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Propwash #1 - Investments, New Leadership, Mini competition and shepherding!

Propwash
Propwash #1 - Investments, New Leadership, Mini competition and shepherding!
By Nihal Mohan • Issue #1 • View online

Hi everyone!
Welcome to the first issue of Propwash. Today I cover topics from billion-dollar investments to shepherding. Yes, you read that right. Continue to find out more! 👇
💰 Drone Investments Soar Again
Drone Industry Insights released a report that shows the growth of the Industry despite the pandemic. The growth trend from 2019 is still present, with a second year running of $1B+ investments.
Some key takeaways:
  • The passenger drone market has seen a huge spike in investments, up from $140M to $1B. With increasing demand, and flight trials in this field, the age of the flying car comes a little closer.
  • Counter Drone systems continue to increase in funding as expected. This growth will be highly correlated with the drone industry’s growth.
  • UTM companies see a decline in funding. This trend was unexpected, with several major UTM companies leading trials and airspace integration efforts in several countries.
The decline of UTM companies is an interesting one. What could be the reason? We’re seeing several UTM players pivot into fleet management and flight applications. And being a UTM provider is playing a zero-sum game. If one company builds the infrastructure for a country, no other player can.
Go ahead and see the trends yourself -
Global Companies Invest in Drones During 2020 | Droneii
📊 Leadership changes
AgEagle
One of the two publicly traded drone companies in the states, AgEagle (stock ticker UAVS) had a pretty intense start to the year. It’s been a pretty wild ride, and DroneAnalyst summarizes it quite well. TLDR:
  • UAVS stock price booms 700%, valuing the company at close to a billion dollars
  • AgEagle goes on a buying spree, first buying Micasense from Parrot for $23 M, even while Micasense had a higher annual revenue than AgEagle.
  • Next, AgEagle buys Measure for another $45 M in a mix of cash and stock
  • The stock price has since fallen to about a third from the peak
Now that the dust has settled, AgEagle announced that there will be a new CEO. The interesting bit? The New CEO is Brandon Torres Declet who was the founder of Measure, the company they acquired in April. It will be interesting to see what direction AgEagle will take with new leadership. The company has changed its focus from a narrow field of agriculture to catering to drone solutions in various sectors.
Autel
Autel is one of the few drone manufacturers who have consistently released competitive products to DJI’s lineup across most of the stack. Last year was pretty uneventful for Autel while DJI went on a streak of releasing over a dozen products through the pandemic. This year though, things are set to change, and change is starting from the top with the company hiring an industry veteran, Randall Warnas. Randall used to head the UAS division in FLIR, the leading thermal camera manufacturer. Will this prove a pivotal moment to the company? We’ll wait and see.
Autel Recruits Industry Pioneer as New CEO – Autel Robotics
🌐 Scanning in 3D
Creating 3D scans is not new or easy. Making it easy is what Skydio aims to do with the launch of 3D Scan. Making it easier to digitize the world, as The Verge puts it, 3D scan eliminates the need for meticulous planning for capturing complex 3D environments.
The billion dollar US company launched the product with a live demo scanning the engines of the Saturn-V rocket that took humanity to the moon. They showcased the AR enhanced mapping tools, which makes for automated mission planning. As someone who’s had experience mapping complex terrain, this is a huge time saver for mapping complex terrain.
Skydio’s self-flying drone can now be upgraded to automatically digitize the world - The Verge
🚁 Mini competition
The DJI Mavic Mini (and it’s successor, the Mini 2) is a very competitive product. It doesn’t have much competition in its class, the one that skips federal regulations in several jurisdictions due to its weight. More importantly, it has very little credible competition. Which is why I was excited to see more drones with similar specs enter the sub 250g space. Hubsan announced the Zino Mini Pro.
Hubsan makes a lot of toy drones, and have a different approach to the Zino mini pro. While DJI started off from making larger drones and miniaturizing them, Hubsan started from the bottom - making toy drones more robust and packing them with features and tech that the consumer drone market wants.
The company launched the drone in a livestream this week, but things didn’t go quite according to plan, as Dronedj notes -
If you don’t mind the unfortunate product launch, the drone does seem very interesting on paper. 40 mins of flight time is quite impressive for that form factor, and Hubsan even claims obstacle avoidance features on the drone. It won’t be long before reviews start rolling in, and we get a better picture of the drone’s capabilities. As I always say, competition is good for the consumers and a little competition will go a long way in industry innovation.
Parrot has teased a product launch for the end of this month. While it’s unlikely to be a sub 250g competitor, it’s bound to be something to see. Subscribe to Propwash to make sure you don’t miss out when I cover it.
🐑 Not Serious
The drone industry has spent the first part of the last decade figuring out all the possible use-cases for drones, and the second-half figuring out all the profitable use-cases among them. While we’ve made great strides, there’s always some new use-case that no-one ever thought of.
Here’s Jeremy Clarkson (of Top Gear fame) highlighting one such peculiar use-case.
🌩 Not Drones
Every week I also share something that is not directly related to drones, but makes for an interesting read, and some which affect the industry indirectly. This week, here’s a very thorough and insightful read by Andreessen Horowitz on the economics of the cloud.
it’s becoming evident that while cloud clearly delivers on its promise early on in a company’s journey, the pressure it puts on margins can start to outweigh the benefits, as a company scales and growth slows.
The Cost of Cloud, a Trillion Dollar Paradox - Andreessen Horowitz
🏁 That's it for this week!
Hope you found this issue of Propwash valuable. If you did, I’d love it if you shared it with your friends/colleagues. You can send them here to sign up. I try to capture and distill the most relevant news every week, and I hope this was helpful.
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Have a great week,
Nihal
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Nihal Mohan

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