Radia Emerges to Launch WindRunner as World's Largest Airplane

A computer-generated image of Radia's WindRunner aircraft design. (Image: Radia)

A Boulder, Colorado-based startup, Radia, publicly unveiled its plans in a March 18 announcement to develop the world's largest aircraft, WindRunner, designed to fly oversized turbine blades — some the size of football fields — to wind farm sites.

The company had been keeping the design of WindRunner a secret since it was founded in 2016 by Mark Lundstrom, a rocket scientist who graduated from MIT and is now teamed with engineers from major aerospace companies to develop and certify the aircraft, which the company estimates is halfway through that eight-year process.

Lundstrom's executive team includes Christine Bloch as Manufacturing Operations Vice President, who previously served as the Vice President of U.S. operations for Embraer. Rachel Kelley has served as chief engineer for Radia since 2018, following a two-year stint as the director of engineering for Boeing.

Beyond the development of WindRunner, Radia's ultimate goal is to use the aircraft to facilitate the transportation of enormous wind turbine blades to onshore wind farms. The most efficient and cost-effective wind turbines have enormous blades – some longer than a football field. That makes them extremely difficult, if not impossible, to deliver and deploy because bridges, tunnels and road curves literally get in the way.

WindRunner will be able to fly large turbine blades and other components directly to wind farm sites. In addition, Radia will lead onshore wind energy expansion in partnership with industry leaders, and work with development partners to create new onshore wind farms.

The result will be widespread availability of consistent, low-cost clean energy for the grid, green fuel production and commercial power users such as data centers. Radia will help meet escalating demand for carbon-free electricity, grow the wind energy market, create compelling business opportunities in renewables and help the world meet its decarbonization goals.

Radia has received nearly $100 million in funding from sources including LS Power, Good Growth Capital, Capital Factory, Caruso Ventures and ConocoPhillips.

“Radia will create a step-function improvement for onshore wind in profitability, lower cost, and higher consistency. This will result in more wind projects, more green fuel projects, lower energy price, more profits, and more money being invested in the energy transition,” Radia CEO Mark Lundstrom said.

Radia launches as demand on the grid grows and as its capacity and reliability are in doubt. The global data center market will grow at a rate of more than 10% a year from 2023 to 2030. U.S. data centers alone will consume 33 GW by 2030, largely on the back of surging AI use. The growing use of EVs will further add to the demand. All this is happening as the grid struggles with reliability, as the gap between demand and power generation capacity further widens and as reliability is further challenged as a result of climate-driven severe weather such as the 2021 Texas ice storm.

According to Lundstrom, Radia will answer those grid demands as well as the renewables industry’s need for growth and profitability alongside the commercial and societal need for clean power.

“Offshore turbines are more than two times as powerful as onshore turbines because they are bigger,” he said. “If we could move these large turbines onshore, they would be twice as profitable and open up three times more land for economically viable wind farms. Why not put them onshore? Because literal roadblocks stand in the way.

The WindRunner aircraft, capable of landing on short, semi-prepared runways including those made of packed dirt, will be purpose-built to deliver these large blades and other components directly to onshore wind farm sites – greatly expanding the number of locations available for large turbines and enabling onshore wind to scale. Opportunities include reducing transmission costs and increasing reliability by building wind energy sites closer to demand, creating hybrid wind/solar sites to produce clean power around the clock and throughout the year, and generating the large amounts of clean electricity needed to produce green hydrogen.

WindRunner will be 356 feet long and its volume is 12 times that of a 747, and an overall length of 356 feet to carry the largest payloads ever moved by air.