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.
A UK government backed drone innovation project that's exploring how unmanned aerial vehicles could benefit cities -- including for use-cases such as medical delivery, traffic incident response, fire response and construction and regeneration -- has reported early learnings from the first phase of the project. Five city regions are being used as drone test-beds as part of Nesta's Flying High Challenge -- namely London, the West Midlands, Southampton, Preston and Bradford. While five socially beneficial use-cases for drone technology have been analyzed as part of the project so far, including considering technical, social and economic implications of the tech. The project has been ongoing since December. Nesta, the innovation-focused charity behind the project and the report, wants the UK to become a global leader in shaping drone systems that place people's needs first, and writes in the report that: "Cities must shape the future of drones: Drones must not shape the future of cities."