- Caterpillar’s investment arm Caterpillar Ventures has invested in San Francisco-based drone software startup Airware, according to TechCrunch.
- While a dollar amount was not disclosed, the investment adds to Airware’s $30 million series C round completed in 2016 and $90 million in total funding to develop drone software as a service (SaaS) platforms for construction, insurance, and mining.
- As part of its most recent investment, Caterpillar will make Airware drone services available to end customers via the company’s equipment dealer network.
Even as drone startups eye a global construction market pegged to reach $10.3 trillion by 2020, getting UAVs — and, more importantly, drone-enabled reality capture and computational software — has been incremental. Airware isn’t the only drone-as-a-service platform relying on a known AEC behemoth to provide funding and a go-to-market avenue. Last year, Berkeley, CA-based 3DRobotics likewise benefited from an investment by Autodesk’s $100 million Forge Fund.
Association with established brands doesn’t just bring the small drone companies credibility, it also provides opportunities to connect with marquee customers. For Airware, access to the construction community via the Caterpillar dealer network is huge, offering an established platform of contractor sales and service professionals from 178 independent dealers worldwide, many of which have multiple locations (CAT’s largest dealer has 49 locations alone).
Even as short term revenues have softened for Caterpillar, the company continues to invest in advanced construction technologies. In addition to Airware, CAT formed a licensing partnership with Scope AR in November 2016 to explore augmented reality for remote service and repair.