A startup specializing in computer vision technology capable of guiding drones has raised $6.5 million in funding from Crosslink Capital, with participation from Joe Montana’s Liquid 2 Ventures, along with Haystack and WI Harper Group.
Founded out of San Carlos, California in 2013, Prenav is developing a commercial drone system aimed at helping companies inspect and maintain their physical infrastructure, including buildings, roofs, cell phone towers, and any entity that may otherwise be difficult for people to access.
Combining a drone, a ground-based guidance robot, and software to plan the project and analyze the resulting data, Prenav’s system traverses within a few inches of a structure without need of a skilled human controller, though the technician charged with inspecting the property does fire out instructions via a touchscreen panel on the ground. The little robots snap photos from multiple precise locations to recreate accurate 3D representations of the target.
Today’s news comes a year after Prenav raised a $1.2 million seed round, and this latest cash influx will be used to “accelerate product development, marketing, and sales of its commercial drone system,” according to a company statement. A commercial launch is planned for some time in 2017.
“Prenav is solving a fundamental gap in the drone ecosystem around automated flight up close to structures,” said Nathan Schuett, founder and CEO of Prenav. “By unlocking this capability, we make drone technology accessible and affordable for many industries that are underserved by today’s off-the-shelf drones.”
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has new drone regulations coming into effect at the end of August. These are designed to “harness new innovations safely, to spur job growth, advance critical scientific research, and save lives,” said the FAA. The new rules are aimed at unmanned aircraft weighing less than 55 pounds that are carrying out “non-hobbyist operations,” and some estimates reckon the new rules could generate more than $82 billion for the U.S. economy over the next decade.
Drone technology has been fairly ripe for investment in recent times, with the likes of PrecisionHawk recently closing an $18 million round for its land-surveying drones and countless other startups nabbing VC cash over the past couple of years. The growth in drone use has even opened avenues for offshoot industries, including drone-detection — Dedrone recently raised $10 million for a system aimed at those concerned about aerial threats and attacks.
Just today, drone data management platform DroneDeploy announced it had raised $20 million. With the new FAA regulations now a week away, we’ll likely see a slew of fresh startups emerge to capitalize on the burgeoning drone industry.
Meanwhile, you can check out Prenav’s little promo skit in the video below.