A three-year-old startup created by ex-Google engineers is raising approximately $US40 million in venture funding to make the world’s most advanced consumer drone, Business Insider has learned.
Skydio is looking to raise roughly $US40 million for its Series B round at a pre-money valuation of around $US180 million, according to people familiar with the matter. The drone maker has already raised $US28 million to date and is backed by Andreessen Horowitz, Accel, and others.
Skydio CEO Adam Bry confirmed that the company is raising money in an email to Business Insider on Monday but declined to comment further.
Skydio was Founded by three MIT graduates who set out in 2014 to create an AI-powered drone capable of flying itself without the complexity of current drone controls. CEO Bry and CTO Abraham Bachrach were also early engineers at Project Wing, Google’s drone delivery effort.
Skydio has yet to publicly debut its drone, but people who have seen prototypes say that it uses an array of cameras and proprietary computer vision technology to recognise and avoid objects in real time. While Skydio’s near-term goal is to sell its own drone, it could potentially licence its underlying technology to other drone makers as well.
“Current drones are cool gadgets for enthusiasts but still a curiosity to mainstream consumers,” the company wrote in a November 2016 blog post. “Our belief is that advanced onboard computer vision and artificial intelligence, combined with world class hardware product design, will yield a breakthrough that makes drones a trusted part of our daily lives.”
Early 2015 demos of Skydio included a “Magic Wand” feature that let people control a drone by waving a paired iPhone around with their hands. Skydio has since published a couple of teaser videos that show its technology in action. One video from last year shows a drone seamlessly avoiding trees it encounters while following bikers through a park trail.
At MIT Tech Review’s conference in March, Bry said that Skydio planned to launch its first drone this year.
Skydio’s additional funding comes as the drone market is exploding, with the Consumer Technology Association estimating that 2017 drone sales will top $US1 billion in the US for the first time. China-based DJI is considered the leader in the current drone market, and larger tech companies like Snap Inc. have recently expressed serious interest in developing their own drones as well.
Skydio has suffered a couple of key staff departures in the last year, with chief scientist Frank Dellaert and VP of hardware Stephen McClure joining Facebook’s consumer hardware division, Building 8. The startup has a number of open positions on its website, including an aerospace design engineer, global supply chain manager, and iOS developer.
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