Unmanned aerial vehicles, commonly referred to as drones, have become a pretty familiar sight in recent years, primarily for its military applications. However, civilian and commercial applications for drones are becoming increasingly abundant and plenty of companies are jumping in this potentially multi-billion market.
With this in mind we explored the databases of AngelList and Crunchbase to review the companies that are out there focussing on drones. We deliberately searched out startup companies that focus almost exclusively on drones to get a feel for the emerging landscape. Some obvious big players are therefore not included in this review. In total we gathered information on over 140 companies from 24 different countries.
Mosaic of all drone startups: click on an image to read more about the startup
Explore the gallery of all startups in our database.
The main fields drone startups are exploring:
1. Aerial Data: All kinds of startups are trying to capitalize on the imagery and GPS data that can be collected from the air. Demand for this data can come from TV and film, agriculture or real estate, among others. In early 2015 providing customer-ready aerial data seems to be the focus for the largest chunk of drones startups (33% or 52 total).
2. Drone Hardware: There is still a lot to be gained for companies by improving drone technology and hardware – and 38 startups (24%) are heading this call. Most of these startups seem to work on creating smaller and faster drones and making them affordable as consumer products; some are working on the other end of the market and focus for instance on underwater drones.
3. Drone Infrastructure: It is interesting to note that 21 startups (13%) are betting on the flight that the drones market will take: they are investing in the infrastructure that will facilitate the various usages drones can have. This includes an online infrastructure – like platforms comparing drone prices or locating your nearest professional operator – and a brick-and-mortar infrastructure, like networks of docking and charging stations.
5. Logistics/Transport: Using drones as some sort of transport or delivery aircraft is perhaps the most hyped application since Amazon started experimenting with package delivery by drones. Around 11% of the startups, 17 in total, are currently exploring ways to use drones as delivery systems. A surprising number of them focus on health-related products or services (like an AED delivery system or a pharmacy products delivery system).
6. Drone retail: While many of the companies developing drone hardware offer their products online, 5 startups (3%) stand out by offering a well-stocked online shop with a multitude of drones and drone accessories. If selling drone products or services seems the main focus of the startup they were included in the Drone Retail section.