The following is a guest post by Mark Sheehan, founder of My Drone Authority.
Drone companies have come and gone over the past few years. Many notable ones left us in 2018, including Airware, which unexpectedly shut down in September. Others aren’t gone for good, but left us in the form we know them, such as AirMap, which lost its premiere position as DJI’s airspace provider in favor of another drone company, PrecisionHawk. But while it seems that many drone companies are shutting down, many more are still arriving to the scene, bringing more innovation to the world of drones.
Here are six drone startups you should pay attention to in 2019:
Skydio is a San Francisco-based drone company known for its self-flying, ultra-smart camera drone, the Skydio R1 Self-Flying 4K Camera Smart drone. Although the company was founded in 2014, it really came to the spotlight at the beginning of 2018 with the public unveiling of its R1 drone, a self-flying camera that has the ability to show and interpret the world in real-time. It is also capable of avoiding obstacles autonomously. Skydio combines a 4K camera and computer vision to form a drone that can be controlled using your smartphone.
So what’s next for Skydio in 2019? They are in the process of providing a motion-planned algorithm and computer vision that enables deliveries using automated drones.
Skydio’s founders are Abraham Bacharach, Matt Danhoe, and Adam Bry, and the company has funding from ten investors, including high-flying graphics processing unit maker NVIDIA.
PrecisionHawk started out as a drone data platform that catered specifically to the agriculture industry. After a few rounds of funding, expansion into more industries, and work on the FAA’s Pathfinder Program, PrecisionHawk has gained notoriety in the drone industry as an innovative company that’s starting to penetrate a much wider part of the industry. At the time of this writing, their funding has exceeded $100 million.
PrecisionHawk’s mission is to “foster the global adoption of commercial drones.” This mission has the potential to be catapulted to new heights with the recent announcement of their partnership with DJI to provide airspace data in North America.
Their Low Altitude Traffic and Airspace Safety (LATAS) platform will be used to improve DJI’s geofencing technology, a system that helps drone operators fly legally and safely. Given that DJI is one of the most transformative forces in the industry, this new partnership means PrecisionHawk has a leg up in 2019 given their newfound close relationship with the industry’s leading company.
MMC is one of the leading drone companies in China, with about 15 top scientists who specialize in the UAV field.
Its drones are used mainly for filming and television, aerial photography, advertising, remote sensing, and fire prevention.
MMC currently manufactures the A6 Plus (high payload), HyDrone 1550 (long flight time hydrogen-powered drone), T1 Tether System, and the Xena 900 (foldable travel drone). As a result, their products can be used for power and utility inspection, crop spraying, oil inspection, mapping, and aerial inspection solutions. MMC is also in the process of introducing a solution for power-line stringing in places with rugged terrain.
Neurala is an AI technology company established by Massimiliano Versace, Heather Ames, and Anatoli Gorchechnikov. The cofounders conducted research for DARPA and NASA and used it as a foundation for Neurala.
In 2013, Neurala joined the TechStars program, where they were able to use their AI technology on a global scale. This deep-learning startup is responsible for lots of smart devices, like cameras used for inspection, toys, robots, and of course, drones.
In drones, Neurala acts like a brain. It provides machine learning in real time, even without internet access. Right now, it is being used to conduct more efficient and time-saving aerial inspections, using their technology to detect components such as lattices, insulators, and poles.
Given that AI has yet to make much of a foray into the drone world, the area of AI is ripe for growth — potentially with Neurala as one of the key players innovating and pushing the “smart drone” market forward.
Currently, the company is working on online retail, humanitarian, and food delivery services using drones. Its funding has accumulated to about $16.2 million.
Flitey’s mission is to save lives and improve lifestyles by delivering orders instantly. Currently, it is the only company that offers drone delivery.
They see a future industry where drone delivery is as common and normal as medical delivery, food delivery, and delivery trucks.
Flirtey was selected to the FAA’s UAS Integration Pilot Program and completed the first multi-drone delivery in September, while Amazon was not selected. This may be an indication that they still have a shot in 2019 to build on the attention they have gained and validate their business model.
Swift Navigation is another San Francisco-based drone startup, this one known for its GPS technology that enables operators to get more precise positioning information in challenging environments. The company just released the Piksi Multi, a multi-constellation, multi-band, and high precision GNNS receiver.
Positioning is vital when it comes to accurate automated flight. As drones become more integrated into emergency response situations, delivery, and other aspects of society, GPS technology will be one of the driving forces behind their effectiveness.
Which startups are you most interested in? Leave a comment below!
-By Mark Sheehan
Mark Sheehan started My Drone Authority to share his knowledge and help people get the most out of this amazing hobby and profession.