Disruption isn’t easy, but for Victoria Unikel, it’s all in a day’s work. Businesswoman, artist, and activist, Edison Aerospace’s Victoria Unikel wears many different hats in her role as the co-founder and head of marketing behind a company that promises to revolutionize agricultural spray aircraft. Doing the job of manned spray aircraft without the risk to the pilot and costing the operators 45% less money than existing aircraft to operate, Edison Aerospace’s vision of the future of agriculture is greener, computerized and autonomous, doing more with less and feeding more people in the process.
And this is where Edison Aerospace not only distinguishes itself from others in the market but also immediately offers a unique value proposition that cannot be ignored: competing against turbo-prop manned aircraft that burn 25,000 gallons of fuel per year, Edison Aerospace’s proposition is a similarly large fixed-wing electric aircraft about the size of a Cessna 172 that offers improvements in ease and repeatability of aerial application, lowers operating costs, reduces the environmental footprint of large-scale agriculture, and brings energy independence to the farmer and the spray operator.
Taking us down the path of the future, Victoria Unikel explains just how important these efficiencies are and frames Edison Aerospace’s work within the greater dialogue about environmental sustainability and best practices in agriculture.
Uniquely positioned for her role at Edison Aerospace, Victoria Unikel’s background as a successful entrepreneur in other fields has enabled her to hone in on what works and drives forward growth for Edison Aerospace, namely, her ability to spot disruption opportunities in markets and expand upon them to drive value creation at the company and stockholder level. In this regard, she leaves little room for doubt as to the disruptive power of Edison Aerospace’s value proposition. She discusses how technology and emerging markets such as NFTs impact business strategy in a digital space as well as how project management is both streamlined and even more complex than ever before. Rounding out the interview, we discuss what inspires Victoria as she outlines causes and charities important to her.
Victoria, you are quite the entrepreneur with a number of companies and projects to your name. Your most recent endeavor is Edison Aerospace. Can you start off by telling us about this incredible new company?
Sure! During my entertainment career and life in general, I always wanted to create something global and innovative, something that would truly be revolutionary and help people. So, when my husband, Gene Avakyan, shared his idea about an electric autonomous full-size agricultural spray aircraft, I immediately told him that we must move forward with it, and we began to brainstorm how to get it into production as soon as possible. Although there are some small drones that are used to spot-spray very limited areas, our aircraft is a true replacement for the manned aircraft used for aerial application today. The first model we will be releasing will be about the size of a Cessna 172 – much bigger than anything people may think of when they hear the word ‘drone’. In fact, this is so much outside the world of typical drones, that we never even use that word. We have already built up an incredible team of professionals from the electrical propulsion and agricultural industries in North Dakota, where we plan to manufacture the aircraft. Beyond Edison’s first spray aircraft, we have several projects planned for the Department of Defense, but I can’t talk about those yet.
How is Edison Aerospace revolutionizing the agricultural aviation arena?
Traditional aircraft used for spraying and seeding crops are noisy and thirsty – each burning about 25,000 gallons of fossil fuel annually. In the US alone, the agricultural aircraft fleet burn about 125M gallons of fuel annually. Our electric aircraft has zero emissions and saves not only fuel, but also pilots’ lives. Every year up to 10 pilots of Ag aircraft lose their lives working the fields. We also are one of the few truly positive disruptors in tech, as our product will benefit the people who are already doing the work of spraying fields – we are giving them a tool that will cut their operating costs (and thus their profits) by 45%, which is a very big deal, as most of the operators are small businesses that own one or two planes and typically operate on tight margins. This is a win for the operators, for the environment, and for the farmers who hire the operators, as they will likely see some of the operating cost reduction passed on to them. In the end, our product will benefit all of us by creating a better and more reliable food supply, and one that has a far smaller carbon footprint.
What was your inspiration behind Edison Aerospace and what is your background in aviation?
I personally don’t have a background in aviation, but as I mentioned, it was my husband Gene Avakyan who has an Aerospace Engineering degree and experience with government including currently working with the FAA on other projects. Gene has been key to getting this project up and running and to gain the acceptance that it did
My role in the company is more along the lines of strategic planning, PR and marketing, but as a creator, I participate in design decisions along with Gene, and have suggested some innovative features that he was impressed with as well.
One of my heroes is Hedy Lamarr, and if you remember, she did not have much of a technical education but ended up inventing Wi-Fi and other radio communications. People even say that I look a lot like her in some photos, and she has been my inspiration in life. Sometimes unlikely people create new discoveries or greatly contribute to their creation – this should inspire everyone out there to give themselves some credit and take the ideas that come to them more seriously. I bet we have many other ‘Hedy Lamarrs’ out there who don’t even know it yet, and I want to help them discover this.
You have co-founded other companies beside Edison Aerospace. One of the companies you co-founded was VUGA Enterprises. Please, tell us about VUGA?
I also co-founded VUGA Enterprises – an entertainment and production company. We manage more than 50 different online newspaper and magazines, creating PR for clients from very different businesses, as well as producing movies and books. As such, we are an effective marketing solution for businesses that need a new and innovative channel to reach the public. Our clients enjoy very high search engine results placement and visibility as a result of using our services.
How does your work with Edison Aerospace and VUGA differ?
They are such very different companies! Every business needs to have good press visibility and Internet presence these days, so Edison Aerospace stands to gain from its close relationship to VUGA Enterprises. My personal work with the two companies meshes surprisingly well – planning the PR work for clients gives me better awareness of the slots and opportunities available to promote Edison and being involved so deeply in Edison makes me far more effective in marketing it. Right now, our goal at Edison is to secure the next funding round to keep us moving in the direction of revolutionizing agricultural aviation and going public within five years. This is a multi-billion-dollar market, and we are uniquely positioned to disrupt in the most positive way imaginable, to help the people who grow our crops and the environment as a whole.
Can you tell us about some of the exclusive awards you’ve received?
One of the most exciting awards I received was from the Mosaic Federation during their gala event held in the Cipriani in New York. This great organization is comprised of past and present members of the FBI, CIA, Scotland Yard, Mossad, and other international law enforcement and intelligence agencies. Their main goal is to fight to rid the world of human trafficking and modern-day human slavery, and they presented my award on-stage for my work entitled “Bound”, that won for best public service message artwork. That mixed media work represents life, and the chains people wear, both virtual and physical, and how the physical violence done to some reverberates through the universe and does harm to us all. Such horrible practices have no place in our world and must be eradicated! That is why I am such an ardent supporter of Mosaic and their mission.
What are some of your favorite projects VUGA Enterprises has worked on?
I love all our projects! Our comic book “Exorcist”, the story of the superhero Exorcist who fights all dark forces and tyrants around the world is forever a relevant reminder of how much work we have ahead of us to make this world better. And, let me tell you about another ambitious project started by our VUGA Enterprises but spun-off as an independent company. A few years ago, when we were working in film distribution, I had the idea of starting a television channel. This idea grew to become 24Fashion TV – our social media application and fashion entertainment TV channel on Roku TV and Amazon Fire TV. I wanted to show the world something beautiful and useful and to get everyone involved, while helping the people who created all the beautiful things we see on fashion runways around the world! I also set the goal of creating a better social network specially tailored (no pun intended!) for the fashion professionals and the people who love their work. With incredibly talented and dedicated partners we started this project and grew it to the point where today we are media sponsors of top fashion events around the world and feature beautiful content on our channel. Among the events we sponsor are New York Fashion Week, Miami Fashion Week, Paris Fashion Week, LA Fashion Week, and many Dubai events.
I architected the social media app component of the business personally, and am overseeing the current development of our upcoming iOS and Android app. While this development is ongoing, we continue to improve our brand recognition both in the real world, at fashion events, and online. Today we are seeing over 5 million requests monthly on our web application, our TV channels are viewed by thousands of subscribers, our social media membership is climbing, and our team is growing with new celebrity TV hosts and industry professionals. At this point in time the project is mature enough that we are seeking outside capital to grow the company faster and to reach our goals that much quicker.
We are very interested in your NFT mixed-media work “Blind”. What led you into the world of NFTs?
First – the idea of NFT as proof of digital artwork authenticity is brilliant! My first NFT work, “Blind”, was created in partnership with Musical Blockchain as a first ever collaboration between a human artist and an AI that composed music and animated the original static mixed-media work in a completely original manner to create a moving animation presentation. It is truly amazing how my work was reborn as something so unique and new.
Will you be producing further mixed-media NFT artwork for purchase? What is your goal from producing NFTs?
Right now, I am working on a limited-edition gothic and political saga Exorcist that is based on my comic book that was originally published by ComiXology. I personally animated each panel in this series and set the animation to my own original music. The discerning NFT or comic novel collector who acquires the entire series will hear my audio tracks in their entirety, as they were intended to be heard. I composed and performed all the music and the vocals, including some very haunting and enchanting dark wave style lyrics in Latin. I will leave the rest as a mystery to surprise the collectors!
The star of the series, Exorcist, is the character I created many years ago as my alter ego that fights for justice and against all tyrants. It seems like Exorcist is in no danger of running out of tyrants and evildoers to fight!
As a special bonus to any collector who buys the entire series, I will also include, for a limited time, a personal certificate of authenticity suitable for framing, signed by me personally, as well as special mentions on my verified IG where I have over 200k followers. Anyone can follow the release of this series at KnownOrigin.io/victoria-unikel. This is a platform that features rare and unique artists, and I am proud to be among their featured artists.
Victoria, what are some of the charities you are active with? How important is activism to you?
Activism is a big part of who I am, and I always do as much as I can to make our world a better place. The recent war in Ukraine has sadly made my life-long opposition to soviet communism and totalitarianism even more relevant, and I stand for peace and freedom for all even more strongly now than ever.
My personal roots are from a Jewish and European background, and my ancestors come from several European nations. I was born in the USSR under communist rule and my family has passed-on to me first-hand accounts of their suffering at the hands of communist thugs during their exile to Siberia as ‘enemies of the state’ under Stalin’s reign of terror. Their account of forced migration includes many abuses and even murder of some members of the family by being burned alive. Some of this was due to their aristocratic roots, and some because they never joined ‘the party’ and had too much perceived wealth to be left in peace. Prison sentences as long as 25 years were handed out to the Jewish side of my family, regardless of their innocence. The irony of the times was that those guilty of actual crimes tended to get lighter sentences than people like my family, who were ideological enemies of the USSR. I knew our family story since childhood, but it was always told quietly, in secret, from one generation to the next. My grandparents lived in fear all their lives. Is it any wonder that I have the desire to live free and to fight against tyrants? Thirteen years ago, I headed an attempt to kick Lenin out of the Kremlin, organized numerous protests, and successfully produced an anti-communist band “Exorcist”. Unfortunately, when I finally realized that nothing ever changes in that country but the names of the tyrants, never their souls, and after numerous threats and scares, I finally decided to escape. The United States has always been a beacon of hope and freedom and I am very happy to have made a home for myself here. There is no other place in the world where I would rather live. My character Exorcist now continues the fight against tyranny that I began many years ago.
I firmly believe in equal rights, personal freedom, and hate fascism with every fiber of my being. I have supported the German LGBT community for many years and still support the movement for equal LGBT rights around the world. Among other causes that I passionately support are organizations that help children, such as Make-A-Wish America and other foundations. Recently I took part in Mosaic Federation’s fight against human trafficking and slavery.
Walk us through a day in your life?
I have a set schedule that I stick to – every morning starts with meditation and giving thanks to the universe, projecting success and peace around the world. I have been doing this for many many years, and it may surprise you, but the universe generally grants me that which I ask of it.
After this I work on my calendar – making plans for the coming days. I have a busy calendar with calls and meetings required to keep up with three companies, so a large portion of my day and night is taken up by this. Since a lot of the business is done with parties around the world, my nights are filled with work as well.
What is something most people don’t know about you?
Most people are surprised to discover that I am both an introvert and extrovert, two opposite behavioral styles that don’t cause any conflicts for me. I can socialize all day and night or spend a week or more in solitude without saying a complete phrase to anyone.
Choose two of your favorite quotes and write them here
Winston Churchill is credited for a great quote that I truly believe is key to success: “you will never reach your destination if you stop and throw stones at every dog that barks.” The wisdom of that saying is both simple and mind-blowing at the same time.
Turning to Asia, the much-quoted Sun Tzu also said something that is a complement to that: “if you wait by the river long enough, you’ll see the bodies of your enemies float by.” Maybe a greater meaning exists in combining the two quotes – don’t throw rocks at your enemies while you climb to the top, you will see them punished by their own actions.
If you had the power to change just one thing in the world, what would it be?
I have quite a wonderful wish for the world – to do away with tyrants and their nuclear arsenals! No one should live with the threat of world destruction hanging over their heads. Maybe the next generation can live without this terror that our generations had to deal with. Call me an optimist, but I believe in a better future.
To know more about Victoria Unikel and her group of companies, please visit
Images credit: Natalie Svors