Skydio, a Calif.-based drone developer, has become the robotics industry’s newest unicorn after closing a $170 million Series D funding round. This brings Skydio’s total funding to date to more than $340 million. Skydio is the first U.S. drone maker to be valued at more than $1 billion.
Skydio’s drones are best known for their autonomous capabilities. It released its first drone in 2018, the R1 consumer drone, followed the smarter and less expensive Skydio 2 in 2019. Skydio closed $100 million in Series C funding in July 2020 to produce the X2 drone, which is specifically designed for enterprise and military customers and set to launch later this year.
The enterprise market likely holds the keys to Skydio’s future. The U.S. Interior Department, which oversees federal land and resource management, recently grounded its fleet of 800-plus drones due to cybersecurity concerns with drones manufactured in China or made from Chinese parts. The only drones to escape the nationwide grounding were a handful of emergency drones battling wildfires. Chinese giant DJI, for example, can no longer sell its drones to the U.S. government.
The U.S. military continues to evaluate Skydio’s X2 drone, recently moving it into the next phase of a program where it’s assessing drones for reconnaissance and surveillance (R&S) activities. Various reports also said Skydio already has contracts with the U.S. Air Force and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Skydio is also working with the U.S. Civil Air Patrol, the Ohio Department of Transportation, North Carolina Department of Transportation, Boston PD, and Sacramento Metro Fire Department, among many others.
Andreessen Horowitz led the Series D round. It also led the Series A. Linse Capital, Next47, and IVP, along with new investor UP.Partners, also participated in the Series D.
“The initial wave of hype around enterprise drones passed many years ago, but we’re now seeing these markets really mature,” said David Ulevitch, general partner at Andreessen Horowitz. “Autonomy is the key for drones to reach scale, and Skydio has established themselves as the defining company in this category. We’re excited to continue to invest in this magical combination of breakthrough technology, rapid growth, and an incredible team in a market that’s going through an inflection point.”
“Think of all the dangerous jobs requiring ladders, harnesses, or helicopters to do work that can now, with Skydio, be done much more safely and efficiently,” said Bastiaan Janmaat, partner at Linse Capital. “Autonomous drones will enable our aging infrastructure to be monitored much more effectively and our first responders will have greater situational awareness than ever before.”
“This is an important milestone for us as a company, but also for the U.S. drone industry,” said Adam Bry, CEO and co-founder, Skydio. “Together with our customers, we’re proving that a U.S. company can lead the way in this industry through AI and autonomy. Things are already pretty exciting, but we are just scratching the surface of what autonomous drones can do.”
U.S. regulators are also starting to ease restrictions around commercial drones. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) recently issued two new rules for U.S. drone operators. The FAA will allow small drones to operate at night and over people and will require remote identification of the drones.
And American Robotics recently became the first drone company approved by the FAA to operate automated drones without human operators on site. American Robotics CEO and co-founder Reese Mozer recently joined The Robot Report Podcast to discuss how these flights are vastly different from previous flights approved for beyond visual line of sight operations (BVLOS). You can listen to that podcast interview below.