This January, the US-based startup American Robotics became the first company to receive the US Federal Aviation Association (FAA) approval for commercial autonomous drone flights without on-site supervision. Although the decision does not grant complete automation for commercial drones, it paves the way for wide-scale drone operations. Announcing the news, American Robotics vowed to use the approval for the benefit of the energy, agriculture, and security industries. Our Innovation Analysts took a look at how drone startups and scaleups already change these industries.
As a company with a mission to map the world’s information on innovations, emerging companies, and technologies, we routinely look into emerging solutions that impact businesses globally. To discover unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) innovations, we used the StartUs Insights Discovery Platform, covering over 1.3 million startups & scaleups globally, to identify emerging drone companies and their impact on the development of energy, agriculture, and security.
Global distribution of 2.215 startups & scaleups working on UAV solutions
We looked at the global geographic distribution of 2.215 UAV startups & scaleups. The Global Startup Heat Map above gives you a clear picture of where the major hubs are, as well as up-and-coming regions that show significant activity. More precisely, UAV startups are primarily located across the United States, but mostly in California and New York. Other major hubs are centered in Paris, France, and Amsterdam as well as the Netherlands. Additionally, a high number of drone startups & scaleups operate from Germany, UK, Poland, and India.
The Development of Drone Technology
The known history of unmanned aerial vehicles started when the Montgolfier brothers unveiled their hot air balloon in 1783. From 1849, drones were involved in warfare operations. This led to the use of radio-controlled aerial vehicles first for training purposes and later for scouting, reconnaissance, and long-range combat. 2006 saw the first civilian application for UAVs – search and rescue missions. Though at first, commercial permits were not very popular, since 2010 drone innovations and use cases started to grow. In 2020, the long-range of drones came in handy for pandemic-related operations, including disinfection and lockdown observance control. And finally, in 2021, after 4 years of testing and inspection, the US Federal Aviation Association approved the first UAV system for automated flights without human supervision. Although a person still has to safety-check every drone before the flight and oversee each flight remotely, there is no need to constantly monitor the drones’ movements. The FAA approval does not mean complete drone automation, but it is a big step towards it.
How UAVs improve operations across many industries
Using our Discovery Platform, we analyzed the applications of drone technology in the energy, agriculture, and security industries. In energy, UAVs gather aerial intelligence for asset management, industrial inspection, and mapping. In agriculture, drones bolster precision agriculture initiatives, collect data by aerial photography, as well as carry out remote sensing for crop assessment and monitoring. Drones find use in public safety operations, which include firefighting and other emergency response missions. Moreover, law enforcement uses drones to conduct scouting and mapping, as well as to provide physical security services for infrastructure. Drone technology is also widely applied in other industries such as logistics, construction, healthcare, maritime, conservation, and waste management, among others.
Union Robotics develops Inspection Solutions for Energy
US-based startup Union Robotics designs and manufactures drone solutions for the energy industry. The startup’s Meadowhawk range of UAV products feature a camera and sensors for thermal high-resolution imagery and hotspot identification. The startup’s products are designed to operate in high voltage environments. This allows them to withstand the challenges of the energy industry when collecting data on hard to reach components, water stress, and plant health.
Avant Agro specializes in Precision Agriculture
Brazilian startup Avant Agro delivers farm management UAV solutions in agriculture. The startup helps farmers, ranchers, and industry consultants optimize land mapping, crop health assessment, as well as planting and harvesting processes. Additionally, Avant Agro helps farmers identify pests and crop diseases and administer the necessary measures such as fertilizers and pesticides safely from the skies.
Indoor Robotics develops UAVs to improve Indoor Security
Israeli startup Indoor Robotics develops an autonomous drone solution for indoor security and inspection to use in any facility. Powered by artificial intelligence (AI), the startup’s Tando drone offers visual and thermal coverage for security and quality checks. Additionally, it reduces false alarm occurrence through predictive analytics and access to historical data.
Average Funding for UAV startups & scaleups across industries
According to our data on the funding for drone companies that have been founded since 2015, you can see that startups & scaleups that work with the energy industry, on average, significantly outraise others with $14.8 M. And startups developing UAV solutions for agriculture and security have raised $8.8 M and $8.7 M respectively. In comparison, delivery use cases have just-so-slightly outraised agriculture and security with $9.2 M. And startups & scaleups developing solutions for the construction industry have raised $11.4 M on average.
BRAQ Industries works on Drone Inspection Solutions
Saudi startup BRAQ Industries provides UAV inspection solutions for energy, oil & gas, and construction industries. The startup carries out comprehensive visual inspections (CVI), corona discharge detection, infrared inspections, and corridor mapping. BRAQ Industries’ asset monitoring solutions increase inspection safety, accuracy, and speed.
PT Mitra Sejahtera works on Drone Hardware and Software for Agriculture
Indonesian startup PT Mitra Sejahtera develops sensors and drone hardware and software solutions for agriculture, livestock, and fish farming. The solutions enable efficient mapping of soil fertility, crop conditions, and irrigation channels, as well as identification of landslide formation. The startup uses data from the Internet of Things (IoT) sensors to optimize maintenance and treatment systems, reducing operational costs.
Drone Evolution works on Tethered Drones for Safety Inspections
British startup Drone Evolution offers services such as drone surveying, event security, and emergency support. The startup utilizes a tethered system for rotary drones’ power supply, eliminating short battery life problems. Drone Evolution provides uninterrupted real-time intelligence for industrial sights operators and public events coordinators, thereby increasing infrastructure and event security.
Discover more UAV startups
The active utilization of drone technology in 2020 to combat the pandemic and the pivotal FAA approval at the start of 2021 shows great promise for the commercial applications of drone technology. The startup that received the approval – American Robotics – plans to use it to advance energy, agriculture, and security, which already benefits from significant startup activity. Startups & scaleups worldwide develop energy asset management, precision agriculture, and public safety solutions, among others. Not surprisingly, these companies receive significant funding, although startups & scaleups developing solutions for other industries such as delivery and construction show encouraging numbers as well.
Regardless of your industry and the solutions you are looking for, we will provide you with data-driven insights into all promising UAV startups and applications.