HomeDrone companies invest in yet more drone companies
Maker of ‘Phantom’ drones creates its own investment fund
DJI, the company that makes the Phantom (pictured above), announced a $10 million investment fund with Accel Partners.
By SALLY FRENCH
Chinese-drone manufacturer SZ DJI Technology Co. isn’t just the world’s largest maker of consumer drones — they’ve become a drone investor too.
Privately held DJI and venture-capital firm Accel Partners on Wednesday launched SkyFund, a $10 million investment vehicle geared toward drone start-ups.
The fund is intended to invest in companies that create industry-specific software applications for drones, such as those involving mapping, imaging, agriculture and inspection.
“SkyFund was created to develop new and amplify existing technology from around the world by championing developers and sparking a sense of curiosity about unmanned vehicles and services,” said Eric Cheng, general manager for San Francisco and director of aerial imaging at DJI.
“Hundreds of developers already use DJI’s platform, and SkyFund enables us to fund developers and businesses that imagine new opportunities,” Cheng said.
But they’re not the only big-time drone company that wants to invest in other drone companies.
Airware, Silicon Valley’s most heavily venture-capital-backed drone start-up launched a similar investment fund Wednesday, the Commercial Drone Fund, which will make investments of between $250,000 and $1 million each over the next two to three years. Airware has raised $40.4 million in five funding rounds, according to CrunchBase.
The Commercial Drone Fund is investing in technologies such as sensor hardware, which would improve the precision and speed of commercial drones, and software applications that could make operating drones safer or provide more innovative uses for drones.
Funding for drone companies has skyrocketed over the past few years.
Between 2010 and 2012, there were fewer than five venture-capital deals with drone companies, according to CB Insights. Now, there are at least 10 companies with Series A funding or more.
“The time is now for investors to allow the drone industry to grow,” said Vinny Capobianco, the co-founder of Flyspan Systems, a drone startup that provides systems-integration services. “A new age of aviation has begun that will accelerate rapidly over the next few years.”