The Innovate Indiana Fund is among more than a half-dozen investors to participate in an $18 million funding round for PrecisionHawk Inc., a rapidly expanding maker of unmanned aerial vehicles — also known as UAVs — and software that collects and analyzes terrestrial data for commercial use.
The Series C capitalization includes new investors Verizon Ventures, NTT Docomo Ventures, Yamaha Motor and a subsidiary of insurer USAA. The Innovate Indiana Fund, which led PrecisionHawk’s $1 million Series A financing and took part in $10 million of Series B funding in 2014, joined existing investors Intel Capital and Millennium Technology Value Partners in this latest round.
The latest investment round brings PrecisionHawk’s total funding to $30 million as it continues to improve and expand its data-analysis platform and its low-altitude flight safety system.
“Since the start of our investments in PrecisionHawk, we have watched this company literally shape a new industry,” said Ken Green, managing director of the Innovate Indiana Fund and a PrecisionHawk director. “Its innovative technology is being applied in many ways, as demonstrated through the companies coming on board.”
PrecisionHawk will use part of the proceeds to expand its DataMapper analysis platform, which allows any UAV operator to process, manage and analyze aerial data. DataMapper currently receives such data from all UAV systems but soon will allow information from satellites and manned aviation to be managed, analyzed and compared with UAV-gathered data on a single platform, said PrecisionHawk spokesman Lia Reich.
In 2015, DataMapper processed information gathered from more than 1 million acres and licensed more than 200 analysis algorithms across industries ranging from agriculture and insurance to energy and mining, she said.
The company also plans to develop and commercialize its Low Altitude Tracking and Airspace Safety platform, or LATAS, which is designed to allow safe and rapid integration of UAVs into regulated airspace.
Through use of Verizon’s LTE wireless network, LATAS has been demonstrated under NASA’s Unmanned Traffic Management project and the Federal Aviation Administration’s Pathfinder program. The system has already won contracts with state and national governments, Reich said.
“Individuals and organizations across the world need better and more accurate data to manage the resources of our planet, and we are delighted to receive such a strong level of support and confidence from this group of investors to help us build out a platform for the industry,” said PrecisionHawk CEO Bob Young. “This team of partners and investors is collaborating to better serve the need for managing terrestrial change data by providing a safe and reliable platform for managing aerial data. This is both an exciting and an important project for our engineers and our partners.”
PrecisionHawk currently has more than 100 employees, with at least 10 based in Terre Haute, Reich said. Many of the latter are graduates of Indiana University, as well as Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, Indiana State University and Purdue University, she said.
The company’s presence in the Hoosier State is key to its day-to-day operations and its ability to effectively serve clients throughout the Midwest, Reich said: “Whether it’s agriculture, insurance, responding to a catastrophe or another application, they are ideally located to offer a quick and efficient response.”
Domestic expansion is ongoing and includes research and development partnerships with such institutions as Indiana State University, Kansas State University and Texas A&M University. PrecisionHawk is also working directly with the FAA to provide data that will aid the development of processes for UAV registration and regulation.
Managed by the Indiana University Research and Technology Corp., which is part of IU’s Innovate Indiana initiative, the Innovate Indiana Fund provides early-stage capital to companies with an IU connection. It also advises in such areas as technology assessment, market analysis and planning, management recruitment, product development, sales strategy, customer acquisition, and next-stage capital.
In 2014, PrecisionHawk won an Indiana Innovation Award and was a finalist for TechPoint’s Mira Awards as Tech Startup of the Year. Among other awards, the company was named to TiEcon’s list of Top 50 technology startups and recognized as a Top 100 Global Sustainable Solutions company by Sustainia.
About Innovate Indiana: Innovate Indiana engages strategic partners to advance Indiana University’s intellectual resources and expertise, enhance Indiana’s economy and improve Hoosiers’ quality of life. For more information, follow Innovate Indiana on Twitter.