Crash and Burn Rate

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↞ Issue #33 - June 24th, 2015 ↠
The 500ft View

Startup-industry analysis firm CB Insights released a digest of drone funding claiming that the first half of 2015 has netted over $172M in funding for drone-related companies — that's more than the last 3 years' worth of funding, combined.

While the numbers are pretty selective — CB Insights is limited to "disclosed" funding from companies who have advertised their rounds — it's an interesting exercise to scan the list of names and associated amounts:

3D Robotics $99M
DJI Innovations  $75M
Airware $40M
Skycatch $21M
XAircraft $20M
CyPhy Works $15M
PrecisionHawk $11M
DroneDeploy $11M
Kespry $10M

The first thing that should jump out is the discrepancy between U.S. based 3D Robotics and their Chinese rival, DJI. Both companies are careful with the numbers they choose to release, but with DJI's reported $10B (with a B) valuation on their latest round, roughly half a billion in sales last year, and the lion's share of FAA exemptions, their performance is impressive given how little money they've apparently raised, no doubt bolstered by surging revenues and an HQ in China.

The 7:3 split between US-based and China-based companies is somewhat fascinating, especially after taking the complete lack of representation from any other nation into account. We have previously covered the legal race to develop favorable drone regulations, globally — even so, both the U.S. and China are undeniably at the forefront of the consumer drone and consumer electronics industries. That said, given the wellspring of innovation originating in places like Switzerland and Israel, funding–or perhaps these numbers specifically–isn't necessarily reflective of import within the industry.

But perhaps of greatest interest is the strategic positioning of each of these companies relative to the size of their wallets. Nearly all of them focus on commercial applications for drones and none of them come close to the rounds of funding raised by the consumer focused (but not exclusively so) giants of DJI and 3D Robotics. It's clear that, at this moment in the drone industry, consumer products are absolutely dominating both the retail and investment markets. This is not to sideline companies like Airware or Skycatch, but rather it serves as a snapshot in the history of drones, a time at which the promise of commercial applications has yet to match stride with the consumer market.

One thing that is clear is that early advantages are being solidified by players who have seen early success in building drones — signs of maturation in the fledgling drone world.


This week we would like to welcome Aaron, Saul, and Matt to The Buzzer, of the past week's new subscribers. Hello and welcome!

Finally, please remember to send in your ideas, thoughts, and comments to
Jeremy Conrad of Lemnos Labs on drone investment on Bloomberg TV: Link

Investments in drones topped $100M in 2014, and have already surpassed $172M by this stage in 2015 (more than all 3 previous years combined): LinkLink

The FAA expects to finalize its rules on drone use by companies within the next twelve months. Link 

After the FAA finalizes its regulations, Amazon will have 30-minute drone delivery service ready within a year. Link 

FOIA requests have revealed a fake town in Oklahoma called Liberty City, where Homeland Security is testing the use of drones for public safety purposes. 

The Pentagon is exploring ways to defend against drones. Link 

Meanwhile, incidents involving microdrones have encouraged similar exploration in the private sector. Link

Boston-based Fly4Me, which connects drone pilots with customers who want drones for commercial purposes, has gotten FAA approval and launched. Link

The Center for Democracy and Technology has argued to Congress that free drone use could create “a nightmare scenario for civil liberties”. Link

Dianne Feinstein has launched the Consumer Drone Safety Act, which could prohibit or limit drone flights over public, spectator-filled events. Link

The EU is about to begin its operation against Libyan migrant smugglers, which will include use of drones for surveillance purposes. Link

The flytrex "personal delivery drone" has launched and uses 3G connectivity to allow smartphone operators to pilot it “right out of the box”. Link

San Diego Comic-Con has joined in banning the use of drones at its convention. Link

Use of drones for photographic purposes in Taiwan has exposed a grey area in the law, while the city of Taipei is presently also using drones to catch polluters. Link

According to manufacturers, use of drones to collect environmental data is rising. Link

Farmers are using drones to help minimize use of water and fertilizers. Link

The Nigerian military is planning to deploy drones for surveillance to monitor oil installations. Link

An Orange County beach is using drones to detect sharks near their beach. Link

A new course at VIVES Aeronautics College is drone training specifically geared towards established humanitarian organizations. Link

After the area around a Japanese volcano was evacuated, drones are being used to inspect the area. Link
Video of the Week - Fishing Boats Burn in Palau
That’s it for this week. Until next, fly safe and enjoy living in the future.

The Buzzer
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