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Well-Funded Drone Startup Fails

Despite investments from Google and Y Combinator, the company burned through $118 million and closed its doors.

When a tech startup has investors like Google and Y Combinator, news of its demise is enough to send “a shock wave through the industry” – or so says Tech Crunch, who recently reported on the shutdown of drone analytics company Airware.

Airware was looking to fill a gap in the market with its solutions, which worked to make sense of aerial data retrieved by drones over construction or mining sites, using analytics software called Redbird. The idea is to eliminate the often costly, dangerous work of sending humans and helicopters out to remote areas to inspect equipment for damage or assess work progress… and then also feed it into an enterprise system to yield results usable for making business decisions.

According to Tech Crunch, one of the biggest hurdles that Airware faced was that its software was so far ahead of the drone hardware market, that the company sunk tons of money and manufacturing into developing drones. The problem was other commercial drone makers, specifically those like DJI, a China-based operation, eclipsed Airware quickly, and were able to produce the equipment faster and at a much cheaper rate.

Post-cash burn it was only a matter of time, though the problem was Airware’s Redbird was an important component to many operations at this point. So important, in fact, that as Airware circled the drain, Caterpillar tried to prop the company up with investments in an effort to help bring the technology to its dealers and customers as an add-on to its traditional construction and mining equipment.

Luckily for companies that had grown to rely on Redbird, Delair – a drone services company based in France – has recently agreed to acquire the analytics software and IP from Airware, along with the 26 employees who were running it.

Airware’s downfall was ultimately “a matter of bad timing” and Emmanuel de Maistre, CEO of the Redbird unit, echoes this theory, saying the company was out of money and “ran out of runway.”

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