The Marlyn: Half helicopter, half plane

We’ve got a riddle for you: It has wings and it flies like a plane, but it isn’t one. It has rotors, and lifts off and lands like a helicopter, but it isn’t one. What is it?

We know, and we’ll tell you. It’s Marlyn, the next generation drone that can take off and land like a helicopter, but is nimble and fast like a plane. Developed by Atmos, a Delft-based technology startup that is on a mission to revolutionize how maps are made, improve food production, reduce pesticide usage, support nature preservation, manage our resources and many more, all with the same drone!


It was back in 2012 when a team of students from the renowned TU Delft faculty of aerospace engineering joined a competition held by U.S. research agency DARPA.

“For this challenge a drone was needed that had the ability to take-off and land vertically, but also cover a big distance,” Ruud Knoops, co-founder of Atmos, remembers. “And in aerospace engineering, designing and building one or the other type of drone is already a challenge, let aside build a system that fulfills the requirements of both.”

Although the team started late in the competition and had only four months to design, build and validate their aircraft, they eventually came in third out of more than 150 competitors. With the first prototype in their hands they knew that they had created something unique.

“Four people out of the original team decided to take the invention to the next level, and a year later we started our company”, Ruud says. “Today, the big technical challenges that comes with hybrid drones have been solved and we have a production line set up to fulfill and support our first customers”


To get to where they are now, the team has had to make difficult decisions on how to best position themselves and who to target first with their technology.

Before joining YES!Delft’s incubator, Atmos had successfully rounded off its Validation Lab program, which is what really helped them focus on a delineated market segment with a clear product-market fit and good conditions for market entry. “Before we joined the Validation Lab, we had several markets that we wanted to target but we learned that having a focus is a very important thing and helps to accelerate,” Ruud explains.

The team has been concentrating on the mapping industry since then. With Marlyn we are targeting the global mapping industry, from construction and mining to agriculture and environmental applications for governmental, academic and SME institutions.

“The team of YES!Delft and their network are really complimentary to our team, and we believe that with their feedback we can become one of the leading drones companies.”


Atmos is at the verge of their international growth phase. The working principle behind the drone has been proven and international patent has been file. Their next steps are closing their investment round, finalising the beta phase with customers and optimizing production and distribution for international rollout.
Next to the multiple customers and pilots they have collected, requests are coming from all around the world, with an increasing trend. An example of a recent pilot project is to map the pristine national park of Silhouette island.
They currently have 14 members, but are actively looking for enthusiastic and driven people on both commercial and technical side of our company – to all who would want to gain experience in a high-tech and fast-growing startup: get in touch with them!
The world around us is changing with a tremendous pace, in order to develop our earth sustainably we have to use the limited available space and resources wisely, Atmos says. Therefore, access to timely and highly accurate geo-data is crucial. “The ultimate goal for Atmos is to empower professionals to gather geo-spatial information effortlessly and affordably.”


2012: 3rd place DARPA UAVForge challenge
2012: First drone in the world to autonomously transition from helicopter to airplane mode
2013: Company founded
2014: Wall of Fame (TU Delft Aerospace Engineering)
2014: Patent request submitted
2015: Pilot project with Rijkswaterstaat
2016: Co-founded Valkenburg drone test center (unmanned valley)
2016: STW take-off phase 2 secured
2016: First LOI with launching customer
2016: MIT R&D Project
2016: Admission into YES!Delft incubation program
2017: Pilot project in the Indian Ocean: First to map pristine national park in half a century!

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