Drones, also more formally known as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or systems (UASs), are remotely controlled aircrafts that come in shapes spanning from a few inches to several feet. They are used in aerial surveys of assets in multiple industries, such as utilities, construction, agriculture, and security. Some drones are capable of carrying payloads and find applications in the delivery of medical packages or regular consumer goods, particularly in remote areas. Advances in drone tech derive from developments in underlying hardware and software technologies. However, concerns about safety and security, and subsequent regulations are the major determinants, and sometimes even deterrents, that shape the growth of the field.
Top 5 Global Startup Hubs: Drones
Using our StartUs Insights Discovery Platform covering more than 1.379.000 startups and scaleups* globally, we analyzed the geographic distribution of global activity in the drones industry. We identified 39 regional hubs* that observe high activity in developing technology-driven solutions across the industry like drone-based delivery, asset monitoring, and live-streaming drone portals, to name a few.
Within these hubs, we analyzed a sample of 1.239 startups and scaleups employing technology-driven solutions to innovate in the industry. Silicon Valley, London, New York City, Los Angeles, and Tel Aviv are home to 324 startups and account for 26% of global drones activity. Let us have a look at some of the innovative solutions from these 5 top hubs.
Based on our analysis of a sample of 1.239 startups & scaleups, we observe that North America is home to just under half of global activity in the drones sector. Several large drone tech hubs in the US are driven by the presence of top hardware and software-based startups.
European drones hubs in London, Tel Aviv, Paris, Berlin, and other cities account for 36% of global activity. Emerging Asian healthcare hubs in China and Singapore lead the region’s activity in the sector.
1. Silicon Valley: 147 Startups & Scaleups
Silicon Valley is a global hub in artificial intelligence (AI), advanced electronics, and robotics, all technologies that contribute to drone-based solutions. The tech talent in the region, combined with ample funding opportunities, translates into numerous drone startups that offer a wide array of solutions for both local global markets. These include security, logistics, and autonomy-as-a-service, to name a few.
Wing is a Silicon Valley startup that develops drone-based delivery solutions. It uses drones equipped with fixed wings and hover propellers, enabling seamless transitions between an airplane and helicopter. The drones pick packages from nearby stores and gently lower them for the customers. The service is currently available in Virginia, USA, as well as internationally in Helsinki, Finland, and Canberra, Australia. The startup also offers mobile and web apps for OpenSky, its automated flying platform, for both hobbyists and businesses.
2. London: 63 Startups & Scaleups
The United Kingdom aims to maintain its global leadership in drone tech. The multi-terrain aerial robotics arena at the Imperial University enables engineers to test aerial robotics for urban environments and within London, economic opportunities using drones include applications such as traffic management and medical supply delivery. Startups also employ drones for cost-saving applications in emergency services, construction, and utilities.
London-based startup Dronestream offers a platform that allows drone pilots to collaborate effectively. The secure, live-streaming portal enables commercial drone operators to manage their drone program. It facilitates remote asset inspection and enables project managers to communicate effectively with the drone pilots for correct data collection.
3. New York City: 45 Startups & Scaleups
The state of New York is investing in drone innovation with an uncrewed aerial test corridor at the Griffiss International facility. While commercial drones hit legal resistance in New York City, the growing community of hardware and UAV innovators continues to explore solutions across industries. Recently, there has been a push to increase the use of drones for aerial inspection of construction sites to improve worker safety.
Scanify is a New York City-based startup that develops a drone-based, AI-powered platform for solar development and maintenance. It uses drones to survey proposed solar array sites. Scanify’s reality capture software creates three dimensional (3D) models of sites for solar arrays from drone survey images. The solution reduces onsite survey and design time by up to 80%.
4. Los Angeles: 39 Startups & Scaleups
Los Angeles has historically been a hub for the aerospace sector and related technologies. As the sector witnesses a revival in Los Angeles, the drone industry also stands to benefit from the developments. Startups are recognizing their use for local and hyperlocal applications in logistics, smart cities, and asset monitoring. The Los Angeles Fire Department is also adopting drones to improve public safety.
Los Angeles-based startup Radii Robotics offers an aerial robotics platform. It develops Inspekt, a flying robotic system that is also capable of carrying out physical work at altitude. As the name suggests, the system serves the inspection needs for multiple sectors, including transmission lines, commercial aircraft, and oil refineries. It uses ultrasonic probes to collect internal structural data and eliminates the risk involved with human workers having to do so at high altitudes.
5. Tel Aviv: 30 Startups & Scaleups
Israel excels in developing solutions for artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, and aerial hardware and it shows in the strength of their drones sector. Owing majorly to its geopolitical needs, it is one of the largest manufacturers and exporters of military drones. Startups in the Tel Aviv region, however, use the technology in various other sectors as well, such as for precision agriculture or last-mile delivery.
Based out of Tel Aviv, SeeTree is a drone startup with a focus on the agriculture sector. It uses drones to inspect farms, allowing granular visibility into the health and productivity of each individual tree. The solution combines artificial intelligence and the agronomic intelligence of workers in the fields to optimize farming decisions.
Startups will need to address concerns of safety, privacy, and misuse before drones become truly commonplace in city skies. However, for remote operations in healthcare, mining, or utilities, they are more acceptable and often the safest option. Startups will move from general drones to specific solutions that drive efficiency and cost savings across sectors.
*We define a hub as the regional geographic center of activity for this topic. It covers the center point with a radius of 100km. For this article, we define startups and scaleups as those founded after 2010.