Money is beginning to pour into the unmanned marketplace, the Commercial Drone Fund is the latest entry
You know a market is becoming real when the investment community begins to put their money into the game. Airware launched their new Commercial Drone Fund with initial investments in Sky-Futures and Redbird, DJI and Accel launched SkyFund the other day, and money is flowing into companies like CyPhy Works and others from multiple sources.
When we saw the announcement we reached out to Jay Forte, VP of Business Development at Sky-Futures, to find out why European businesses seem to be leading the way, at least in this early round of investment. Here is what he had to say.
“European businesses are off to a fast start because regulations there have supported the commercial use of uavs for some time. They have been doing it longer so they are further along than say, the US. I would expect more US companies competing for such investments in the near future, now that the FAA is starting to support commercial uav use.”
Here is the press release about the new fund.
SAN FRANCISCO – May 27, 2015 – With the goal of supporting the most promising commercial drone businesses around the world, Airware launched the Commercial Drone Fund today and announced the first two investment recipients. The fund is investing in companies that are developing technologies critical to scaling the use of drones across a variety of commercial applications.
Airware’s Commercial Drone Fund is making $250,000 to $1 million investments in early-stage companies in the commercial drone ecosystem and will focus on five key areas: sensor hardware, software applications, cloud-based aerial data analysis tools, drone-based services, and complete solutions for specific industries. Initial funding recipients are Redbird, a cloud data analysis company in Paris, France, and London-based Sky-Futures, a leader in oil and gas data capture and analysis by commercial drone. The fund expects to invest in dozens of startups over the next two years.
The Commercial Drone Fund is structured like a venture capital fund, with capital provided by limited partners. Airware’s CEO, Jonathan Downey, is the fund’s General Partner. Downey has more than 10 years of experience in aerospace and aviation: in academia at MIT, in industry at Boeing, as a commercial pilot flying the Dehavilland Twin Otter, and over the past four years building and scaling Airware in San Francisco. Downey has led Airware to raise over $40 million.
“While the commercial drone industry is evolving rapidly, we still see gaps in the ecosystem. The Commercial Drone Fund will identify and boost the rising stars that are advancing important drone-related initiatives, such as powerful new sensors, intelligent analytics, or innovative field services,” said Downey. “I know how hard it is to raise early money in a new space and I want to help other entrepreneurs get further faster.”
Airware works with an ecosystem of third-party hardware, software, and cloud services companies to help businesses tailor commercial drones to their specific needs. Many of the companies funded by the Commercial Drone Fund are leveraging Airware’s Aerial Information Platform, though it is not a requirement for funding. The fund is a separate legal entity from Airware, and Airware will not be an investor.
“Redbird is known in Europe for having the most advanced drone data analytics for mining, construction, and infrastructure inspection. Our cloud-based platform for enterprises is designed to fit within existing Airware workflows. We are very excited by this investment as it validates the added-value we’re bringing in the drone ecosystem. Together with Airware and our partners, we’re ready to move to the next level and expand to the US — it’s a new step and a global development for our company,” said Emmanuel de Maistre, Co-Founder and CEO of Redbird.
“We’re excited to be working with Jonathan Downey and the Commercial Drone Fund to shape the future of commercial drone technology to save time, cut cost, and improve safety for industry,” said James Harrison, co-founder and CEO of Sky-Futures. “Our solutions are already in use with over 35 of the biggest oil and gas companies globally. Investment from the Commercial Drone Fund will speed up the delivery of our technology roadmap and create more valuable data to our existing client base faster.”
The fund will continue to invest in companies that have technologies that help solve complex challenges that businesses face when scaling drone operations. It will favor those who have traction with existing customers and a strong team with the technical knowledge and expertise needed to deliver on the company’s vision. To pitch your company, visit CommercialDroneFund.com.
About the Fund
Airware’s Commercial Drone Fund is a VC-structured fund focused on early-stage startups developing technologies that are critical to scaling the use of commercial drones across a variety of applications. It makes investments in five key areas: sensor hardware, software applications, cloud-based aerial data analysis tools, drone-based services, and complete solutions for specific industries. For more information, visit CommercialDroneFund.com.
The OutCast Agency