Gadgets

YC, Andreessen-backed Airware takes big step into commercial drone market

Image Credit: Airware

Drones are making their way to the mainstream market and Airware is there to pave the way.

The Y Combinator, Andreessen Horowitz, and Google Ventures-backed company provides an operating system and development platform for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). It combines hardware, software, and APIs to make it easier for developers to integrate unmanned aircraft technology into their projects. The company website states its mission is to “enable UAS Manufacturers to rapidly develop diverse and price competitive UAS solutions while creating and maintaining intellectual property.”

Today Airware announced a partnership with Insitu, a leading provider of UAV technology. The companies will work together to bring Insitu’s ICOMC2 solution to the commercial market. ICOMC2 is a “small-footprint system” that lets users operate UAVs from a laptop. Airware will offer it as an additional ground control station solution for its auto-pilot systems.

Drones have traditionally been considered in military or policing contexts. They can be used to shoot missiles at suspected terrorists, monitor speed limits, or help mounties locate lost travelers. The American military’s use of drones to kill foreign combatants is highly controversial and UAVs raise security and safety concerns.

However the “civilian” drone market is exploding right now. People are using for purposes that include taking epic photographs, improving agricultural practices, fighting exotic animal poaching, and even delivering beer. The Association for Unmanned Vehicle System International (AUVSI) estimates that the industry could contribute more than $80 billion to the U.S. economy over the course of a decade.

Airware’s team has over 30 years of experience developing unmanned aerial systems. They grew frustrated with the “inflexible and costly autopilots” on the market that limited opportunities to develop new features. They saw an opportunity to build a more flexible autopilot that would foster innovation and encourage entrepreneurs to push the boundaries of what drone technology can do in the commercial market.

The Federal Aviation Administration recently certified two unmanned aircraft vehicles for commercial U.S., and Insitu got one of them. Airware will be able to use the resources of the larger company to support development and distribruion.

Newport Beach-based Airware raised $10.7 million in its first round of funding in May 2013. Since then it has hired more members to its leadership team and expanded to San Francisco.


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