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Kittyhawk Web dashboard
Kittyhawk’s Web-based dashboard gives drone users an overview on operations. (Kittyhawk Graphic)

Boeing says its HorizonX venture capital arm is investing in Kittyhawk, a San Francisco startup that provides end-to-end software solutions for autonomous drone operations.

The investment is part of a $5 million seed round that was led by Bonfire Ventures with participation by Boeing HorizonX Ventures as well as Freestyle Capital and Kluz Ventures’ The Flying Object. Boeing didn’t disclose precisely how much it contributed to the round.

Boeing says Kittyhawk’s software will support the development of a traffic management system that allows piloted and autonomous vehicles to coexist safely.

“When paired with the broad portfolio of complementary data service offerings within Boeing, Kittyhawk is poised to help us shape the future of safe autonomous flight,” Brian Schettler, managing director of Boeing HorizonX Ventures, said in today’s news release.

Kittyhawk is already partnering with Jeppesen, a Boeing subsidiary, to expand the operational envelope for unmanned aircraft systems by participating in the Federal Aviation Administration’s Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability, or LAANC.

The LAANC program is a collaborative effort to create modes of operation that integrate autonomous aircraft, cargo delivery and operations beyond visual line of sight safely into the airspace. Nearly 300 air traffic facilities across the country are due to participate in the program.

Kittyhawk was founded in 2015 and has grown its customer base to include clients in media, insurance, energy and rail transportation as well as fire and emergency management agencies. A new software feature called Hawkeye uses artificial intelligence to help fewer people manage more flights.

“Boeing’s world-renowned aviation expertise and resources will help Kittyhawk continue to mature our enterprise offerings,” Joshua Ziering, founder and chief pilot of Kittyhawk, said in a news release. “Boeing’s long history of forging new industries within the aerospace sector will also help as Kittyhawk continues its mission to create robust, open and interoperable standards to empower the commercial drone industry.”

Kittyhawk said the new round brought total capital raised to $6.5 million.

Boeing HorizonX Ventures was created last year to invest in technologies that can be applied to the frontiers of aerospace, ranging from autonomous systems to artificial intelligence and virtual reality. It now has 13 companies in its portfolio. In addition to Kittyhawk, those companies are:

  • Agylstor, which offers ruggedized computational storage systems.
  • Morf3D, which uses 3-D printing to produce aerospace components.
  • Reaction Engines, a British venture focusing on hypersonic flight.
  • Myriota, an Australian venture focusing on satellite communication services for Internet of Things devices.
  • Fortem Technologies for drone radar navigation systems.
  • Cuberg for advanced batteries.
  • Gamma Alloys, for next-generation aluminum alloys.
  • Near Earth Autonomy for autonomous flight control systems.
  • C360 for augmented reality and virtual reality used in immersive videos.
  • Upskill for augmented-reality solutions for industrial settings.
  • SparkCognition for AI tools used with the Internet of Things.
  • Zunum Aero for hybrid-electric airplane propulsion.
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