (eSTOL) aircraft for both passengers and cargo, which it hoped to enter into service in 2025.

But later that year, it was taken over by Electra Acquires Airflow, a company developing a hybrid-electric eSTOL aircraft that offers the operational flexibility of a helicopter with the much better safety and economics of a fixed wing aircraft.

Electra also has an interest in military aviation, as the eSTOL aircraft are a great fit for aircraft carriers. Both jet producer Lockheed Martin and the US Air Force are significant investors.

Nevertheless, the commercial interest has been huge and, as of the end of 2022, its order book already contained interest from 32 operators in acquiring 1,214 aircraft. 

Its main model, which it is currently testing, will be able to fly nine passengers, two pilots, and 25 kilos of baggage per person around 800 km at a speed of 320 km/h, so it won’t be flying large numbers anytime soon. 

The launch date is 2028, so three years later than Airflow planned.

Fusion Engineering


Dutch startup Fusion Engineering continues to make steady progress with its production of flight controllers for commercial drones. 

Its first generation flight controller, the Fusion Reflex, was launched in March 2021. It provides more stability than the current industry standard and has been designed to provide drone operators with improved reliability and flexibility.

One of its most exciting projects is the Automated Inspection and Repair of Turbine Blades (AIRTuB), which back in January 2022 was under development. Today, it remains that way, but progress has been steady since then, explains Abhishek Chatterjee, Control Systems & Software Engineer:

“The ultimate aim is to make human intervention in dangerous environments unnecessary and instead have robots perform these tasks for us. Advanced robot controllers like the Fusion Reflex are built with the goal of making these systems reliable, and they will play a vital role towards facilitating this integration. Even though there are still numerous challenges to overcome, in the coming years we will slowly but surely move closer towards realising this goal.”

Back in January 2022, there were high hopes that electrical vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) drones would start to play a large role in logistics – particularly the Last Mile of parcel deliveries – but since then investments in other solutions have been preferred, so there has been something of a lull over the last two years.

It will only become a reality if drones can be relied upon to safely and reliably perform their autonomous operations. Fusion Engineering maintains that its flight control systems can help ensure more accurate positioning.

And its drone manufacturer client list continues to grow. 


In the two years since we profiled HeronFan, the German startup has evolved into Red Arrow Technologies.

The name ‘HeronFan’ continues to be the name of its engine for drones and small jets. Earlier this year, it unveiled a prototype to great acclaim.

Red Arrow Technologies says that its low-emission engine is based on the same thermodynamic principles as a traditional turbofan engine. 

By integrating the turbine function into the fan, the Heron Fan is much lighter and simpler than a traditional turbofan. It runs on both hydrogen and SAF, and offers lower manufacturing and maintenance costs. 

Red Arrow Technologies describes HeronFan as “the perfect engine” for the air taxis and logistics drones that many predict will be filling the skies in the near future.


It’s not been the busiest year for Mobius.Energy – which produces battery modules for electric aircraft – if the news section on its website is anything to go by. 

Certainly 2021 was a breakout year, and 2022 started in the same fashion, but over the last 18 months, it has announced two deals – which suggests a slowdown since the last time we touched base.

Nevertheless, the Californian startup remains on track with its plans to deliver its modules through a subscription model that includes maintenance and salvage services as a way to create a sustainable circular economy for the electric aircraft sector.

The Mobius.Energy modules are lightweight, energy-dense and fast-charging and have been developed to provide electric aircraft with the power boost needed during take-off and landing. The modules are designed to work with electric aircraft of all types, including hybrid electric, eSTOL and eVTOL.

Its latest deal, announced in September 2023, is with electric vehicle manufacturer Arcimoto to enhance charging capabilities and build ultra lightweight aviation batteries. Prior to that, it confirmed a deal in October 2022 with Dovetail to supply battery modules for 65 of its aircraft. 

So while its client roster hasn’t been getting much heavier, its products are getting lighter – which bodes well for the future.



In contrast to Morbius.Energy, fellow Californian startup Moonware has been flying this year, totalling ten press releases since February 2023.

Moonware provides AI-driven software and autonomous vehicles to optimise antiquated operations at airports. 

Like Red Arrow Technologies, it envisages a future in which vertiports, servicing drones and air taxis, become as popular as airports.

Among its deals this year are collaborations with Skyway (automated ground solutions for next-gen aircraft) and Altaport (vertiport management solutions that utilise data).

The industry might not be fully onboard with vertiports yet, but is excited by the enormous emission-saving potential offered by Moonware.

This is mostly enabled by Moonware’s fleet and ground support equipment (GSE) management system, Halo, which eliminates excessive fuel burn during the taxi-out and tax-in phases and reduces overall aircraft fuel consumption.

Halo allows for smoother airside operations at commercial airports by providing a real-time picture of where aircraft, GSE and personnel are at any given time, whilst automating the scheduling, dispatching and routing of GSE. 

Shift Aviation Solutions


At the beginning of 2022, Irish company Shift Aviation Solutions was another startup focused on improving “aviation’s digital backbone”, according to Sustainable Aero Lab.

It had developed predictive management software for air traffic that could negotiate ‘Smart Slots’ between airports and airlines, enabling much earlier landings that significantly shortened flight times, made scheduling more predictable and reduced CO2 emissions by as much as 35 percent during the approach stage.

Since then it has expanded its portfolio with other environmentally-friendly solutions, including its Active Noise Suppression System (ANS2), which enables airlines to circumvent noise restrictions and fly 24/7 anywhere in the world. 

Today, it promises potential clients a 33 percent reduction in HR and total operational costs, and a 34 percent decrease in fuel costs – all for zero upfront costs.