Metro Atlanta hypersonic plane startup Hermeus preps for flight tests

Doraville company showed off unmanned demonstration aircraft it plans to test in California
Hermeus on Thursday, March 28, 2024 unveiled its Quarterhorse Mk 1 aircraft at its facilities in Doraville, Georgia. Source: Hermeus

Credit: Source: Hermeus

Credit: Source: Hermeus

Hermeus on Thursday, March 28, 2024 unveiled its Quarterhorse Mk 1 aircraft at its facilities in Doraville, Georgia. Source: Hermeus

Doraville-based hypersonic plane developer Hermeus unveiled a demonstration aircraft and said it plans to conduct flight testing at Edwards Air Force Base in California.

Hermeus showed off its sleek silver aircraft dubbed Quarterhorse Mk 1 during a private event at its facilities in Doraville on Thursday afternoon.

The move follows the debut of a prototype aircraft in 2021, followed by ground testing of Hermeus’ first Quarterhorse aircraft, Mk 0, completed last November.

Quarterhorse Mk 1 is an uncrewed, remotely piloted plane and is intended to be used for Hermeus’ first flight to test remote takeoff and landing at Edwards Air Force Base.

Hermeus was originally planning for Quarterhorse test flights in 2023, but now expects flight testing to start later this year, following a series of tests of the aircraft’s systems and other factors.

“Moving into the integrated test program is the culmination of a huge team effort and a significant emotional event for the entire company,” said Don Kaderbek, vice president of test at Hermeus, in a written statement.

The company opened a 110,000-square-foot factory in Doraville in 2021 with the aim of developing a hypersonic plane called Halcyon that would be able to fly at Mach 5 — more than twice the speed of the supersonic Concorde. Such speed would allow passengers to fly across the Atlantic Ocean in 90 minutes.

But there are many challenges to achieving such a technological breakthrough, and if the project is successful, it’s expected to take years to develop and get certified.

Hermeus raised seed funding in 2019, then in 2020 announced it had raised $16 million in Series A funding. In 2021, the company won a $60 million contract with the Air Force for flight testing, and in 2022 raised $100 million in Series B funding.

In Georgia, aerospace is the No. 1 export, with Gulfstream Aerospace and Lockheed Martin among the largest employers.

The company plans to build another aircraft, to be called Mk 2, to test supersonic flight next year. The Mk 2 will have a Pratt & Whitney F100 engine, which is used in F-15 fighter aircraft. Then, the next version, Mk3, would be used to break the airspeed record.

It aims to develop a “high-Mach drone” and advance toward development of a hypersonic aircraft called Darkhorse for defense and national security missions.