“We don’t make drones. We make drones work,” proclaims Washington, DC-based Measure, a startup that’s setting out to help enterprises set up their own drone programs.
Founded in 2014, Measure is a “drone-as-a-service” startup that works with companies in specific sectors to figure out how they can best use data acquired by drones. These sectors include oil and gas, agriculture, insurance, government, and other industries where aerial photography is desired. Measure’s service is designed to help businesses leverage the power of drones without committing to the capital expenses and risks involved with setting up their own drone programs.
Today, Measure has announced a $15 million funding round from Cognizant Technology Solutions, with participation from existing investors. This is added to the $5 million it raised back in September 2015. The fresh cash injection will be used to expand the company’s services and target new customers.
“This is a tremendous moment for Measure and for the drone industry, and we believe 2017 is when everyone pivots toward services,” said Brandon Torres Declet, CEO of Measure. “Not only will this investment make it possible to expand to new customers, but the addition of Cognizant can help us offer new, innovative services around data analysis not currently available in the market.”
Commercial drones typically garner headlines for their ability to deliver items. For example, Amazon recently delivered its first package by air drone, while 7-Eleven partnered with drone delivery service Flirtey to complete what it called “the first fully autonomous drone delivery to a customer’s residence,” in July last year. And a few months back, drone startup Zipline raised $25 million to deliver blood, vaccines, and other medical goods to hard-to-reach locales.
But deliveries are only one facet of the emerging drone industry — drones’ ability to capture data is also emerging as a key use-case. California-based Prenav raised $6.5 million back in August to develop a commercial drone system that enables companies to inspect and maintain their physical infrastructure, including buildings, roofs, cell phone towers, and other hard-to-access places. But it’s not just about aerial drones — fellow California startup Saildrone raised $14 million to expand its fleet of wind-powered autonomous seafaring drones that collect data from the world’s oceans.
Elsewhere, San Francisco-based DroneDeploy recently nabbed $20 million for its software-as-a-service platform that helps businesses analyze and make sense of their aerial drone data. And Santa Monica’s DroneBase raised around $7 million last year to grow its platform that lets drone owners sell footage they capture to businesses.
The surge in drone-focused funding is at least partly attributable to a ruling by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which recently introduced new regulations designed to bring clarity, simplicity, and safety to the growing drone industry. The new rules are aimed at “non-hobbyist” unmanned aircraft weighing less than 55 pounds, which basically covers the drones used by many businesses offering drone services. Some estimates have pegged this opening of U.S. airspace to unmanned aircraft as potentially being able to generate more than $82 billion for the U.S. economy over the next 10 years.
In 2016 alone, Measure says that its drone pilots flew more than 1,100 flights for “some of the largest and most innovative Fortune 1000 companies,” covering construction development, live media coverage, disaster response, and cell tower inspections.
“Drone services is one of the fastest-growing technology segments, with many [services] promising immense value to industries such as insurance, manufacturing, logistics, oil and gas, retail, government, and media and communications,” said Sean Middleton, president of the Cognizant Accelerator, of which Cognizant Ventures is a division. “Cognizant is excited to partner with Measure to bring our world-class digital capabilities, such as advanced data analytics and software development, to enterprise customers looking to create value from data collected via drones.”