Humanoid Robot Walks, Solar Aircraft Launches

Hey y’all welcome back to Hard Startups. This week we have:

- Humanoid robot takes its first step
- YC-backed company makes solar aircraft
- Satellite startup hot fires an ion thruster

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Figure unveils first steps of humanoid robot

Figure posted a video unveiling their first humanoid robot taking steps. They started working on it 12 months ago and now it can walk around!

Incredibly impressive turn-around given that the 60-person team is building most of the hardware for the robot from scratch.

Left is Figure’s custom built actuator, right is an off the shelf model with the same performance

The company was started by Bret Adcock, who previously founded Archer (an eVTOL company) and Vettery (a hiring marketplace). His own route to building hard startups first involved selling his software startup, but he had some alternative advice for hard tech founders building today.

Right on Brett.

Radical (YC W23) launches a solar-powered aircraft

Radical, an alum of the YC W23 batch, is building autonomous solar-powered aircraft. They recently completed a 24-hour continuous test-flight of their prototype 20-foot wingspan aircraft. Their prototype aircraft only weighs 13lbs. You can see a video of it in action here.

Radical’s full-scale aircraft will one day provide services like high resolution imaging or even internet without having to land for over a year. The aircraft charges during the day with on-board solar panels, and uses battery power to maintain altitude during the night. The team plans to launch the full-scale version (110ft wingspan) next year which will fly at an altitude of ~70,000 feet, allowing the aircraft to avoid high wind speeds and clouds.

Quick links

Astranis (maker of geostationary satellites for broadband internet)l hot fired an ion thruster and they made a cool video about it. Shoutout to Christian for showing me around the Astranis HQ this past week. I think it might be the coolest startup office in America. (If you think your office is cooler lmk 👀)

Whisper demonstrates their incredibly quiet electric leaf blowers in a post on X. I’m convinced this is a public good, traditional leaf blowers are annoying.

A startup is working on a system for getting rid of turbulence. Cool demonstration video on X.

That’s it for this week 🫡
Sometimes I get sent cool stuff that’s happening in hard startups. That’s great, and keep it coming. If you see any cool news about hard startups I’d love to hear about it, you can email me at [email protected]