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Luminati: Parts of SubStrata solar plane built in Germany

Luminati Aerospace CEO Daniel Preston introduced this solar-powered

Luminati Aerospace CEO Daniel Preston introduced this solar-powered aircraft, which will be used to provide internet connectivity around the equator, during an open house Friday, June 10, 2016, at Luminati's headquarters in Calverton. Credit: Chuck Fadely

Luminati Aerospace LLC, the startup which has said that its SubStrata solar electric plane is the first aircraft designed and built at Calverton in more than two decades, has acknowledged that parts of the plane, including the original fuselage, were made in Germany.

The company still describes the plane as a Long Island product. But after a German company, PC-Aero GmbH, issued a news release last week claiming that it had built the solar aircraft, Luminati said that it licensed intellectual property from PC-Aero and then made extensive technological modifications.

“Superficial aspects” of the SubStrata were based on the German-made Elektra One Solar, Luminati said in a series of emails through its attorney, Robert Hasday, partner at Manhattan-based Duane Morris LLP. But cutting-edge technologies, including wing design, autonomous flight computers and equipment to harvest wind energy were designed and manufactured by Luminati, the company said.

On June 10, Luminati staged a 13-minute public demonstration flight of the SubStrata in Calverton before several hundred people, including employees, public officials and guests. In advance of the event, the startup issued a news release calling the SubStrata “the first aircraft to be designed and built at the historic Calverton air base since Grumman [Corp.] ceased manufacturing some 23 years ago.” Grumman made F-14 Tomcat fighter jets for the U.S. Navy at Calverton.

Although Luminati acknowledged that parts of the aircraft were made in Germany, it denied claims in a news release by Calin Gologan, chief executive of PC-Aero, and its planned merger partner, Elektra UAS GmbH, that the SubStrata “is in reality an Elektra One Solar developed and built in Germany” that “was delivered by PC-Aero to Luminati.”

In an email, Gologan declined to comment beyond the news release, saying that he was bound by a nondisclosure agreement with Luminati.

Luminati in a statement said that it paid a license fee to PC-Aero and Elektra UAS for intellectual property.

In response to questions, Luminati said the original fuselage was built by Carbon Wacker, a “key business partner” of PC-Aero and Elektra, under contract in Germany, where Luminati engineers remained on-site for three months. Modifications were made in Calverton, the company said.

Luminati came to public attention in October when it acquired the 16.3-acre property of Skydive Long Island at the former Navy property in Calverton and announced that it planned to develop solar-powered unmanned aircraft that can stay aloft indefinitely to beam the internet to unwired regions around the globe. Luminati has told public officials that it had financial backing from a major internet company whose name it could not disclose.

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