Drones are spreading beyond military warfare and becoming the hot new thing in startups.
One proponent of them Chris Anderson, former Editor-in-Chief of Wired. He founded DIY Drones where a community of 33,000 people fly devices they’ve made or purchased from his company, 3D Robotics. Even larger companies like FedEx are finding uses for drones; it hopes they’ll be able to transport packages come 2015, when the FAA will start allowing drones to fly in standard US air space.
Now Airware, a startup that creates “brains” for drones, has attracted significant investor interest in Silicon Valley. Today, Airware announced a $10.7 million Series A round from Andreessen Horowitz and Google Ventures.
Airware is to drones what iOS is to iPhones. It’s a universal platform for commercial drones that developer can buy and build upon for $20,000 to $50,000. Its technology has been implemented in drones that track endangered animals’ whereabouts in Kenya, for example. Another Airware drone was built to deliver vaccines to remote locations in Southeast Asia.
Airware was founded by MIT graduates. Its CEO, Jonathan Downey, has been building drone technology since he was a student and gained more experience working for Boeing. His company is on track to generate about $4 million this year. In March following Airware’s participation in startup accelerator Y Combinator, the company received $200,000 in orders from 20 customers in 10 countries.
“We’ve been in the space for a while and we’re really excited about it right now because we believe there’s this huge unmet need and potential market for use of drones,” Downey tells Business Insider. “There are a lot of really exciting applications like in agriculture or mining. On the military and government side, there’s one typical use for drones, surveillance. On the consumer side there are so many other applications.”
Chris Dixon, Downey’s Andreessen Horowitz investor and now-board member, agrees.
“Robotics has long been a field that overpromised and underdelivered,” he said in a press release. “We think drones are the most likely way to rectify that, and Jonathan is the person to make it happen.”