Energize Ventures is excited to share a new milestone in our partnership with DroneDeploy, the leading enterprise drone data company. Energize co-led the company’s $50 million Series E financing with AirTree. Other investors in the round include Bessemer Ventures Partners, Scale Venture Partners, Emergence, AngelPad, Uncork Capital and Frontline Ventures. The funding brings DroneDeploy’s total capital raised to $142 million, the most of any drone data company. DroneDeploy will put the new capital towards accelerating expansion into Europe, expanding products beyond aerial capture, and exploring opportunities for strategic acquisitions.
The software solution for an evolving global workforce
Since we originally invested in DroneDeploy in 2018, the commercial drone industry has continued to see sustained growth. COVID-19 has fueled that momentum, as enterprises of various sizes and sectors look to remote alternatives to continuing operations. In 2020, DroneDeploy saw a 259 percent year-over-year increase in enterprise users of its software. Customers in agriculture, energy and construction have found themselves in a similar predicament this past year: Essential work performed by frontline employees must continue, but major operational adjustments are necessary to maintain health and safety amidst a pandemic. Rapidly adopting or ramping up drone technology gives companies in these sectors a huge competitive edge — enabling remote documentation and analysis of their job sites through camera-captured visual data.
“Our software enables drones to be the perfect socially distant worker,” said Mike Winn, CEO and co-founder of DroneDeploy. “They quickly collect data and share it with people who aren’t present.”
As of June 2020, flights using DroneDeploy software had tripled among agriculture and energy customers, and were up 70 percent across the construction customers it serves — and that only represents an increase over three months’ time.
“From construction sites to agriculture giants and energy plants, remote data capture and analysis have made some of our most essential workers more productive, more cost-efficient and most important this past year, safer,” said Mike. “Commercial drone use is here to stay and will only become more reliable and essential to key industries that are progressively adopting advanced technology to run their businesses.”
Scaling renewable energy requires new technology
COVID-19 has certainly been a forcing function for businesses to accelerate adoption of new technologies to optimize operations. However, once these technologies are in place, we also believe they are here to stay. This is especially true in industries undergoing periods of rapid growth — like renewable energy — that are integrating digital solutions to help them scale.
Accelerating adoption of drones and drone data helps asset owners in energy and sustainable industries better digitize, analyze and collaborate on their growing centralized and decentralized projects. Applications in utilities and solar provide two great examples of how drone software is serving the energy sector:
Utilities: As overseers of massive infrastructure networks, utilities are increasingly relying on drones for data collection and analysis in conducting inspections and maintenance. We’re seeing utilities build out drone fleets, resulting in a material uptick in adoption in this sector: Three of the nation’s largest utilities now each have 500 employees who are drone pilots. When we made our initial investment in DroneDeploy, there wasn’t a single utility with more than 20 drone pilots.
Solar: As project size and volume scales, solar companies are increasingly relying on drone technologies to improve safety, accuracy and efficiency. Solar Power World recently included drone usage as one of the top four technologies changing solar inspection and helping to address challenges facing solar operations.
Last fall, renewables developer and operator Invenergy announced plans to build the largest solar installation in the U.S. — a 1.3GW solar center in northeast Texas. Renewables projects are getting bigger, and manual surveying and mapping methods are just not scalable. “Invenergy relies on tools like DroneDeploy for accurate survey data in construction of our commercial solar developments,” said Utopia Hill, VP of Renewables Project Management at Invenergy. “Especially when teams can’t be out in the field as frequently during COVID, drone usage has proven to be incredibly beneficial across the development, construction and operations of our sites.”
DroneDeploy’s customers expect product innovation
The DroneDeploy team is constantly looking to learn from their customers. This customer-first approach directly translates to developing new product features, and new product platforms altogether. Over the past 6 months DroneDeploy launched indoor reality capture and analytics, and immediately converted many of their existing outdoor customers to the expanded product suite. DroneDeploy will continue to be a product-led company and will expand the market size with each new product.
We’re excited to continue investing in DroneDeploy’s platform that is transforming how businesses collect, manage and interpret drone data. We’ve had the pleasure of getting to know co-founders Mike Winn, Jono Millin and Nicholas Pilkington over the years, and we’ve been consistently impressed with their team’s approach to delivering world-class customer service. And their leadership hasn’t gone unnoticed — DroneDeploy was named a “Best Place to Work” in 2020 by both Inc. and the Silicon Valley Business Journal.
The Energize team will continue to leverage commercial relationships to accelerate growth for DroneDeploy as we partner with them in pursuing automated drone use across every industry worldwide. Congratulations on this milestone!