Japanese news source The Bridge reports that investor Kotaro Chiba joined Kamakura Investment Management to establish the 1 billion yen (about $9M US) DroneFund. Chiba, a co-founder of Japanese gaming and location services platform Colopl, is a prominent investor in mobile gaming and VR applications. With a board stacked with tech and drone experts including representatives from Microsoft, Rakuten and Google, and Keio University, the newly formed DroneFund hopes to establish a drone ecosystem in Japan.
“I believe that drones will be an integral part of society. But it will require investment of risk money, internet-based management systems, and …the production of good technology, ” says Chiba. (Quote translated from Japanese.) “The plan is to overcome these hurdles with the fund, and disseminate Japanese drone technologies and services to the world.”
The fund starts out supporting 11 drone startups – representing technologies from aerial imaging to drone racing, drone patent filing, and a hover bike – with financing and a support community called “Chiba Dojo.”
Chiba says that expects the drone market to grow by 900% by 2022, reaching $1.3 billion; but says that Japan is lagging. Japanese drone companies are not well known, but the Japanese government has made efforts to encourage the industry. While recreational drones are heavily restricted in Japanese cities due to an incident in which a small drone carrying radioactive material landed on the roof of the Prime Minister’s Office, the government has worked to promote commercial drones.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has called the drone industry part of the “Fourth Industrial Revolution” and pledged that Japan would not be left behind. Since then, the country has established special de-regulation zones to allow for testing of drone technology, opened bandwidth for drone communications, and planned regulation to encourage commercial applications.