DroneDeploy raises funding to build out its enterprise drone software platform

Steven Loeb · November 15, 2019 · Short URL: https://vator.tv/n/4f18

The company, which has now raised $90M, will expand operations to Australia

In the business world, drones are becoming ubiquitous, going from a "nice to have" to a "must have" in many industries. In fact, the FAA expects the commercial drone market to triple in just the next few years, to over 835,000 by 2023.

DroneDeploy is one of the companies facilitating that shift, providing an enterprise-grade drone software solution. Earlier this week, the company announced a $35 million Series D round led by Bessemer Venture Partners, along with Energize Ventures, AirTree, Emergence Capital, Scale Venture Partners, and Uncork Capital. This latest round brings DroneDeploy's total funding to $90 million.

Along with the funding, the company also revealed that it added two new members to its board of directors: Bessemer partner David Cowan and Tracy Young, co-founder and former CEO of mobile construction productivity software PlanGrid.

"David comes with a huge depth of experience. He's been in venture for decades, and I think he’s invested in 24 companies that have gone public. He's also got a specific focus on aerospace so we’re really excited to have him on board and to have him guide us as we navigate toward becoming a public company," Mike Winn, co-founder and CEO of DroneDeploy, told me.

"Tracy is one of the few founders in our space that’s had a really successful, industry-focused software company, and she's gone through this whole experience over the last eight years building a company toward I think $100 million of revenue and had a major exit. She’s going to be useful as an operator that's done this, and still continues to do this, so she brings operational experience to the table."

Founded in 2013, DroneDeploy, an AngelPad graduate, provides cloud control software solutions for drones that perform tasks such as automated flight safety checks, workflows, real-time mapping and data processing. Since the company doesn't 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.

For example, a farmer can use DroneDeploy software to see which parts of their field need more care and generate crop health maps, pr a construction company can use drones to create 3D models of buildings. Mining companies can use them to estimate volumes of stockpiles.

The company currently has 5,500 customers who have mapped over 100 million acres of drone data, which is equivalent to the size of California; that number has more than tripled in just the last 18 months, Winn told me. 

DroneDeploy will use the new funding to expand internationally, putting boots on the ground in countries where it already has a presence, but no team.

"We’re in over 180 countries, so we have broad adoption, but we don’t have any on the ground teams anywhere but the US. So the first country we’re first investing in is Australia, and that’s actually our second biggest market as a country, and that’s why we’re starting there. We’ll be going to Europe next year," Winn said.

"People with larger properties find drones more valuable than people with smaller properties. As you can imagine, if you have a large farm or a large construction site there’s no way that you can walk around and see everything, but you can get a bird’s eye view of your entire property with a drone. Generally, the farms and the construction sites tend to be larger in Australia than other most other countries."

The company will also use the funding to expand into new markets, specifically inspection; last month DroneDeploy announced new inspection tools at its conference in San Francisco. Finally, the funding will also go towards building out DroneDeploy's suite of offerings for customers, which actually means going deeper into the areas it already operates. 

"In general, the biggest differentiator for us is the fact that we have a complete drone cloud. So, we provide the full end-to-end software for a drone program, so everything from flying the drone, and all ways you can do that , to processing all the different types of data, and all the analytical tools. We provide the whole suite," Winn explained.  

"In terms of feature set that’s the big thing for us is that we’re going deeper on is this full suite of all the different features our customers might need in one platform. We are now just investing in producing a product that goes deeper into all the industries that we serve, with deeper analytics leveraging more machine learning to extract insights more quickly across all the use cases we already serve."

In the long-term, DroneDeploy is attempting to put itself into a position where it will be viable for an initial public offering, though Winn would not provide any details on when he would like such a process to actually occur.  

"We’re on this trajectory of growth. We need to continue to focus on our customers and solving their problems and helping them deploy drones on all their job sites. As long as we stay focused on our customers and their needs, the rest will take care of itself," he said.

"Obviously the dynamics of the public market are changing, and so I think for us it's less about becoming a public company, but it’s about growing to be able to reach that kind of scale."

In the short term, he wants DroneDeploy to be one of the companies that enables an already rapidly growing industry to get even bigger. 

"A key driver of the drone markets and, consequently, this fundraise is the adoption of drones by the world’s largest companies at real scale. That’s a change that’s happened in the industry as now we’re seeing companies deploy hundreds of drones. Next year we’re going to see the first companies with over 1,000 drones in their fleets. That’s a signal that drones are not just creating value but are becoming another tool on which businesses are dependent on," he said.

"We’re a big part of enabling that growth, providing the tools that those customers need to extract value from drones, and that’s going to remain our focus. We’re building a software product that is accessible across every industry, every business size and is a productive tool."

(Image source: dronedeploy.com)

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