Drone startup Airware raises $30M; focus on enterprise solutions

Airware will use the Series C funding, led by Next World Capital, for building enterprise solutions, customer & sales, and geographic expansion

Airware drone during a Cell Tower Inspection

Airware drone during a Cell Tower Inspection

Photo Credit: Airware

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Drone startup Airware has raised $30 million in a Series C funding led by Next World Capital. The company also announced that it is delivering, for the first time, complete enterprise drone solutions directly to the Fortune 500.

Other funders include Cisco’s former CEO, John Chambers; and venture capital firms — Andreessen Horowitz, and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (KPCB).

The funding, as according to an official release, will be used to “increase Airware’s capacity to work with additional customers by expanding customer success, professional services, sales, and marketing functions as well as geographic expansion leveraging Next World Capital’s European expansion platform.”

Founded in 2011, the San Francisco based startup claims to have raised more than $70 million to date.

Airware’s drone solutions, built on top of Aerial Information Platform — the operating system for commercial drones — include cloud-based planning, commercial operator software, vehicles with sophisticated autonomy and on-board sensors, cloud data processing, as well as analytics and reporting. Aerial data collated by Airware Cloud can be be easily integrated into current enterprise workflow and business processes through APIs.

The growing drone market

Airware has largely been targeting companies in insurance, utilities, telecom, and oil & gas. Insurance companies can use drones for rooftop inspections, underwriting, and disaster response.

According to a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) report, seven million small unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS), i.e. drones, will be sold annually in the US itself by 2020. Of these, 4.3 million are expected to be flown by consumer hobbyists, and the rest being operated for commercial purposes. As per the FAA report, 42 percent of the sUAS will be used for Industrial Inspection; 22 percent by the Real Estate sector, which includes Aerial Photography; followed by the Agriculture and Insurance sectors at 19 percent and 15 percent respectively; and two percent by the Government.

“With drones, enterprises can finally bridge the physical and digital worlds, yielding new actionable insights and better decision making,” said Airware founder & CEO Jonathan Downey.

“But navigating a fragmented market of incomplete offerings has left many enterprises frustrated. Today, we’re announcing complete enterprise drone solutions built on Airware’s Aerial Information Platform. Airware’s unique architecture enables Airware and our customers to more quickly deploy new applications for drones in a robust and scalable way that complies with regulations, enhances safety, and ensures accurate data.”

Cisco’s John Chambers comes on board

The company also added John Chambers, the current Executive Chairman and 20-year former CEO of Cisco, to its Board of Directors. He joins Airware’s Jonathan Downey; Chris Dixon, general partner at Andreessen Horowitz; and Mike Abbott, General Partner at KPCB.

The move will give impetus to company’s ‘direct-to-enterprise’ approach. Chambers will help guide Airware’s enterprise sales efforts.

Chambers is confident that the commercial drone industry is poised to throw many markets into transition.

“Digitization and the associated business model evolution is occurring rapidly across every industry. Airware has a great CEO who is scaling remarkably fast, a strong management team and a value-added market proposition. I believe Jonathan and the Airware team are positioned to lead, and it’s an honor to be a part of their team.”

Commercial Drone Fund

Airware, last year, in May launched the Commercial Drone Fund, to invest in companies that are developing “technologies critical to scaling the use of drones across a variety of commercial applications.” The Fund makes investments from $250,000 to $1 million in early-stage companies in the commercial drone ecosystem and focuses on five key areas: sensor hardware, software applications, cloud-based aerial data analysis tools, drone-based services, and complete solutions for specific industries.

The Fund is structured like a venture capital fund, with capital provided by limited partners.

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