Microsoft Ventures is among a list of major companies who have invested in drone-focused startup AirMap. The company raised $26 million through a Serie B funding round. Joining Microsoft's Ventures arm in the investment were Qualcomm Ventures, Airbus Ventures, Sony, General Catalyst, Rakuten, Yuneec, and Lux Capital.
AirMap is a Santa Monica, Calif.-based company found in 2014. It provides and airspace management platform for drones. While companies are racing into the unmanned vehicle market with hardware, AirMap is finding solutions for keeping drones in the air and to keep airspace safe.
As the drone market explodes, the number of vehicles in the air will increase year on year. Systems and standards will be required to make sure the airspace is safe. This, of course, is a similar concept to how air traffic control manages airspace for airplanes.
The startup provides an airspace intelligence platform for developers to implement into their technology. For example, the platform enables communications between UAVs and provides data and services to be embedded in drones. The platform would also integrate with flight control and apps.
AirMap has been working with Intel, Aeryon Labs, and 3D Robotics to develop the platform. So far, adoption has been solid, with 125 airports using the company's airspace management dashboard.
With the latest investment, AirMap will be able to “accelerate global adoption”.
“The strategic partners participating in our Series B financing reflect the diversity of the drone ecosystem and the potential of drones to benefit every sector of our economy,” explained AirMap CEO Ben Marcus. “Very soon, millions of drones will fly billions of flights. This is a future that depends on safe, autonomous drone operations at scale. AirMap's technology will make this future possible, allowing the drones of today, and the autonomous drones of tomorrow, to take flight.”
Microsoft Ventures was rebranded last May as the company's small-scale investment division. Ventures focuses on investment in early-stage companies. Microsoft admits this avenue was largely unexplored by the company before Ventures was formed.
“AirMap is a leader in low-altitude airspace management and will play a pivotal role in shaping the future of the drone industry,” said Nagraj Kashyap, corporate vice president of Microsoft Ventures. “We're excited to support their growth and, by extension, the growth of commercial and recreational applications for both piloted and autonomous drones. We believe that by investing in companies like AirMap, Microsoft's resources, platforms, and AI technologies can help fuel the future of the drone ecosystem.”