United Airlines has invested $5m in Viridos, an algae-based fuel producer, through its recently announced UAV Sustainable Flight Fund.

The investment, part of Viridos’ Series A round, aims to enable the production of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) from algae.

It marks the debut investment made via the UAV Sustainable Flight Fund.

Overall, the biofuel firm raked in $25m through the Series A fundraise that was led by Breakthrough Energy Ventures (BEV). Chevron USA also participated in the round.

The funding will be channelled into R&D work to grow algae oil productivity to commercially deployable levels.

Viridos has expertise in bioengineering of microalgae, with its technology designed to fast-track production of oil from microalgae that can be later used in the production of SAF.

The firm noted that its algae are grown in vessels containing seawater.

SAF produced by Viridos’ algae oil has the potential to lower carbon footprint on a lifecycle basis by 70% in comparison to traditional jet fuel.

Viridos CEO Oliver Fetzer said: “By establishing production sites to grow Viridos-engineered microalgae in saltwater, we are creating the foundation for a biofuel future that moves away from fossil fuels without competing for precious resources such as fresh water and arable land.

“We are excited to have the support from United Airlines. Together we can build the ecosystem needed to bring algae biofuels to the market.”

United is said to be one of the largest investors in SAF, and till date has invested in the future production of more than three billion gallons of the green fuel.

Last month, the carrier along with its corporate partners launched the UAV Sustainable Flight Fund to help start-ups working on production and research of SAF.

United Airlines Ventures president Mike Leskinen said: “SAF is proven, scalable, and the best tool we have to reduce our carbon emissions from flying, but we face a significant shortage of available feedstock.

“As the global aviation leader in SAF production investment United remains committed to reaching net zero carbon emissions, without relying on traditional carbon offsets, by 2050.

“Viridos’ algae-based biofuel technology has the potential to help solve our supply problem without the need for farmland or other agricultural resources and marks our inaugural investment in our new cross-industry UAV Sustainable Flight Fund.”