Airware Launches Drone Investment Fund

Airware is announcing the Commercial Drone Fund, which will invest $250,000 to $1 million in dozens of early stage startups that are building out other components of the enterprise drone ecosystem. The fund’s first two investments are in RedBird, a Paris-based drone data processing startup, and Sky-Futures, a London company that builds drone sensors for monitoring oil and gas infrastructure.

Airware has raised over $40 million to scale its drone flight computer, operation software, and cloud data system.

Rather than invest from its own balance sheet of venture capital, or simply co-invest with traditional firms, Airware raised a separate fund from a set of limited partners. Airware’s founder and CEO Jonathan Downey will be its general partner. The fund’s size and LPs aren’t being disclosed, but the backers may include traditional VCs, as Downey says they’re open to investing in follow-on growth rounds beyond the fund.

“In the same way Airware’s platform is acting as a catalyst on the technology side of things for companies looking to deploy drones for commercial applications, we’re launching the Commercial Drone Fund to help catalyze these companies in a different way — by investing directly into them” Downey tells me. “These are technologies that are critical to scaling commercial drones.”

The commercial Drone Fund will concentrate on five areas over the next two to three years:

  1. Sensor Hardware – to improve the precision, speed, cost, and scale of what data drone can collect
  2. Software Applications – that make deploying commercial drones easier
  3. Cloud-Based Aerial Data Analysis Tools  – for pulling insights from the data collected
  4. Drone-Based Services – including companies that fly drones or sell data
  5. Complete Solutions For Specific Industries – that pull together different hardware and software systems into full packages for commercial customers

Portfolio companies will get access to Downey, who built drones for MIT and Boeing, and help raising additional funding. Airware’s own investors, including Andreessen Horowitz, First Round, Kleiner Perkins, Google Ventures, and Felicis Ventures, give it plenty of connections to share.

Source: Tech Crunch

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