HomeAnn Arbor drone company SkySpecs secures $3M in funding

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Photo gallery: Practice flyover for Skyspecs drone in the "Big House"
The SkySpecs drone is flown over Michigan Stadium during a practice run on Thursday, September 18, 2014 in Ann Arbor. (File photo | The Ann Arbor News)

Matt Durr | mattdurr@mlive.comBy Matt Durr 

 Ann Arbor-based drone specialists SkySpecs Inc. raised $3 million in Series A round of funding that will help the company add employees and expand services.

Led by Venture Investors of Ann Arbor, the round of funding includes commitments from Huron River Ventures, Amherst Fund II, Michigan Angel Fund, and Invest Michigan. The round of funding was announced Monday via a press release issued by the company.

“SkySpecs is incredibly excited to be working with Venture Investors, Huron River Ventures, and the rest of our Midwest syndicate. We are confident that this group of investors will provide the guidance and resources SkySpecs needs to become the business we’ve always envisioned,” said Danny Ellis, CEO of SkySpecs.

SkySpecs uses a patent-pending collision-avoidance software and hardware to help drones stay a certain distance away from objects to ensure the vehicle is being used safely.

The idea for the drones started in 2009 when Ellis and co-founder Tom Brady – not the football player who also attend the University of Michigan – met as graduate students at University of Michigan. The pair formed SkySpecs in 2012 and began working to build drones to do inspections for large structures.

Last year, SkySpecs won the $500,000 top prize at Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition in downtown Detroit.

The company is working with commercial customers to launch an inspection service in the first quarter of 2016.

“There’s a huge opportunity to augment existing inspection processes that are labor intensive, dirty, or dangerous with a drone,” Brady said in the release. “Technicians and engineers will be able to make decisions about our critical infrastructure faster and safer than they’ve ever done before.”

With the new round of funding, SkySpecs expects to expand its service into the wind turbine inspection market and to work toward inspections of cell towers, bridges and sewers. The company also plans to “grow our team, build out our field operations, and continue to develop the next generation of autonomous drone software,” but the release did not indicate how many employees will be hired.

Ellis did indicate the company does not plan on leaving Ann Arbor as it further develops.

“We originated in Ann Arbor, and are proud to be growing our business here. After many years of research and development, we are ready to expand our strong and capable team, and go to market with our industry leading solution,” Ellis said.