September 1, 2015
According to the Frontier Tech Report released by CB Insights last Friday, drone companies have raised $285 million since 2014. While that's certainly nowhere close to the amount of funding thus far funneled into space startups, the amount of financing activity into the industry has seen a remarkable increase in the past three quarters – with $109 million invested across 16 deals in Q2 of 2015. Earlier this year, the Shenzhen, China-based DJI Innovations raised $75 million at a $10 billion valuation, in a Series B round that included prominent VC firms like Accel Partners and Sequioa Capital, making it one of the top venture-backed drone startups in the world. The Frontier Tech Report, however, shows that the company was beaten by another drone manufacturer as the top venture-backed drone startup.
Despite popular belief, drones can be used for more than just surveillance and military warfare. For instance, drones have been used by companies like Monsanto, Dupont, and John Deere for precision agriculture – focused on both surveying/monitoring farms and crops, as well as on deploying fertilizers in a more cost-efficient manner. For those like Vine Rangers, a wine company based out of Santa Barbara, CA, the use of drones provides more efficient methods to control and manage farms than would otherwise be provided through more traditional ways. Indeed, when looking at the FAA Exemptions granted by use-case, we see that most are for the purposes of imaging, monitoring, and mapping.
According to the report by CB Insights, while investment into the drone industry is still in its nascency – with only a handful of investors having backed drone companies – the participants include the likes of Google Ventures, Andreessen Horowitz, Qualcomm Ventures, Intel Capital and Accel Partners.
Here are the top venture-backed drone startups per CB Insights's Frontier Tech Report:
Total Funding: $99 million
Autonomous drone/UAV manufacturer with a focus on enterprise.
Total Funding: $75 million
Consumer and semi-pro drone manufacturer.
Total Funding: $40.2 million
Develops autopilots and an operating system for drones/UAVs.
Total Funding: $21.4 million
Enterprise services for capturing data at scale with autonomous drones.
Total Funding: $20 million
Manufactures multi-rotors and various hardware for drones.
Total Funding: $14.9 million
Develops tethered drone technology for persistent flight and secure streaming.
To learn more insights about the state of drone startup funding, read the Frontier Tech Report from CB Insights.
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