Guest post by Drone Industry Insights
Besides the startups that we noted last week, there are of course many mature drone companies out there. About a year ago, some of them left the start-up phase to grow into a fast developing market. Undoubtedly, to be among the best you need a lot of money from people who believe in your vision.
Growing stage drone companies with venture capital funding
Some of the world’s top industrial firms (such as Qualcomm, Intel, GE, and Boeing) have already invested in startups focused on drone technology, and the industry is already heating up as both venture capitalist and international firms jostle to invest their funds in the most attractive startups. In 2014, 29 deals worth $108 million were made and in 2015 74 deals worth $450 million transpired. Following this trend, the VC investments may approach $1 billion in 2016. So yes, apparently the rush will continue – bigger and more vigorous than before!
The VC funding for the TOP20 companies alone sums up to almost $500 million over the last few years:
Mature VC-funded drone companies:
DJI made the biggest deal in commercial drone funding history. In May 2015, Accel Partner, a venture capitalist from Silicon Valley, invested $75 million in DJI, an investment that made DJI the biggest global consumer drone company. The former Facebook investor Accel decided to enforce this investment by teaming up with DJI to launch the SkyFund, an initiative expected to open DJI’s door to mapping, imaging, agriculture, surveillance, and inspection software. Many other investors as well consider DJI as the most promising drone company in Asia.
3D Robotics is apparently the best fundraiser. Although 3D Robotics offers a smaller range of drone types compared to the huge DJI fleet, they collected a total of $98.2 million from venture capital firms. The secret of 3D Robotics is within the 3DR (Pixhawk autopilot) software capabilities and the huge network. What’s more, 3D Robotics was able to frequently collect venture capital since January 2012. Popular venture capital companies such as Summit Partners, Sequoia Capital and the Irish Atlantic Bridgebelieve in the vision of Chis Andersons – CEO of 3D Robotics – using easily accessible and advanced drone technology to produce aerial photo and video.
Mapbox – the future of drones doesn’t only depend on UAV platforms, although it is defined by the applications of drone operation. Drone developers and established drone companies often use their software. This open source company is in an early funding stage, even though they were able to collect a total of $63.2 million in Series A and B. One main financial supporter is the Foundry Group, a venture capitalist firm.
The China based platform manufacturer Yuneec – supported by Intel Capital – is one of the biggest tech influencers with an asset of about $60 million. To catch up with DJI, Yuneec presented the highly advanced Typhoon H with integrated RealSense technology at the 2016 CES in Las Vegas.
The Ehang 184, introduced by the Chinese platform builder Ehang at CES, expresses the future dreams of drone operation, although this approach seems a little adventurous today.