Blockchain Drone Company VIMANA Says, “Come Fly With Me”br>
VIMANA Global is a startup that seeks to enable the blockchain airspace market by launching drones that will do package deliveries and, perhaps someday, human transportation. VIMANA’s innovation solves a key urban air mobility challenge: extending the blockchain into the air, and delivering the technology that would enable unmanned flights to launch and fly safely in any national airspace.
Headquartered in Redwood City, California, VIMANA closed angel financing last year and has an executive team and advisory boards from aerospace, blockchain and cryptocurrency. These include board chairman Mark Iwanowski (Trident Capital, Oracle CIO); founder Evgeni Borisov (Toshia, Phillips), and NASA astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria.
Chief marketing officer Max Smetannikov talked with Block Tribune about the venture.
BLOCK TRIBUNE: Where did this name come from? Is it “Vee-mana,” or “Vi-mana?”
MAX SMETANNIKOV: It’s “Vee-mana.” The name comes from Sanskrit. It comes from what some say is an urban legend, but the good people of Bangalore will disagree. There is a manuscript that is thousands of years old that was discovered at the beginning of this century that has pretty detailed blueprints of what we commonly call a UFO. That basically was discovered in a fairly rural area of India that now has become Bangalore.
The name VIMANA was a little bit tongue in cheek, but basically came from the idea that the world was headed in us to build something that would … build a flying vehicle that doesn’t have to follow the guidelines of an airplane or a helicopter. In fact, it’s just like those aircraft are just the beginning of the real aerospace exploration. That’s kind of the gist of the philosophy behind the name.
BLOCK TRIBUNE: Okay. Fascinating. So tell me how your project “extends the blockchain into the air.” Explain what that’s all about.
MAX SMETANNIKOV: So, in the beginning, there was VTOL problem. A VTOL is a vertical take-off and landing aircraft. The concept itself is not new, but the problem that most of them have is that, effectively once that took off with a helicopter and then they transitioned to horizontal flight like an airplane. And to do that, they, you know, propeller of the jet basically has to go from vertical to horizontal. Most of them basically take a dive. So that they can regain the, lift as an airplane does when, you know, it’s on the runway, right?
So, our drone doesn’t do that and that’s a big invention. So, to commercialize the invention, basically we start looking for the market that would benefit from it the most. And that coincided with Smart Cities launching Urban Air Mobility program. So we started working with, you know, folks who develop those and trying to understand what are some of the requirements. And in doing that, we realized that one of the biggest problems there is air traffic control.
Ours is not a drone going in cities. In fact, there are 600 drones in the world. Thousands of classes of drones and basically the sky, as we know it, and its pristine air quality is probably going to be gone within five years, as everybody from, you know, Amazon and Starbucks and Walmart and, you know, Uber will have their drone doing their thing. Like moving passengers, you know, flying taxis, doing, you know, our job. Doing delivering pizza, delivering coffee, delivering mail, I mean you name it. And these are just the personal obvious choices. I’m sure that as time goes on, you know, that industry will take off and lead.
But the point is, as humans, you know, in America, or especially in an urban environment, using radar can’t really manage multiple drones. So, you know, we started looking into that and we realized that the technology that really…because basically what you needed to manage all these drones is an intelligent network in the sky, right? Which doesn’t exist. So, the only way to do this is to create a network that will be mounted on the actual drones that would basically, you know, work as an automatic air control type of network. And build a network that … well the Ready technology that can do that, is basically, blockchain.
So that is how we got involved with the blockchain community. That was around, the end of 2015. ‘Cause we first started, doing our investor presentations. We first did a presentation in 2015, right? So, as we were developing this concept, we actually had the eureka moment.
Most of us are … not young, so we lived through the, you know, telecom industry basically sitting or being informed dramatically by TCP/IP and the Internet and the whole, you know, impact on the global economy that that had. So, we fully understand what a blockchain, being the intelligent ubiquitous layers from that change the industries that are most exposed to it. So, you know, as we realized what we basically have here is a facility based intelligent network which is airborne, which is, you know, built based on blockchain technology. We immediately pursued, the path of basically fire walling the two solutions and basically having … [inaudible 00:04:52] basically running one network, you know, specifically through, you know, to do the control of … air taxis and they had a network to basically be opened for anybody who needs access to, you know, to blockchain that is airborne.
BLOCK TRIBUNE: Who are the companies that are going to use this. How will it work for them?
MAX SMETANNIKOV: Yeah and that is really the kicker, you know, because when push came to shove on blockchain is how, you know, we are making money and how this is, actually, bigger than the flying taxi concept. So, since what we’re offering to Smart Cities, is that being the owners and not the managers of the, you know, blockchain airspaces we’ll call it, basically the airborne blockchain network.
The companies that are going to be using it can, first of all, can use the, services that blockchain provides. The first service always being the air traffic control. So if you have a flying taxi, you know, and you are certified by the Smart City. You can use our network to fly this taxi. So effectively, we’re paving the road for any other drone for that matter, right? So, if you want to launch a drone company and the city where you’re at has this enabled, then the path towards basically getting this, you know, getting the technology, done is becoming much faster.
Second thing, we, basically give the city that facilities the control of the transactions over that blockchain in there. So for instance, if you want to have a WiFi service that’s available beyond, you know, 100 feet in there. Or if you want to have more common thing, you know, everybody sits without a phone on the air flight, right? So if, you know, if you’re flying in one of those taxis and you want to have crystal clear calls, you know, you can have a telephone company could launch service, you know, that would basically work, you know, use this blockchain to basically as a calling network so that, you know, people could have conversations. And you know, you can imagine the type of applications that could be put into an intelligent center.
But having said that, there’s also the social aspect to this which is significant. The way social identity is today the way the internet is … has been developed, you know, there are developed countries. There are better off neighborhoods. There are worse-off neighborhoods. So the social identity basically falls off, where the air is [inaudible 00:08:05]. This is different because you know a drone can fly anywhere so if you want to have the internet has good service, you know, services in an area that, has not been, you know, doesn’t have fiber. This is the type of situation where, you know, [inaudible 00:08:24] be done instantly and without ripping up the street.
Also, the longer term impact is on urban planning so, you know, building an air corridor is much cheaper than, you know, building a bridge.
BLOCK TRIBUNE: What happens when the network goes down?
MAX SMETANNIKOV: Well, there are not too many instances of blockchain going down. And there are not too many instances of air control towers going down. To get this done and to get the clearance, in the United States or in any other country, you have to go through a pretty rigorous test of, you know, connectivity. It has to be five ninths right? It has to have a service level agreements and guarantees that are satisfactory for the regulators to basically make you, you know, give you the license to fly.
Now, so, the network, you know, as it is will be as robust and as redundant as probably the national power grid. Now, of course accidents happen, you know, and in the case, this zero, zero, zero, one percent chance that something is going to, you know, going to go down. I’m just speaking for the flying note that it’s our air taxi as I told you in the beginning. I said VTOL, you know, which basically has [inaudible 00:09:59]. It has, you know, all the things that an aircraft would have. So our VTOL will simply land in case of an absolute emergency, which we were precise is very unlikely.
BLOCK TRIBUNE: Okay. The technology exists right now? In other words, you’re not going to have to invent it?
MAX SMETANNIKOV: Well, I mean, the whole point of this is that we already invented it, right? And we have a flying prototype of the 2.0 version of it. But, look, knowledge pushes the envelope but the real … the short answer is this, yes the technology exists. But the longer answer is, it exists but it needs to be integrated and basically shrink wrapped because the sheer complexity of getting all the pieces working together is, works best if it is provided as a solution to the final customer. Now our final customer effectively is, you know, the owner of National Airspace and the specific smart city looking to develop an urban air mobility.
BLOCK TRIBUNE: You mentioned that the timeline for drone usage by a lot of companies was roughly five years. Is that your timeline too? Or do you extend out beyond that?
MAX SMETANNIKOV: Well, I mean, we do have a, you know, variety of projections and scenarios but the basic business plan that we’re executing is indeed five years. And the … it’s, market penetration and … deployment type of plan where we basically activate the business model in several countries.
BLOCK TRIBUNE: Okay. Tell me about your ICO details.
MAX SMETANNIKOV: Well, first of all, our token-generating event, right? So, because we are a utility token, what the air, which is the name of what our token does, is allows you access into blockchain airspace and it meters your transactions in blockchain airspace. So effectively, the token, it doesn’t matter what transaction is. Whether it’s, you know, a passenger drone the size of a bus or whether it’s a phone call. So it’s … that’s kind of, there’s that.
So, we’re selling … we’re in a private pre-sale right now. We have a hard cap on … of … in fact you know what. I’m sorry, we are not disclosing our hard cap yet because we are in a private pre-sale. But it’s significant. What … what I can share from the specifics … what I can share is that we did open the, private presale. Before that we had a pretty successful [inaudible 00:13:16] list and that we will be sharing the details of the ICO probably within, five to, five to six weeks. When we will finalize the amount and the timing of the public stages, which will be a public pre-sale and public sale.
The reason for that is that we have a very successful private pre-sale because we are covering the Gulf regions, Africa, Southeast Asia where there is a pent up demand for this kind of stuff. So we are trying to balance the interests of … large entities so they’re interested in developing this market and the meaning for the ecosystem because basically we want to make sure that we have a robust partner program and robust ecosystem. And everybody basically gets a chance to get the tokens. So that’s why there’s a bit of a trade off between how much token is available for private pre-sale and public.
BLOCK TRIBUNE: So, Wakanda lives. They’ll have flying cars before the rest of the world?
MAX SMETANNIKOV: Well, look, the US has the best regulatory system and the safest. But that basically makes launching here very, very hard. It’s a long path. So, the population boom is not here, it’s in the regions that I just described. And incidentally, that’s where the largest, you know, construction site in the world. If you go to some countries in the Persian Gulf, I mean, they’re creating entire cities, you know, where there was nothing. You know, so that’s basically where we’re gonna see, you know, the first flying cars. In fact, they’re already there. Just they’re pretty primitive. And then the technology will probably migrate through Europe, through the United States.
BLOCK TRIBUNE: Okay. Fair enough. Alright, those are my questions. Is there anything that you want to tell me about that I didn’t ask you about?
MAX SMETANNIKOV: I just wanted to emphasize that the big vision that we have is that in about five years, the ability to have, transactions and data accessed anywhere from zero meters to near orbit would be more or less trivial. And that this is gonna be an enormous market that would be comparable to the telecom boom of the beginning of this century and to the automobile boom of the last century.
So we’re very happy that, you know, our company has the technology to be a competitor in this.