Gene Avakyan, an aerospace engineer and entrepreneur, has created a fleet of “robot” planes that he believes could have a profound impact on the world. Born in Kyiv, Ukraine, Avakyan left the country at a young age, fleeing the turmoil of the Soviet era. Now, he hopes to contribute to Ukraine’s cause by offering his innovative aircraft technology to assist in the ongoing conflict.
Avakyan, the founder of Edison Aerospace, initially established his company to develop robotic planes for agricultural purposes, particularly crop-dusting. However, he now aspires to utilize his creations to shift the balance of power in Ukraine’s favor. Holding discussions with US defense officials and Ukrainian politicians, Avakyan explores aircraft designs for military applications, including reconnaissance missions to locate anti-aircraft missile batteries and cargo delivery with the capacity to drop munitions.
Reflecting on his childhood experiences, Avakyan recalls the arduous journey he and his family undertook to escape Ukraine. Fleeing under cover of darkness, they navigated past armed soldiers in a harrowing trek to reach safety. Avakyan’s own upbringing and the unpredictability of such situations have instilled in him a strong sense of urgency to help his birthplace. He envisions modernizing Ukraine’s defense capabilities and contributing to the country’s agricultural development, recognizing the potential in these areas.
Avakyan, who studied aerospace engineering at UCLA in California and currently resides in Florida, remains deeply connected to Ukraine and disheartened by the ongoing conflict. He expressed his initial disbelief at the invasion, hoping for a swift resolution. Grateful for the support received from the US and Europe, he now seeks to actively participate in the conflict and stand on the right side of history. According to Avakyan, the situation in Ukraine is unambiguous, and he aims to contribute positively to the outcome.
Presently, Avakyan collaborates with the US Federal Government’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), working on his technology that involves electric, optionally-manned aircraft. These planes can be piloted either from a ground-based truck trailer or fly autonomously. With a flight duration of approximately one hour, the aircraft is powered by a battery comparable in size to those used in Tesla’s Model 3. The full-sized plane possesses a wingspan of 40 feet, a payload capacity of 200 gallons for spraying purposes, and is intended to replace traditional manned spray aircraft.
Beyond the war efforts, Avakyan’s electric aircraft technology aims to contribute to the rebuilding of Ukraine and improve agriculture on a global scale. Crop spraying, currently performed by pilots flying low and fast in small planes, poses significant dangers. Avakyan hopes his aircraft will help prevent accidents that result in the loss of around 10 pilots annually in the US due to collisions with terrain or obstacles. His goal is to transition existing pilots to his planes, enhancing their safety and boosting the profitability of crop-dusting companies by cutting operational costs in half.
Looking ahead, Avakyan envisions a future where electric passenger planes, starting with air taxis, become a reality. To achieve this vision, he plans to secure funding for the development of several prototypes. Alongside Edison Aerospace, Avakyan and his wife, Victoria Unikel, have established various other businesses, such as VUGA Media Group, Gossip Stone TV, and 24Fashion TV. Their successful partnership allows Avakyan to focus on Edison Aerospace while Unikel leads the other ventures, leveraging her charisma and relationship-building skills.
Avakyan is grateful for the positive changes in his life since his challenging childhood and acknowledges the sacrifices his parents made to ensure his escape from the USSR. He appreciates the opportunities he now has and strives to make a difference in Ukraine and beyond.