Executives with local eAviation spin-off venture talk about expansion

Lectratek researcher Jessica Krstic works in a lab with lithium batteries at the company's facility on Washington Church Road in Miami Twp. JIM NOELKER/STAFF

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Lectratek researcher Jessica Krstic works in a lab with lithium batteries at the company's facility on Washington Church Road in Miami Twp. JIM NOELKER/STAFF

Idea is to build around a couple of key accounts at first.

A local spin-off venture focused on electric aviation technologies ― also known as “eAviation” — is looking to expand its reach in the commercial sector in 2022.

Lectratek, a spin-off of privately held Miami Twp.-based aerospace and defense firm Cornerstone Research Group, launched in late 2020. During 2021, it assembled a strategy to bring its technology package to the market, according to Andrew Cothrel, Rushlight Venture’s president, who manages CRG’s venture start-up portfolio.

Unlike startups focused around a patent or invention, Lectratek wanted to highlight the offerings all along the value spectrum for eAviation flight vehicles, whether those vehicles were unmanned or manned, Cothrel said.

“With almost every customer we reached out to, there was at least one element of our value proposition that was interesting to them and for some of them, they (said), ‘Back up the truck. Can you do this for us? Can you do that for us?’” he said.

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In 2021, the company focused on several technology-based areas, including propulsion, safely managing and distributing power at high voltages and energy storage.

‘You really can’t have a battery that might burst into flames on board your aircraft,” Cothrel said.

Another milestone for 2021 was that CRG successfully installed and commissioned a pilot production line for advanced battery cells, according to Chris Hemmelgarn, acting president for Lectratek.

“It’s these same battery cells, based on CRG proprietary chemistry, that Lectratek is able to leverage for both the performance but also the production capacity to help fulfill orders on the energy storage,” Hemmelgarn said.

Cothrel said that for 2022, Lectratek is focused on a couple of key accounts, “customers that we really kind of clicked with.”

“What we’re providing really met their needs and we want to build those accounts and then we want to replicate that and create one or two more accounts like those accounts in 2022,” he said.

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CRG has been able to see its technology fly around in one or more platforms when it comes to Department of Defense contracts, but is not allowed to discuss or show photographs of such projects, Cothrel said.

Lectratek aims to change that with its civilian commercial accounts.

“We’re really trying to develop that shareable set of accomplishments in 2022 with a couple of customers that we’re getting deeper with on their (prototype) platforms,” Cothrel said.

That will mean being able to see a vehicle fly by and say “‘Hey, everybody look, our stuff is in that aircraft,’ and you can take a picture of it and there can be performance data that we can share with other customers,” he said.

Lectratek believes its propulsors are “among the quietest in the world,” Cothrel said.

“You picture a sky full of air taxis. That’s going to be a pretty noisy place,” he said. “We think noise is going to become a very important parameter, even though it doesn’t get a lot of attention today.”

Brian Pelley, vice president of CRG’s aerospace group, said the design of the fans in such propulsion systems “result in very quiet performance.”

“We’re leveraging a whole bunch of work that we’ve done in the defense stage for more than a decade now and bringing it to commercial market, making sure that the folks in the commercial space can leverage that to have better community acceptance of the systems that they’re bringing to market,” Pelley said.

Cothrel said that while Lectratek and CRG cannot discuss the specific nature of the technology on which it has worked so far, “this is not some hobby drone that’s dropping off your Amazon box, this is something you’re loading crates into.”

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