Cloudline airship

UNICEF Innovation Fund Graduate: Cloudline

The UNICEF Innovation Fund is proud to see portfolio member, Cloudline, graduate. They’ve come a long way – from numerous product iterations to deep diving into understanding their ecosystem better, strengthening their business model, and gearing up to take their solution to market. They’re now ready to collaborate at a larger scale – as they find new pathways to work with partners, investors, and the open source community.


Onward and upward


Over the course of a year of working with UNICEF Innovation Fund to redefine access to rural and underserved communities, Cloudline has built not only the aircraft we set out to, but have also  strengthened our team and developed a much broader vision for global access.


From inception we have been driven by a mission to bring aerial delivery and other services to areas that remain underserved by commercial operations. To realise that mission we set out to design, build and test a new aircraft in a tumultuous year characterised by lockdowns, customs delays and supplier closures. Here are a few of our triumphs and our learnings on the journey so far.


And yet it moves…


Our greatest triumph of the year was the flight of our pre-production airship. Capable of a 10kg useful payload and a 50km range, this aircraft is ideally suited to medical logistics and other high-value scheduled deliveries. The aircraft has flown autonomously (following GPS waypoints), faced headwinds up to 9 knots and attained cruise speeds of 40km/h in testing. We are currently conducting the trial flights necessary to get it production ready for customer deployment this year.


The importance of unbroken cold-chain


Prior to the pandemic, we set out to develop a solution that had active cold-chain capabilities, given UNICEF’s needs around vaccine distribution.  COVID-19 has raised broader awareness of the need for universal vaccine access and its associated logistical challenges. The past year has made us place greater emphasis on our work for unbroken cold-chain delivery. Through our work with UNICEF Innovation Fund’s open source advisers, we designed our cooler for broad compatibility and widespread use in aerial delivery that could mimic the inter-modality of the 20ft shipping container in sea freight.

Cloudlien team

User-centred in every way


Working alongside UNICEF and its partners (country offices, governments and regulators) has played an integral role in our design process for a product that meets the needs of all stakeholders. One clear example has come from conversations with UNICEF country offices about the service they require from our aircraft. We learned that many places without roads often lacked adequate connectivity too and that a simple data transmission solution (as an acute intervention vs ongoing global connectivity efforts) would increase the effectiveness of field operations and general outcomes for children. This insight led us to understanding what auxiliary functions and use-cases we can solve for as we fulfill our primary service. We now see this stacked use-case opportunity as integral to our business model, with the potential to serve multiple customers within a single geography. 


Way forward  


The next exciting chapter for Cloudline is taking our services into commercial deployment with our first customers. We believe that our greatest learnings will come from being a full-service provider to logistics aggregators and enterprise users. Our work with UNICEF and its partners has preempted many of the proof points we need for operation, both with customers and regulators. The need for such solutions now  is greater than ever before and the team could not be more excited to augment the airlines and shipping lines with brand new Cloudlines.

Spencer Horne, Co-Founder

13 April 2021