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October 18, 2023 | Tom Ballard

From drones and aircraft to leaf blowers

The journey started a year ago when curiosity spurred Whisper Aero's engineers to explore the possibility of developing a cleaner, quieter, and more efficient leaf blower.

What do electric thrusters for drones and aircraft have in common with a leaf blower? A lot more than you might think, as we learned in an announcement yesterday from Crossville-headquartered Whisper Aero.

When last we wrote about the start-up, it was to announce the groundbreaking for a new 8,000-square-foot Flight Test Center at the Crossville Memorial Airport (see article here). That occurred in July, and the facility will join a growing collection of the start-up’s assets that also include its 8,000-square foot engineering campus in Nashville and 40,000-square foot manufacturing and ground center in Downtown Crossville.

Whisper Aero raised $7.5 million from Silicon Valley venture capital firms ahead of its announcement a little more than two years ago that it would make Crossville its headquarters and develop the next generation of quiet, electric thrusters for drones, aircraft, and eVTOLs (electric vertical takeoff and landing).

Yesterday, the company made a significant announcement that utilizes its technology in a distinctively different sector, and it is one that might call for our non-technical readers to stretch their imaginations.

In an email, Ian Villa, Co-Founder, Chief Operating Officer, and Chief Product Officer, said, “Today, we are proud to publicly reveal how our Whisper DriveTM technology can be leveraged for cleaner, quieter, and more efficient leaf blowers. The manufacturing techniques we’ve developed utilizing new low-cost, high-performing materials will unlock new commercial drone, drone delivery, and drone first responder applications.”

The journey started a year ago when out of curiosity, Whisper Aero engineers modified one of the start-up’s decommissioned early-generation propulsors with some 3D printed parts into a leaf blower minimum viable product. The results were astounding and proved that Whisper’s technology could be transformative for commercial, non-aviation products.

Since then, Whisper has taken time to scale down its propulsor technology into a form factor that can be more readily integrated into a leaf blower. The team has also been researching and developing low-cost manufacturing techniques that can be applied to its propulsors for production at scale.

The company says that, as a result of multiple generations of leaf blower prototypes, its technology can produce a device that can be 40x quieter (16 dBA less) at 50 feet, produce 40 percent more airflow than competitors, and use 40 percent less energy use than other options. It provided this video to showcase the development.

Whisper is not building a leaf blower, but looking to partner with a leading outdoor equipment company to bring a Whisper DriveTM enabled leaf blower product to market.

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