- Telecom behemoth Verizon Wireless has acquired Portland, OR-based drone network service provider Skyward for an undisclosed sum, according to GeekWire.
- Verizon was one of several investors participating in a $4.1 million fundraise by Skyward in 2015. Total funding secured by the company reached $8.1 million prior to the acquisition.
- Verizon intends to leverage its existing network to scale Skyward into an enterprise solution for construction, agriculture, filmmaking and other industries via its fledgling Airborne LTE Operations unit.
The use cases for drones in construction and heavy civil and structural engineering continue to proliferate, from reality capture with photogrammetry, to volumetric calculations of earth movement, remote inspection and repair, or even geo-fencing disaster zones to control the movement of swarms of search and rescue cybernetic cockroaches.
And yet drone startups are still finding difficulty in scaling enterprise solutions for the AEC set. To be fair, less than a year has passed since the Federal Aviation Administration approved commercial drone flights without exemptions.
Several drone upstarts have partnered with or benefited from direct acquisition by global enterprise players. San Francisco, CA-based Airware has partnered with Caterpillar, Autodesk has invested in both Berkeley, CA-based 3D Robotics and San Francisco-based SkyCatch, while Intel has purchased German commercial drone software firm MAVinci
Without a major AEC investor for the time being are San Francisco, CA-based DroneDeploy and Menlo Park, CA-based Kespry, companies with defined construction market verticals for cloud-based drone as a service (DaaS) solutions that have raised $31 million and $28.35 million, respectively.
The litany of players may suggest that market fragmentation could be a barrier to broader adoption of drone technology in construction. With big-pocket names circling the table, further consolidation of drone solution providers could be in the offing. And as far as providing enterprise scalability to construction firms already looking to pare down technology platforms or enhance systems integration goes, that might be a good thing.