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Mikhail Kokorich explains why aerospace delivery is already a trillion-dollar market

28.03.2023

Mikhail Kokorich is the CEO and founder of Destinus and is known for being a serial entrepreneur in the tech industry. He was born in Siberia in a small Mongolian village not far from where Gengis Khan began his conquests. Born into a home without sanitation and limited electricity, he pursued his education using the light of a kerosene lamp. Despite these challenges, Kokorich excelled in science and mathematics, winning several awards in Russian physics competitions, which led to his admission to the physics department at Russia's most prominent scientific centre.

Kokorich's entrepreneurial spirit led him to start his first company at the age of 19, which provided a variety of services to other organisations. This venture grew rapidly, and he eventually built a large chain of home merchandise stores across Russia, expanding from one outlet to hundreds, with revenues reaching billions of dollars and a team of over 10,000 employees.

He eventually sold his retail company to pursue his dream of aviation and physics by building rockets. 

Mikhail Kokorich founded Destinus in 2021, which is at the forefront of aviation technology. Their concept involves the creation of a new hybrid aircraft called a "hyperplane", which combines the benefits of a plane with those of a rocket. The hyperplane will take off and fly at subsonic levels before reaching higher altitudes, where it will then achieve supersonic speeds. This innovative approach to air travel aims to reduce noise pollution while providing the rapid travel speeds associated with rockets.

Rocket ships, supersonic aircraft and how drones are in the middle

The creation of hydrogen-powered aircraft, which use hydrogen as fuel instead of carbon materials, results in zero carbon emissions. The idea behind hyperplanes is that they will be able to travel from Europe to Australia in as little as two hours on a clean energy source. The use of hydrogen as fuel, which can also be produced from renewable sources, further reduces emissions, as the only byproduct is water. The development of these technologies has several use cases as well that range from advanced air mobility to the transportation of goods. 

The aerodynamics of the hyperplane are carefully designed to minimise energy expenditure due to the high altitudes. The technology involves a rocket engine that is built using conventional materials, but, as Kokorich explained, at very high velocities, these materials could begin to melt. That’s why the Destinus team has addressed this with a cooling system, which uses hydrogen as an active coolant. This approach ensures that the vehicle can be built using conventional materials, while also achieving high velocity for extended periods of time.

The hydrogen fuel technology used in the hyperplane has several advantages besides just being a clean source of energy. As hydrogen is used up rapidly, it can be stored as a liquid rather than pressurized gas. This results in the additional benefit that makes the vehicle more akin to a rocket than a plane. Kokorich also explained that while this is indeed rocket science, the use of hydrogen for cooling purposes is not new and has been used in various other applications before hyperplanes.

Hydrogen rockets as a business model

Mikhail Kokorich explained to us that the future of aerospace delivery is already a trillion-dollar market, which includes air express delivery, the freight market and the passenger market. Combining these already amounts to an enormous demand and is not something that is expected to happen in 10 or 100 years, but is something that’s happening right now. Almost everything that we currently are shipping and receiving is being delivered via aeroplanes, such as fruits from Chile in the winter, computers, textiles and lifesaving drugs. 

Traditional delivery methods in the aviation industry currently require large amounts of fossil fuels and contribute an enormous amount to current greenhouse gas pollution. If fast delivery services like Destinus already have a large market just due to the speed they’re capable of delivering, the demand will be even higher when these fast delivery methods also help to reduce the greenhouse gas pollution caused by conventional cargo plane deliveries.

Still, while the market for early adopters is very large, the customers currently looking at fast delivery services tend to be able to afford premium prices for these. This doesn’t include luxury items like restaurant-grade foods delivered from Japan to Australia, but also customers who might need lifesaving drugs, replacement parts for broken manufacturing machines or important documents that need to be delivered on the same day. The delivery time is critical in these cases, and hydrogen-powered drones can deliver them in just a few hours.

Initially, the delivery vehicles will be much smaller, so customers can expect them to only be able to carry a few items, but eventually, larger hyperplanes containing much more weight will be created and start to compete with conventional cargo planes. 

Sustainability of high-speed flights

The question of sustainability in high-speed transport is a crucial one. Mikhail Kokorich echoed this statement by explaining how any technology that aims to transform the world must not harm it with its activities. He explains how this is yet another reason why hyperplanes offer a favourable alternative to traditional aviation as they use hydrogen instead of hydrocarbons in their engines. 

This means that there are no carbon dioxide emissions, making them a more environmentally friendly option. Additionally, during the initial phase of the flight, the engine uses hydrogen and oxygen from the tanks, which pass back into the air, resulting in no nitrogen emissions. Nitrogen emission is extremely toxic and poses a significant problem for any jet engine that uses air alongside its primary fuel source.

Hyperplanes also don’t emit water, which is a greenhouse gas when released into the stratosphere. They require only hydrogen, which is then cooled by an active internal system. Moreover, because of the high altitude, the noise level from the sonic boom will be 10 times less. This is not only a matter of keeping noise pollution down for humans but reduces the potential stress that would be caused to animals as well. 

Why Switzerland is one of the best places to build a drone organisation

The decision to move to Switzerland and Europe was a strategic one for Mikhail Kokorich. The company's headquarters and half of its team are located in Switzerland, and they also have a large team in Germany and Spain. However, Switzerland was significantly more attractive than other countries because of the high quality of life and international environment. 

Starting this type of company in Europe is also advantageous because, for the last 20 years, many European engineers were looking at companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin as options. Still, European engineers were eager to be a part of something great and interesting that would be built in Europe. That’s likely why the responses to job postings from Destinus have been overwhelming, with hundreds of CVs received for some positions. For instance, when Kokorich’s company was hiring hypersonic engineers, they had over 400 applicants.

Mikhail Kokorich was also impressed with the experience and level of maturity of the engineers they have hired in Europe. Compared to his previous company, which is now public on Nasdaq, the competition for high-quality talent is much harder in the US than in Europe. 

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