Will Airware become the aerial information platform standard for drone aircraft?
by Colin Snow, MBA | 2014-04-29 | Article ID: QT14-03 | Article Type: QuickTake
Today Airware, a drone startup based in San Francisco, announced it raised $25 million to grow its staff and launch its product to the wider public. It hopes to become the aerial operating system of choice. The series B round, led by Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers with participation from Andreessen Horowitz and First Round Capital, brings Airware’s total fundraising to date to $40 million. As part of the deal, Kleiner Perkins partner Mike Abbott will join the company’s board. Airware intends to use this funding to expand its engineering, sales, marketing, and customer support teams.
While the announcement looks promising, the real question is, Will the Airware vision of becoming ‘the standard for rapid development and safe operations’ of drone aircraft become a reality? While it’s true commercial drones are creating a revolution in insights for many industries around the world, it’s not clear the market will adopt another aerial information platform. As I have written here, the small drone market for precision agriculture is already consolidating around DJI and 3DRobotics autopilot and flight management software. Additionally, Skycatch, which recently captured $13.2 million in their own venture funding round, has worked in collaboration with 3DRobotics – which now positions itself as ‘the Android of Drones.’
In my post Which is Better: Open Source or Proprietary Drone Software?, I detail the current market state for platforms like Airware’s and discuss the pros and cons of each type. Airware falls into the proprietary category. An update to that article is that market leader PrecisionHawk admits it now ships more units with 3DRobotics’ APM 2.6 open source autopilot system, supplanting Lockheed’s proprietary Kestrel autopilot.
Even so, the one thing Airware does get right is the industry need for a cloud service that helps companies record, store, transfer, and analyze the data they collect in the field – and software that is compliant with the requirements of regulators and insurance companies so that drone operators don’t have to worry about the liability aspects. In this realm, PrecisionHawk has a head start with their PrecisionMapper data services.