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Matternet drone
A Matternet drone flies over Zurich. (Matternet Photo)

Boeing HorizonX Ventures has taken the lead role in a $16 million Series A funding round for Matternet, a California company specializing in drone delivery operations in urban environments.

Other investors include Swiss Post, Sony Innovation Fund and Levitate Capital, the companies said today. Matternet aims to use the funds to expand operations in the U.S. and other parts of the world.

Last year, Matternet won Swiss approval to conduct on-demand drone deliveries of medical samples to hospitals in partnership with Swiss Post. The operation makes use of the company’s autonomous M2 drones and its Cloud logistics platform as well as Matternet Station, a six-foot-wide hub that can dispatch drones for delivery and receive them for recharging.

Matternet is also partnering with Mercedes-Benz Vans and Siroop, a Swiss online marketplace, on a pilot project for on-demand delivery of e-commerce goods. Mercedes-Benz’s Vito vans serve as mobile landing platforms for Matternet drones that deliver the goods.

Last month, the Federal Aviation Administration gave Matternet the go-ahead to participate in pilot projects to deliver lab samples and medical supplies to hospitals in California and North Carolina.

Today, Matternet is joining the World Economic Forum’s Drone Innovators Network, which is aimed at advancing safe, sustainable, global mobility systems. Boeing is already a partner in the network.

“Matternet’s technology and proven track record make the development of a safe, global autonomous air mobility system a near-term reality,” Brian Schettler, managing director of Boeing HorizonX Ventures, said in a news release. “Our investment will allow Matternet to scale its operations while strengthening Boeing’s position as a leader in next-generation transportation solutions.”

Matternet’s co-founder and CEO, Andreas Raptopoulos, welcomed the fresh infusion of capital, which comes atop $9.5 million in seed funding. Past investors in the seven-year-old company, which is based in Menlo Park, Calif., include the Andreessen Horowitz venture capital firm and Daimler, Mercedes-Benz’s parent company.

“We are excited to partner with Boeing, the pioneers of safe commercial aviation, to make this new model of transport mainstream,” Raptopoulous said. “As we expand Matternet’s U.S. and global operations, we will work with Boeing to make next-generation aerial logistics networks an reality and transform our everyday lives.”

Although most drone delivery systems are still in the pilot phase, many ventures are expected to ramp up operations in the next few years. Potential competitors range from retailing giants such as Amazon and Walmart to startups such as Flirtey, which has been experimenting with medical and fast-food deliveries via drone; and Zipline, which is doing medical deliveries in Africa with fixed-wing drones.

Boeing established HorizonX Ventures last year to invest in companies that specialize in technologies for aerospace and manufacturing innovations, including autonomous systems, augmented reality and machine learning. Matternet is the 14th company in the HorizonX portfolio. Others include:

  • Kittyhawk, providing end-to-end software solutions for drone operations.
  • 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.

Update for 10 a.m. PT June 26: The amount of Matternet’s seed funding has been corrected.

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