So far, 2016 has seen the FAA promise and deliver Part 107 while new uses and opportunities for drones continue to be opened up in unexpected ways and places. It has seen announcements regarding partnerships and transitions, but today’s update around Airware acquiring Redbird is significant for reasons that could make it among the most important news items of the year.
Specific details about the news are available via the press release below, but Airware’s acquisition of the drone data analytics company is important for a number of reasons. First and foremost, the acquisition puts Airware in a position to be able to offer more complete solutions for construction sites, mines and quarries. Additionally, the partnerships Redbird has formed with industry leaders like Caterpillar will enable Airware to develop solutions that will resonate with companies in these markets in specific and powerful ways as adoption of drone technology becomes widespread.
Some of these topics will no doubt be among what Airware CEO Jonathan Downey explores during his keynote at the Commercial UAV Expo, but I was able to catch up with Jonathan to focus specifically on what this news means for his company and for Emmanuel de Maistre, co-founder of Redbird. Jonathan has already posted a few of his thoughts about the news on Medium, but we were able to discuss what this transition looks like for both Airware and Redbird as well as why the development of a complete drone solution is so important.
Jeremiah Karpowicz: What can you tell us about how this acquisition came about? Was it about a specific opportunity that came up or was it one that simply made sense for the future of both companies?
Jonathan Downey: We built out a platform that we call the Aerial Information Platform over the last several years, and it really enabled commercial enterprises to drive operational cost savings and enhance worker safety, while creating some significant business outcomes for them. We’ve been doing a lot of work in the insurance industry, but we had begun looking into some other markets as well to figure out where we might want to build additional industry solutions.
We quickly realized that were getting a lot of interest from the construction, quarrying, and mining markets. As we looked globally at all of the companies that were doing work in that space, we saw that Redbird was among the leaders there, and were already familiar with Redbird as we had invested in them through the Commercial Drone Fund. What we found was that Emmanuel and his team were building out industry focused analytics and data processing to drive business outcomes in that vertical. This kind of arrangement would allow us to build on relationships they’ve already made with companies like Caterpillar, and also to connect with companies that wanted to digitize their operations and move from paper and clipboards to managing their site digitally and gain productivity. We felt Redbird had some incredible expertise and a very tailored product, which made the companies very complimentary.
What does the transition look like for Redbird?
We’re going to continue the Redbird brand as our product focused on mining, quarrying and construction, so it’s really going to be that industry solution. Combined with our technology, it’s going to be an enterprise solution which will allow customers to go from start to finish. They can plan drone flights. They can capture and analyze the aerial data. They can create complex site maps. They can manage flight plans with an enterprise approach. We’re going to bring in all of our enterprise security so we’ll have permissions-based management of the data. Over time, we’ll also be incorporating more of Redbird’s technology into some of our other integrated industry solutions.
How about the Redbird team and office?
Redbird’s Paris office is going to be our European headquarters, and we’re going to continue to invest in that and grow the team there. That team is going to be focused on the industry analytics and applications for architecture, engineering and construction as well as some of our integrated solutions for insurance. They’re also going to help support our European based customers.
Emmanuel is with us in San Francisco now, and he’s going to be taking on the role of Vice President, Architecture, Engineering and Construction. His co-founder, Emmanuel Noirhomme, is going to continue to lead operations in Paris, and Benjamin Hugonet is going to be serving as our VP of European Sales.
Why is this acquisition important in terms of your ability to offer your customers complete drone solutions?
The feedback we’ve gotten from all of the large companies that we’ve been working with is around how that complete solution is one they want and need. Many of them had tried going it alone and buying a little bit of tech here and there, so they ended up piece-mealing things together. They grew frustrated as they worked to understand how it was going to make sense for them.
If you’re an insurance company, operating drones and building out drone technology probably should not be your core competency. But understanding risk better than your competitors and being able to process claims quicker by leveraging this technology is something that’s essential to them.
Similarly, on these construction sites, getting access to that information is what they want. These organizations want something that’s as close to driving a business outcome as they can get. They don’t want to have to spend the time to figure out and set up new technology, and for many of the large players, it’s not as simple as using a new web application. This is all about driving better decision making more quickly for these large organizations.
What sort of opportunities do you see this opening up for your company as well as for the market as a whole?
You have a lot of companies selling drones or some data analysis or compliance software, but the large enterprises want all of this bundled and integrated together. That’s something we’ve provided our customers, but as a result of this acquisition we’re going to be able to offer the power of Redbird’s industry tailored analysis along with Airware’s enterprise focused workflow compliance that Fortune 500 companies have been benefiting from. And that’s really exciting.
Additionally, we’re excited about what this will mean for some of the people that are taking a closer look at what drones can do for them in light of Part 107. In the insurance vertical, we saw a lot of companies that in Q1 ad Q2 of this year were really waiting for Part 107 to come out before moving forward, and now they are moving forward pretty swiftly. We think that’s going to be even more of the case in construction, quarrying, and mining because this is a market that’s been using drones for longer, so they’ve already seen the benefits of leveraging the technology. It’s beyond evaluation and testing, as some of the larger player are looking at what it’s going to take to scale drone operations.
Airware Acquires Drone Data Analytics Pioneer Redbird
SAN FRANCISCO – September 22, 2016 — Today Airware, the commercial drone solutions provider working with some of the largest Fortune 500 companies in the U.S., announced the acquisition of Redbird, a France-based pioneer in drone data analytics for mining, quarrying, and construction industries. Redbird brings sophisticated geospatial analytics to the Airware Aerial Information Platform, providing customers with the combined power of Redbird’s industry-specific analytics and Airware’s enterprise-focused workflow, compliance, and security features that Fortune 500 companies are using to scale drone operations. Together, Airware and Redbird provide the most complete offering for construction sites, mines, and quarries to help digitize and optimize operations.
“Construction and excavation sites, such as mines and quarries, must be managed and operated digitally in order to compete in today’s markets. Commercial drone technology brings these operations into the digital world while offering faster, cheaper and higher-quality data and analytics,” said Jonathan Downey, founder & CEO of Airware. “By acquiring Redbird and incorporating Redbird’s powerful analytics tools on top of the Airware platform, we are helping these enterprises make this transition into the digital age.”
With Airware and Redbird’s combined solution, mining, aggregates, and construction companies benefit from 100X more data, and potentially 5X faster turnaround on data analytics. Customers can plan drone flights, capture high-quality aerial data, analyze it, and create detailed, survey-grade mining and construction site maps of up to 1,000 acres per day, per drone, for immediate and exact production tracking and site safety assessment.
“Before working with Redbird, we needed about five days to survey our sites. Today, once the drone has flown over our quarries, I’ll get the production data the next morning.” said Vincent Amossé, Deputy CEO, Groupe CB – Aggregates Division. “When we started using Redbird and saw the immediate impact on our business, we wanted a way to scale our use of drones to more frequent surveys across more sites. Now with Airware, we can access an end-to-end enterprise solution that enables us to manage our entire drone operations from planning and worker management, to repeatable data capture, and analysis and reporting.”
“Airware is a company that provides complete drone solutions to enterprise customers. In joining the Airware team, we will be able to rapidly provide complete solutions to the mining, quarrying, and construction industries, allowing us to expand globally into the U.S. market,” said Emmanuel de Maistre, co-founder and CEO of Redbird. “There’s never been a more exciting time for this partnership to take place as building materials companies and contractors are no longer experimenting with drones, but are looking to put drones to work for their businesses.”
Redbird Continues Marketing Agreement with Caterpillar
In addition, in May 2016 Caterpillar Inc. and Redbird expanded the geographic scope of the previously announced marketing agreement in response to greater than expected customer interest. Under this expanded agreement, Redbird’s data analysis and reporting tools are now offered to Caterpillar customers worldwide, instead of only in Europe, Africa and the Middle East. With Airware and Redbird, Caterpillar will advance site intelligence and machine productivity through high-quality aerial data and analytics for their customers and dealers.
“Airware’s acquisition of Redbird increases Caterpillar dealers’ solutions offerings by enhancing their ability to provide an end-to-end enterprise drone solution globally, helping our customers maximize productivity, work smarter, and optimize operations,” said George Taylor, vice president with responsibility for Marketing and Digital at Caterpillar. “By working with leading companies in their fields, we help create value for our customers and provide a competitive edge.”
Airware Expands to Europe
Redbird’s Paris, France, office will become Airware’s European Headquarters. The Paris-based team will continue to build analytics applications while also supporting Airware’s new integrated solutions for European-based customers and partners.
“Over the last six months, our customer base has grown to include European enterprises. With the Paris-based office, we’ll support our existing European customers, as well as meet the growing global demand for commercial drone technology,” said Downey.
James Loftus of JQJ Partners acted as strategic advisor to Airware in connection with the transaction.
Founded in 2011, Airware offers complete enterprise drone solutions built on the industry’s most comprehensive hardware, software, and cloud services platform. Airware’s leading set of technologies enables enterprises to plan, fly, and analyze aerial data to drive business outcomes including operational cost savings, enhanced worker safety, and improved decision making. Airware has raised more than $90 million to date from investors including Andreessen Horowitz, First Round Capital, GE Ventures, Google Ventures, Intel Capital, John Chambers, Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers, and Next World Capital. Airware is headquartered in San Francisco, CA with offices in Paris, France. For more information, go to Airware.com or follow Airware on Twitter: @Airware.
Founded in 2013, Redbird is a Paris-based company that develops one of the most advanced solutions to collect, process and deliver drone data for construction sites, quarries, mines and landfills. Redbird has built a dedicated collaborative cloud platform that enables its customers to easily access and interact with drone information anytime, anywhere. Major construction and quarrying companies are now turning to Redbird’s solution to monitor and improve their productivity, and maintain the highest level of safety on their sites. In late 2015, Redbird signed a strategic and technologic partnership with Caterpillar, the world’s leading manufacturer of construction and mining equipment. Visit Redbird’s website: www.getredbird.com or follow Redbird on Twitter: @redbirdHQ for further information.