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Drone

Techcrunch reports on the closure of Airware. The company in its own words –

Airware offers a cloud-based platform to manage, process, view, analyze and collaborate around data for insurance, property management, mining, quarrying, and construction. The Platform is the foundation for our industry-specific solutions and provides the simplicity, security, and scalability that enterprises require to turn aerial data into business insights.

In 2013 then CEO Jonathan Downey spoke at our show, sUSB Expo.

Please forgive the audio, remember back then nobody else released free video from their conferences!

Jonathan founded Airware in 2011 and stood down as CEO last year being replaced by COO Yvonne Wassenaar. They had already laid off 40 staff, so perhaps the writing was on the wall. Earlier in 2017, Caterpillar, senseFly and Luckstone had partnered with Airware, I thought then that the layoffs might have then just been part of a restructuring.

Airware was founded at a time when the sky was the limit and software and Silicon Valley was going to push regulators aside and create a brave new world.

The pivot from hardware to software was a wise one, but other players had already entered that space.

I can’t help feeling that Airware was one of the first to start, and has ended up as one of the first to burn up all their VC money.

Stormy Waters

Back in the heady days of 2012 and 2013 being a drone driver was still unusual. We had not had the full DJI effect yet. Anybody could bamboozle companies with some dodgy imagery and infographics.

Many aerial mapping companies stood up on that basis.

When I say mapping, I mean people that had no formal training using cloud-based services to provide stitched images that looked good with no value add or survey grade sign off.

I see two threats to VC funded bolt-on services.

Moving forward to 2018, the CEO of Big Corp and his or her children might own a Spark or Mavic, they know how straightforward it is to acquire the imagery.

It’s not special geek magic anymore.

Big Corp doesn’t like the idea of other people knowing how quickly and where exactly and what contractors they are using to build the next Big Corp building.

It’s much easier for them to buy airframes and train some engineers to fly in order to keep all the data in-house.

They have the skills so do not need online services.

At the lower end of the market, operators are coming under pressure from expectations being driven by Big Corp and the upper end of the market. Big Corp is using equipment and obtaining accuracy that Mom and Pop Co can only dream of.

Smaller clients, Little Corp, have read about such accuracies and think it’s the minimum. Mom and Pop Co are not qualified surveyors, they face difficult questions from clients about accuracy. If a local qualified surveyor’s group finds them working they are sending cease and desist letters.

Mom and Pop change the wording they are not selling maps or volumes they are selling establishment imaging or progress shots.

Little Corp can use their own DJI gear for that.

People entering the industry have noticed this and as such fewer people are entering the industry.

Almost certainly not enough to keep VC funded companies depending on a steady flow of new users afloat.

Users that either come and fail or move on to more professional closed data secure forms of operation.

I am sorry to see Airware go, but this is perhaps the first of many dominoes to fall.

Silicon Valley has not moved aviation and survey regulations out of the way.