Smart drone management platform DroneDeploy raises $9M

Steven Loeb · March 31, 2015 · Short URL: https://vator.tv/n/3ce5

DroneDeploy provides cloud control software solutions for drones that can be used by any industry

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(Updated with additional comment from DroneDeploy)

With all of the talk about Amazon and its fight to get permission from the FAA to deliver packages via drone, and all of the negative publicity when some idiot lands one on the lawn of the White House, it might be hard to forget that there are other, more practical uses for drones.

DroneDeploy is a smart drone management platform. The company is not involved with the hardware of drones, instead running a software package that allows users to control multiple drones, from anywhere, on any device. That means it can be used in a variety of spaces and industries, which can have a real world impact, like agriculture and mining. 

The idea is appealing to investors, who just poured $9 million in Series A funding into the company, it was announced on Tuesday. Emergence Capital led the round, with participation from previous investors SoftTech, DataCollective and Angelpad.

This funding comes only six months after DroneDeploy raised a $2 million seed led by SoftTech VC, along with DataCollective, Redpoint and DFJ, and Angelpad, in September of last year. It has now raised at least $11 million in venture funding.

Founded in 2013, the AngelPad graduate provides cloud control software solutions for drones that include automated flight safety checks, workflows, real-time mapping and data processing. Since it does not work on the hardware side, only focusing on software, DroneDeploy has partnered with drone manufacturers, including 3D Robotics and AgEagle, to provide its software to end users in a variety of industries.

To use DroneDeploy, all a user has to do is describe their mission, and DroneDeploy will build a dynamic flight path that avoids other aircraft, airports, and even urban areas while respecting local laws.

So, for example, a farmer can use a drone to see which parts of their field need more care and generate crop health maps. Or a construction company can use drones to create 3D models of buildings. Mining companies can use them to estimate volumes of stockpiles. The idea is to open drones up to any industry, making them accessible and easy to use, without having to have any expertise in drone technology.

The company also announced a new partnership with DJI on Tuesday, meaning its software is now offered on the DJI Phantom 2 Vision(+), which Mike Winn, co-founder and CEO of DroneDeploy, told me presents a big step forward for the company.

"They have thousands of drones being sold every day, so this is a big opportunity," he said. "This will allow us to enter big new markets for products."

DroneDeploy says that it will use the funds to adapt its software to more drone platforms, meaning finding more manufacturers to partner with. It will also launch additional products in several industries, such as agriculture, construction, mining, and real estate. 

"We are working on more capabilities to be more useful for more industries," said Winn. "Right now it is used mostly for farming and agriculture, but there are so many different use cases. For example, railways can use it. There have been a number of derailments lately, and our drones could fly over and see obstacles, and where the track has warped. They can detect those anomalies. In the future, it might even be able to take action on those issues."

The funding will also go toward hiring, growing out the 12 person team by adding to the engineering and business teams.

Finally, there was one more piece of news out from DroneDeploy: it launched its new mobile app, which lets users control drones and cameras while in flight. The app also processes data, information and visuals in real-time.

It will allow farmers to quickly assess, and diagnose, crop health, detect field variations, categorize yield zones and analyze NDVI outputs for smarter farming decisions. Construction and mining operators can easily generate high-resolution 3D or digital elevation models of sites and structures, and analyze plan progress to eliminate inconsistencies. 

"The biggest things is making these tools accessible. Companies already make awesome drones, but to use them to 3D model is really complicated. People don’t talk about making a drone do its task because it's very time intensive," Winn said. "For a farmer to make a map of their field, that is 50 to 70 steps, including making sure the camera is working, hooking up sd cables, getting photos off the drone. We go around those and make drones accessible. DroneDeploy makes it so anyone can pick up drone and use it."

Drone funding

Drones are a hot topic right now, for better or worse, and they are also starting to get attention from venture capital.

Funding for startups in the drone space more than doubled in 2014 growing by 104%. Overall, $108 million was invested in a total of 29 deals during the year. The number of deals has jumped very quickly in just the last couple of years; a total of just five deals were done in the years spanning 2010 to 2012 combined, while 11 were completed in the third quarter of 2014 alone.

Drones are still somewhat controversial, though, and even more money was spent on lobbying efforts for the industry last year: $186 million in total, up from only $35 million in 2011.

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DroneDeploy

Startup/Business

Joined Vator on

DroneDeploy makes Drone Operations Simple.


DroneDeploy.com is a smart drone management platform that helps you get stuff done with drones. It's built to be simple, safe and powerful, controlling multiple drones, from anywhere, on any device.


Making flight plans has never been easier -  just describe your mission, and DroneDeploy will build a dynamic flight path that avoids other aircraft, airports, and even urban areas while respecting local laws.


DroneDeploy also makes it easy to fulfil the purpose of missions, with a growing selection of Apps that enable a number of operations, including seamless photo-stitching and object identification. Our APIs are simple and open to developers.


Signup for the beta at dronedeploy.com

AngelPad

Angel group/VC

Joined Vator on

AngelPad is a mentorship program founded by a team of ex-Googlers to help web-technology startups build better products, attract additional funding and ultimately grow more successful businesses.

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Mike Winn

Joined Vator on

Founder of Drone Deploy, drone hobbyist and ex googler, living in his 9th city - awesome SF.

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