Quantum-Systems GmbH was founded in January 2015 and is specialized in the development and production of autonomous transition aircrafts for civilian use. Their products combine reach and efficiency with the ability to vertically take off and land without additional equipment. We managed to steal CEO Florian Seibel away from his busy schedule and answer a few questions.
Hi Florian, can you tell us about the history / origins of Quantum-Systems?
I am co-founder and CEO of Quantum-Systems. A 40+ person company currently growing fast in the VTOL space. My background is air & space engineering and I also hold a commercial helicopter pilot license which I obtained while serving in the German Armed Forces. I am a flight instructor on fixed-wing aircraft as well. So I would say I am pretty familiar with both worlds. Flying rotary and fixed wing. The idea behind Quantum-Systems is to transfer this professional knowledge into the drone market. We founded the company four years ago.
Please take us back to 2011 and the concept idea for a transition UAV
The founders met at the University of the German Armed Forces in Munich while working on their Phds. In the beginning we worked on rotary wing gasoline powered UAVs that were very complex. We soon switched to copter systems but they lacked flight time. So on our weekends we built the first prototype of a VTOL fixed wing.
2012 – 2015 saw Quantum-Systems concentrating on an Octocopter system, and you then moved to fixed wing, can you talk us through that change?
The Octocopter system we developed did a good job and we were able to sell a few dozen. With that money we finally founded Quantum-Systems. For me it was always clear that staying in the copter business would become a fight “David against Goliath”.
Tron was tested in Dubai, please tell us more?
Yes, after finishing second place in the 2015 DronesForGood award in Dubai we were invited by H.H. Sheikh Hamdan to take the Tron to Dubai for some challenging test flights. We learned a lot.
Launching and landing on a moving vessel, this sounds exciting and I imagine a little frightening at the same time!
That is a perfect example what a VTOL fixed-wing is made for. Seeing it taking off from a ship for the first time gave us the confidence that this could be game-changing.
From Tron to Trinity, can you describe that journey?
With a MTOW of about 14kg Tron is the high end of our product range. Extremely robust and made from carbon fibre. The Trinity is our answer to the professional mass market. It comes in at 4,3kg and is made out of a special foam. If needed we could produce 10,000s of units with this manufacturing technology. Something that is impossible in carbon-fibre.
The Proof of Concept fuel-cell integration Tron H2, has that project continued? What were the outcomes?
The hydrogen Tron is a good example that sometimes, even though it looks like it is a very promising path forward, it doesn’t make sense to continue. The fuel cell was working just fine. The flight time was tripled. But 800bar hydrogen logistics is a nightmare. It is a perfect energy, but it takes other industries to solve some of the problems related to using H2.
2017 brought LIDAR, please tell us more
With a payload of 2kg Tron is the perfect platform for doing LIDAR. Combine this with BVLOS and you have a new business case.
Can you give us an overview of both Tron and Trinity in 2018 and what 2019 holds for both models and Quantum-Systems as a whole?
We just got a pretty good Series A investment. We will continue to grow, work on 3D flight planning and RTK/PPK. Both will be released at Intergeo this year. There are many companies following us now going to VTOL fixed-wing. But again expect us to present another worlds-first in 2019.
Can you tell us about your team, size, background?
We are currently 40 people, steadily growing. About half of the team is engineering/programming. About one fourth is customer support and marketing. We have completely outsourced production. So the last 25% are sales and management.
Where will you be exhibiting next?
We just come back from AUVSI/Exponential. Next stops are Interforst in Munich, Intergeo in Frankfurt and UAS-Expo in Las Vegas.
Overall how do you see the UAS/UAV technology expanding or changing in the next 5 years?
What we currently see is just the beginning of a technology that will change a lot of areas. I do believe that drones are good for a great variety of missions by helping gather high value data. But coming from a professional aviation background I also strongly believe: forget about autonomous electric platforms taking people from A to B. Have you ever tried landing a helicopter in IFR conditions, low on fuel with ice starting to form on your wind-shield? I just can’t see this happening with autonomous electric flying cars in the next years. The money investors spend on this dream is a high risk game. But dreaming can make you fly of course.
Topics all manufacturers of drone systems are facing are: reliability and ease of use. DJI has pushed these boundaries quite a bit which is good. At the same time it is important to value your customers by providing perfect customer care and treat the data your systems collect confidential. Once the industry has solved reliability and autonomy the sky is the limit. Maybe let’s put it this way: BVLOS and 400ft are going to be the limit for now.
The next 20 years?
I will tell you in five years.
What companies excite or inspire you?
Elon Musk and SpaceX is a great example of what a team with a realistic vision can do. Seeing the two side-boosters of Falcon Heavy landing perfectly parallel after returning from lower orbit got me goose bumps. I wish there were more Elons out there just doing it.
Do you have an interesting or funny ‘war / bumpy road’ story you’d like to share with our readers?
The first 40k Euro Gimbal we lost was my fault. One of the Tron propellers got stuck in a GoPro camera I attached to one of the engine nacelles. We have a perfect 4k video showing the Tron spiralling into the Dubai desert sand. Maybe we will release a best of crashes video one day. Believe me. What can go wrong will go wrong.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Don’t take a no as a no!