Besides several startups, a few operator firms came up with innovative concepts that seem to pay off. Between 2012 and 2014, $6.3 million were invested into professional operator companies. In 2015, the number increased by 700% to $44.3 million.
Given the total investments worth almost $10 million in the first quarter of 2016 and a final version of (American) regulatory framework, we will have another record-breaking year ahead of us. Drone operations – just like commercial airline business – will be the biggest market segment in the future, and it will outrun all hard- and software manufacturer both in value and in growth rate.
Drone Operator Funding TOP 5
Mavrx Inc. ($11.9 million | 4 deals)
After two funding rounds in 2012 and 2013 and with a small amount of product crowdfunding and incubator support, Mavrx – a private & independent software company – was able to secure $9 million VC-funding in Series A in 2015. The crop specialist extends its UAV operation with a complete data solution, which helps farmers to analyze the flight data and to optimize their productivity.
Sky-Futures ($11.8 million | 4 deals)
The UK drone inspection specialist has received a $4.2 million investment from the Bristow Group, a provider of helicopter offshore services. This move is a good example of an integrated approach for drone operation; rather than being afraid to lose jobs to the new technology, the company made an early investment in order to secure their future. The UK company, which is approved by both CAA UK and FAA 333, operates several Chinese DJI platforms and the German AscTec Falcon 8.
Cape Productions. ($11.6 million | 2 deals)
This company specializes in drone video service as well as creating exclusive footage for paying customer while performing sporty activities. While many companies are still jostling to get the approval of FAA, Cape is among the few companies that have the license to fly drones within the 500-foot range of customers, in the ski resort of Squaw Valley, California, and soon at many other feasible locations. Supported by the Commercial Drone Fund, Cape Productions has raised $11.6 million in Series A in October 2015.
SkySpecs ($6.1 million | 9 deals)
The inspection specialist of vertical structures (like flare-stacks, wind turbines, and cell/transmission towers) fought its way up to become the fourth most funded operator with a $4.3 million funding in Series A in November 2015. The company is allowed to fly with FAA 333 exemption since June 2015, and it aims to provide completely autonomous solutions for its customer.
Cyberhawk ($3.2 million | 2 deals)
The very recent deal in drone operator funding was sealed on March 21, 2016, when Cyberhawk raised a $2.6 million funding package from Clydesdale and Yorkshire Banks’ growth finance team. Cyberhawk has about 50 staff members, and the numbers of its employees are expected to increase significantly in future as the Remotely Operated Aerial Vehicle (ROAV) inspection and survey company further expands its drone and software businesses. The UK company has also built a global client base in oil and gas industry, including all six super-majors, many national oil companies, and independent operators. By opening a new North America office in Houston later this year, Cyberhawk is set to increase its market share and boost its revenue.