Verizon is bolstering its efforts in drones with the acquisition of Skyward, a Portland-based startup whose software helps commercial drone operators in industries such as construction and film production more efficiently track, connect and manage drones. This includes the management of digital logbooks, pilot credentials and real-time air charts.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
“Drones are becoming an essential tool for improving business processes at large companies, but scalability has been a challenge,” said Skyward founder and CEO Jonathan Evans in a release. “Skyward’s drone operations management platform combined with Verizon’s network, reliability, scale and expertise in delivering enterprise solutions will allow organizations to efficiently and safely scale drones across multiple divisions and hundreds of use cases.”
Interestingly, Evans told GeekWire two years ago that Skyward was similar to Verizon Wireless, which built a network infrastructure for mobile communications regulated by the Federal Communications Commission.
“We see airspace around the robots as being a universal public good that just needs some professional management,” said Evans, a retired professional EMS helicopter pilot.
Founded in 2012, Skyward raised $4.1 million in 2015 from Draper Associates, Founders Co-op, Norwest Venture Partners, Techstars Ventures, Verizon Ventures and Voyager Capital. Total funding stood at $8.1 million, according to Crunchbase.
Mike Lanman, senior vice president of Enterprise Products and IoT at Verizon, said that the acquisition of Skyward will help bolster its new Airborne LTE Operations (ALO) initiative, a service designed to simplify certification and connectivity of wireless drones.
“This acquisition is a natural progression of our core focus on operating in innovative, high-growth markets, leveraging our network, scale, fleet management, device management, data analytics and security enablement capabilities and services to simplify the drone industry and help support the adoption of IoT,” he said.
Skyward’s drone management software is used in industries such as agriculture, construction, film production and telecommunications, allowing drone operators to boost safety and efficiency. It also helps organizations in those industries comply with FAA regulations.
Voyager Capital’s Erik Benson, who led the seed round of funding for Skyward, said that Evans “deserves all of the credit” for building a successful startup in the emerging drone industry. “Skyward’s founders, employees and co-investors are all happy with Verizon and their leadership in the commercial drone industry globally,” Benson said in an email to GeekWire.
Here’s the full message that Skyward posted on its Web site this morning:
We started Skyward four years ago with a dream of bringing commercial drone operators the tools they need to safely access the sky. Now, people in over 40 countries rely on Skyward to power drone programs in industries like construction, industrial inspection, media, insurance, real estate, mining, precision agriculture, and more.
Skyward’s drone operations management platform combined with Verizon’s network, reliability, trusted brand, and expertise in building enterprise solutions will help us deliver the solutions our customers need faster than ever before.
So what does this mean for Skyward customers? To start, we will continue to focus on making our products easier, faster, and more efficient. Our mission will stay the same: to power safe, efficient commercial drone operations so you can maximize the value that drones bring to your business.
For our current users, you won’t have to change a thing—we will continue to do business as usual. And stay tuned, we have a lot in store for you.
Onward, Upward, and Skyward!
Mariah Scott and Jonathan Evans
Co-Presidents of Skyward, A Verizon Company