With the goal of supporting the most promising commercial drone businesses around the world, Airware launched the Commercial Drone Fund on May 27 and announced the first two investment recipients – London-based Sky-Futures, which provides oil and gas data capture and analysis by commercial drone for the oil and gas sector, and Paris-based Redbird, a cloud data analysis company that provides drone data analytics for mining, construction, and infrastructure inspection.
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.
The Commercial Drone Fund is structured like a venture capital fund, with capital provided by limited partners, and the fund expects to invest in dozens of startups over the next two years. 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,” Downey said. “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.”
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.
Emmanuel de Maistre, co-founder and CEO of Redbird, commented, “Our cloud-based platform for enterprises is designed to fit within existing Airware workflows. 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.”
James Harrison, co-founder and CEO of Sky-Futures, said, “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. 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.”
In March, Houston-based Sky-Futures USA was awarded a US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Section 333 Exemption permitting the use of its Ascending Technologies Falcon 8 drone in the US National Air Space.