By Alex Scerri

Alex Scerri started his aviation career in 1994 and initially flew for Air Malta. He joined Emirates in 2006, flying several types including the Airbus A380 as captain and worked in the fleet technical office. He is passionate about aviation safety and is looking forward to seeing urban aviation as the new mode of safe and clean city mobility.

q-and-a

Doron Merdinger on building ‘an affordable flying machine’

This month, we spoke to Doron Merdinger, founder and CEO of Doroni Aerospace. Doroni’s H1 two-seater lies squarely between the pure personal air vehicles (PAVs) as represented by Lift Aircraft’s Lift Hexa and Jetson Aero’s Jetson ONE, and what have now become the mainstream eVTOL air taxi projects, such as the offerings from Joby and Archer.

Doroni Aerospace
U.S.-based Doroni Aerospace is developing a mid-range two-seat eVTOL aircraft, which the company said will be on the market by 2024 at a list price of between US$135,000 to $150,000. Doroni Aerospace Image

These mid-range eVTOLs like the H1 still capture the general public’s attention as the quintessential “flying car.” Yet, even if technically less complex than its larger counterparts, the general business trend in this area seems to be favoring the bigger aircraft. Doroni Aersopace’s dynamic CEO believes they can create and boost demand by keeping an attractive price point, while building an aircraft that is fun and simple to operate.

Alex Scerri: Doron, can you give us your background?

Doron Merdinger: I am originally from Israel and as a kid, I was what you could define as a “geek.” I had an agreement with my mother that I could take apart anything in the house as long as I could put it back together before my father came home.

I studied electronics and computers in high school, which were comparatively new subjects at the time in Israel. I then joined the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and served three years doing pioneering work with drones. I cannot tell you much more other than that we were at the cutting-edge of that field.

After graduating from New York University business school, I started my own business specializing in 3D modelling and 3D printing, which was also new. I realized the potential of the quick path from design to prototyping to manufacturing. I then moved to the U.S. with my family under a special visa as an exceptional individual with extraordinary ability or achievement and am now a proud citizen.

Alex Scerri: What led you to found Doroni Aerospace?

Doron Merdinger: The idea started five years ago. Two things triggered it. I was stuck in traffic and realized that we had all the technologies for a vehicle that could exploit the third dimension. I just needed to bring them together. The second factor was my mother-in-law. She berated me for not acting on an idea I had 15 years ago for a watch that would double up as a link to a smartphone. So, I started bringing together an international, talented team in 2016 and we began prototyping, even building, custom battery packs and motors. We built a 643-pound (291-kilogram) bare airframe prototype. We didn’t see the benefit of starting at smaller scales, as the mechanics, fluid dynamics, etc., are not representative.

Alex Scerri: Your website shows a rendering of your aircraft landing curbside in an urban setting. Do you believe that the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will support this type of operation?

Doron Merdinger: I don’t expect you will be able to go shopping in downtown Manhattan in a Doroni H1 tomorrow. Nonetheless, if you look for examples in our home state, Florida, it is an amazing location for aviation with extensive open airspace. There are communities where people can keep their aircraft next to their home. That initial market is already there at many locations worldwide. It will develop further as urban operations become feasible with new regulations.

Doroni Aerospace
Doroni’s H1 eVTOL aircraft is targeting a range of 60 miles (97 kilometers), and cruise speed of 100 mph (160 km/h) with a 15- to 20-minute charge time. Doroni Aerospace Image

Alex Scerri: Did you have any communication with the FAA, and have you established a certification basis?

Doron Merdinger: Absolutely. We have established contact with the FAA because that is an essential part of the development process. However, I cannot disclose the exact details at this point.

Alex Scerri: Can you confirm the planned range of 60 miles (97 kilometers), and cruise speed of 100 mph (160 km/h) with a 15- to 20-minute charge time? And what is the battery energy density you need to achieve this?

Doron Merdinger: Yes, those are the specifications that we can achieve with today’s batteries. By the time we get the aircraft to market in June 2024, we expect the range to be closer to 100 miles. At this point, I cannot disclose the actual energy density figures.

Alex Scerri: You plan a list price of US$135,000 to $150,000. That appears quite low for what you plan to offer.

Doron Merdinger: That would be the introductory price and may have to increase later. We still plan to keep the price as low as possible as we are targeting volume. We won second place at the Aerospace Innovation & Tech Forum in 2021 held by Space Florida, and we see its willingness to help scale up our production.

Alex Scerri: You said the time between completing your first flying prototype and certification is one year. Do you think this is feasible?

Doron Merdinger: The flying prototype may in fact be ready well before June 2023.

Alex Scerri: Your projections allocate $7 million for research and development (R&D) over four years. Will this be enough, and does it include certification?

Doron Merdinger: Yes, our design is simpler than most other eVTOLs. The main tranche of funds investors will put in will go into R&D and certification.

Doroni Aerospace
Doroni Aerospace plans to certify its H1 eVTOL aircraft with the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and begin commercial operations in 2024. Doroni Aerospace Image

Alex Scerri: Your statement of financial position appears to show less activity in 2020 than 2019. Is this COVID-related or another reason?

Doron Merdinger: COVID impacted our operations, but we continued working in the background. This month, we are moving into new premises in Miami, and we’ll share some video soon. We have about 20 people working on the project, and we keep the headcount low by subcontracting tasks to established industry players like Honeywell, Rolls-Royce, etc.

Alex Scerri: Established and well-funded eVTOL companies that have gone public in Q4 2021 have, for the most part, lost share value since the initial public offerings. Why should an investor put money in Doroni?

Doron Merdinger: When it comes to our competitors, we have a lot of respect for each one, but we are going for a different product with a smaller, accessible aircraft. I think our company is also more agile due to its size. In the past, investment used to be based only on profit … then people started investing in companies that had lots of sales, maybe even without immediate profit showing on the books. Now investors are putting money where they see a promising idea or even a dream. We believe that we can build an affordable flying machine, with technology available today that will only become more efficient as the equipment matures.

Alex Scerri: Is there anything else you would like to share with us?

Doron Merdinger: Our fundamental focus is providing unparalleled value to our customers. This starts with redefining the concept of commuting — transforming the experience of flying into a simple, intuitive, and enjoyable event. The Doroni H1 was designed to deliver this experience, with artificial intelligence (AI) technology that learns the owner’s habits. This is the Doroni vision.

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2 Comments

  1. It’s great to finally witness flying objects that doesn’t use conventional fuel

  2. Do Ron, your plans and how you reached them are so much like Molton Taylor who created and built the 1950’s AEROCARs. I knew him well and have one of the AEROCARs here in Florida. Your eVTOL is the very first I have seen with four wheels!

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