The drone industry has seen some noted consolidations and exits in the last few years. Commercial drone solutions provider Airware shut down last year after burning through $118 million in funding. Tethered and security drone provider CyPhy Works, founded by iRobot co-founder Helen Greiner, closed its doors in March of this year. Other companies trying to get in to the drone industry – like GoPro – have failed to deliver a profitable line of business and cut their losses.
Those failures, while high profile (and probably not the last we’ll hear), are not the dominant story. Regulations for commercial drones are moving forward, albeit slowly. The UAS Integration Pilot Program has been launching successful drone programs which introduce new applications across the country. Most significantly, the proof of concept and test phases that large enterprise – in oil, gas, power, mining, construction, and insurance – has engaged in for the last two years appear to be coming to a close, and larger scale operations beginning.
The drone industry – hardware, software, insurance, and more – are benefiting from the growth, and investors are looking for opportunities to benefit also. From the beginning of the year, medical drone delivery company Zipline announced new funding that brought the company valuation to $1.2 billion. Automated drone-in-a-box solution Percepto announced a new round of $15 million. Vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) drone producer Wingtra announced another $10 million. Enterprise drone solution provider Kespry saw new investment from software giant Salesforce.
Earlier stage startups are also still raising money. Just this week, drone insuretech startup Skywatch.ai closed on $5 million in funding to support their expansion. Earlier this spring, South African enterprise drone company Aerobotics raised $2 million. Sabrewing Aircraft raised almost $2 million.
The list goes on. Far from being over, the appetite for investment in the drone industry seems to be heating up again. Add in the related technologies such as AI, counter drone technology, sensors, unmanned traffic management (UTM) and drone safety systems and the numbers are even higher.
Investment in the drone industry isn’t indiscriminate – but that’s a sign that the industry is maturing. As the industry moves past winning innovation awards to winning clients, strategic investment is fueling growth and expansion.
Miriam McNabb is the Editor-in-Chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a professional drone services marketplace, and a fascinated observer of the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for drones. Miriam has a degree from the University of Chicago and over 20 years of experience in high tech sales and marketing for new technologies.
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