Autonomous drone startup Skydio raises $100 million and launches the X2 commercial drone

Skydio has raised a $100 million Series C funding round, which was led by Next47 and includes participation from other new investors Levitate Capital and NTT DOCOMO Ventures, as well as existing investors a16z, IVP and Playground. This new funding will help the drone maker move faster on its product development efforts, and expand its go-to-market strategy to cover not only consumer applications, but also enterprise and public sector drone technology, the company says. To serve the market, Skydio also launched the X2 family of drone hardware today, which is designed for commercial use.

Founded in 2014, Skydio has raised $170 million total and launched two consumer-focused drones to date, both of which employ artificial intelligence technology to give them autonomous navigation capabilities. This means their drones can actively track objects and people, while simultaneously avoiding potential collisions with objects, including trees, power lines and other obstacles. The end result is video that looks like it was recorded by a professional film crew in a helicopter, but available to the general consumer market in a sub-$1,000 price point.

The first Skydio drone, the R1, was launched in 2018, and retailed for $2,499. Its intelligence and tracking capabilities were impressive, and were later improved via software updates and the second-generation hardware, which launched last year and is currently available for order.

Skydio’s new X2 drone platform is designed for enterprise use, and will ship in Q4 of this year, according to the company. It includes an onboard 360-degree superzoom camera, a FLIR 320×256 resolution thermal imaging camera, a battery life of 35 minutes of flying time and a maximum range of 6.2 miles. There’s also a Skydio Enterprise Controller for the drone, which has a touchscreen, hardware controls and a protective hood to block glare.

The move from consumer to enterprise makes a lot of sense for Skydio; the same collision avoidance features and easy piloting for which the company has received praise in the consumer world are very applicable in enterprise use. The company says that its close-proximity avoidance tech, which allows for very tight tolerances in flight, make it a great candidate for doing things like remote infrastructure and equipment inspection, where having a person do those would be dangerous or impossible.

X2 can also capture 180-degree images directly above itself, which makes it uniquely capable of inspecting bridge spans and other overhead construction from a different perspective than is offered by many rotor-drones like this one. And the infrared coverage means it can operate day and night, and provide heat-maps of targets.

Skydio will still serve the consumer market as well, but this progression throughout its brief history is likely a very attractive one for investors: The company went from an expensive, but highly capable, consumer product accessible only to a few individuals, to a much more accessibly priced but still high-tech offering, and now appears to be turning the economies it has realized in its tech to the potentially much more lucrative enterprise hardware and software arena.

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