Gene Avakyan, an aerospace engineer and entrepreneur, has designed revolutionary “robot” planes that he believes can change the world. Avakyan, who left Ukraine as a child, aims to use his innovative aircraft in the ongoing war to support his birthplace.
Having experienced the tension and turmoil of his home country, Avakyan developed a passion for aviation and space exploration during his teenage years. He founded Edison Aerospace with the initial goal of creating robotic aircraft for agricultural purposes. However, he now envisions his creations being utilized to tilt the scales of the conflict in Ukraine’s favor.
Avakyan has been in discussions with US defense officials and Ukrainian politicians regarding aircraft designs specifically tailored for military applications. These designs include planes capable of locating anti-aircraft missile batteries, delivering cargo, and dropping munitions.
Reflecting on his own childhood, Avakyan recalls the harrowing journey he and his family undertook to escape Ukraine. Fleeing the country in the dead of night, they had to navigate past armed soldiers to reach safety. The experience left an indelible impression on Avakyan, instilling in him the belief that circumstances can change suddenly, requiring readiness to sacrifice comforts and flee.
“My mission as an entrepreneur is to really help Ukraine down the road, both with military and agricultural aviation, because it’s a huge market for agriculture and will require modernization of its defense capabilities,” Avakyan explained. He sees the potential for his aircraft to not only assist in warfare but also drive the country’s agricultural modernization by enhancing crop growth, aiding in seed planting, and even facilitating transportation of goods.
Avakyan, who studied aerospace engineering at UCLA, currently resides in Florida but maintains a strong connection to Ukraine and a deep concern for the injustices of the ongoing conflict. He expresses his disbelief when the invasion began and acknowledges the efforts of the US and Europe in supporting Ukraine. However, he remains steadfast in his desire to contribute and be on the right side of history.
Working closely with the US Federal Government through the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Avakyan’s technology centers around electric, optionally-manned aircraft that can be piloted from a ground-based truck trailer or operate autonomously. These planes have an approximate flight time of one hour and carry a battery similar in size to that of a Tesla Model 3.
The full-sized aircraft boasts a 40-foot wingspan and can carry up to 200 gallons of payload for crop spraying. Avakyan aims to replace the manned spray aircraft currently in use, as they pose significant risks to pilots due to low-altitude and high-speed flying. He hopes that his aircraft will help prevent accidents and fatalities caused by collisions with trees, hills, power lines, and other obstacles.
Avakyan believes that electric passenger planes, starting with air taxis, will soon become a reality. To turn this vision into a tangible achievement, he seeks funding to build a series of prototypes.
In addition to Edison Aerospace, Avakyan and his wife, Victoria Unikel, have established several other businesses, including VUGA Media Group, Gossip Stone TV, and 24Fashion TV. He credits his wife as his hero, expressing gratitude for their collaborative efforts and acknowledging her role in their joint success.
Avakyan’s journey from his childhood in Ukraine to his current life of relative luxury in the US has filled him with gratitude. He recognizes the sacrifices his parents made to provide him with a better life, away from the oppressive regime of the USSR. Avakyan’s ambition now lies in using his expertise and resources to contribute to the betterment of Ukraine and make a positive impact in the world.