U.S. drone manufacturer Skyfish announced a $20 million funding round, in a further indication that investment in drone companies is shifting to reward companies that are offering advanced technology for an established sector.
The drone industry has often been accused of being a solution in search of a problem, but as drone technology matures that can no longer be said. The Skyfish solution is a U.S.-based example: the company provides autonomous drones that deliver centimeter-level accuracy asset models, appropriate for engineering purposes – and the cell tower industry is rapidly adopting them.
Investment in drone companies has slowed since the early days just before and after the enactment of Part 107, which regularized commercial drone operations in the U.S. in 2016. In 2019, drone industry analysts DRONEII referenced the Gartner Hype Cycle in an InterGeo presentations: saying that the “peak of inflated expectations” was over – but that the industry could expect a trough followed by a “plateau of productivity.” That plateau appears to have been reached, as the drone solutions have matured and can offer significant value. This year, the trend in investment has been for larger amounts to fewer companies, and has rewarded companies that can show a game-changing advancement or a major return on investment for industrial customers.
For Skyfish, years of development has led to a new Montana manufacturing plant, partnerships with major technology providers like Sony and Bentley, and an enviable customer list. As Skyfish receives their new funding round, they are also appointing a cell tower industry veteran, Steven Bernstein, to their Board of Directors – further evidence that the tower industry wants what they offer. Bernstein is founder and Chairman of SBA Communications (NASDAQ: SBAC) and a Skyfish investor.
“After speaking with Skyfish customers, we quickly understood that Skyfish is unique in the commercial drone world, producing precise ‘engineering grade’ drone enabled photogrammetry and 3D Models of infrastructure,” said Bernstein. “These are the best cell tower digital-twin models I’ve seen and could significantly enhance the cell tower industry’s inspection, measurement and mount mapping processes.”
“The Skyfish team have invented an autonomous work drone for scanning infrastructure that enables detailed centimeter grade measurements of not only cell towers, but many critical infrastructure targets: power lines, dams, bridges, electrical sub stations, wind turbines and airports,” says Bernstein. “To date, Skyfish’s amazing photogrammetry has been a bit of an industry secret, but now it’s time to tell the world.”
“We’re really excited about the investment, and our growing client base,” says Skyfish Chairman John Livingston. “It validates what we’ve seen throughout our development, that customers are willing to adopt technology that adds a real return on investment.”