Drone companies saw a record number of deals last year. On a quarterly basis, Q1'17 was the most active quarter historically for deals, reaching 32 investments worth $113M. Within the space, terrestrial imagery, infrastructure inspection, and delivery have emerged as some of the primary use cases for drone technology. Using CB Insights data, we identified over 70 leading private companies in the drones space and categorized them into the twelve main categories in which they operate. We define drones broadly to include software and hardware companies developing technologies related to unmanned aerial, marine, and/or land vehicles designed for unstructured environments.
Fifty years ago, Mike Sanders watched with awe and anticipation as the crew of Apollo 11--Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins--splashed down in the Pacific Ocean. Landing men on the moon and returning them safely to the earth was a seminal moment in the history of flight, and it had a profound effect on then 7-year-old Sanders, who now heads the Lone Star UAS Center of Excellence & Innovation at Texas A&M University–Corpus Christi. Looking back, Sanders says he never expected the day to come when he would be working with NASA on anything, let alone another chapter in the history of flight. But this year, he landed in the middle of one of the most important aeronautical projects of this generation: an effort to build a safe and effective unmanned aircraft system traffic management (UTM) platform. In August, Texas A&M–Corpus Christi's Lone Star UAS Center of Excellence and its partners' workers stood alongside NASA scientists and engineers as they flew 22 small physical and digital drones above and between tall buildings in five areas of Corpus Christi.
Following now-Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg's confirmation this week, the enterprise drone sector is abuzz over what the next four years may bring in terms of drone regulation. The FAA has taken a methodical and decidedly cautious approach to enterprise drone restrictions, but over the last few months, and on the heels of substantial testing and stakeholder outreach, the agency has begun to put in place a regulatory framework to guide more robust adoption of unmanned commercial drones over populated areas. Of course, many in the industry feel the agency can do more to encourage a sector that could be worth more than $43 billion globally over the next few years. Which brings us back to the man known affectionately for the past few years as Mayor Pete. The 39-year-old doesn't have a track record in federal transportation regulation, but industry insiders are reading the tea leaves of his Navy Reserve experience and infrastructure oversight as mayor of South Bend, Indiana, and there's reasons to be hopeful.