How High Will Airobotics’ Drone Fly?

How High Will Airobotics’ Drone Fly?

By Assaf Gilad and Dan Schwartzman

Is it a plane or a bird? Neither. It’s actually Airobotics autonomous drone – perhaps the most flexible autonomous drone today. Its ability to fulfill a multitude of missions and stay as long as possible in the air, according to a Zirra’s series of research reports on Drone companies, is what makes this product so impressive.

Airobotics offers an end-to-end automated industrial drone platform, tailored for inspection of complex industrial environments including mining, seaports, factories, oil, and gas. The system contains airbase landing dock, drones and software enables mission planning with repeatable pre-programmed flight scheduling, eliminating the need for a drone pilot or operator.

Using Airobotics’ end-to-end platform, companies can set up an airbase on their property and benefit from having a drone present at all times for tasks like surveillance, equipment inspections, inventory calculations, mapping, and other functions. The Airobotics solution is automated, meaning no drone operator is needed, and a drone can be launched at any time with no delay, or be scheduled for pre-set missions.

Airobotic’s advantage over the others, or its IP, is found in its secretive landing mechanism (It’s for drones to take off, much harder to land at an exact spot). While the Verge called Airobotics’ airbase “the most high-tech landing pad, we’ve seen from a drone company yet.”

Another valuable IP, the company, holds relates to its charging system, a set of mechanical devices that allows the drone to land, replace a battery, and take off instantly after. Airobotics even employs execs from Better Place, a company that tried to develop electric cars with a battery replacing mechanism.

**This post is based on a series of deep analysis reports dedicated to drone companies. If you wish to order a deep analysis report on a startup company, search it and order the report here **

Unclarity About the Drone Market

The first impression of the worldwide drone market is that of climbing in a right, 45 degree line. After all, there are more drones in the sky: in social events, in parties, and maybe in your neighbor’s yard. Amazon Prime Air launches a new development or a trial each day, and more and more e-commerce retailers join the effort to develop a fleet of delivery drones of their own.

But this picture is somehow misleading. The consumer drones market has been taken over by Chinese giant DJI, pushing aside American 3D Robotics to pivot from drones producing software. Dozens of drone companies had to shut down or pivot. Even Alphabet had pulled out from its plans to beam the Internet from the sky using its Titan drone program, and Facebook has been struggling with its similar project, Aquila.

The drone delivery market is still in its cradle thanks to the lack of proper regulation and the immaturity of the delivery drones, short of adequate reliability, such that will make them safe from falling from the sky while delivering a pizza.

Is the drone market growing? It depends on who you ask.

The market in which Airobotics operates, the industrial UAV drone market, is highly competitive. However, it is open to a large range of industries, including defense, agriculture, land management, energy, and construction, creating a larger market base.

According to PWC, the total addressable value of drone-powered solutions in applicable industries is estimated at over $127 billion in 2016. That figure represents the value of businesses and labor in eight industries that may be replaced by drones, including energy, roads, railways, and oil and gas. For instance, key drone applications in infrastructure like investment monitoring, maintenance, and asset inventory are estimated to represent a $45 billion of the total $127 billion addressable drone market.

Current estimates expect the market revenue from drone sales to grow from $10.1B in 2015 to $14.9B by 2020. According to a report published by MarketsandMarkets, the UAV market is forecasted to reach $28.27B by 2022 growing at a CAGR of 13.51%.

A drone takes off at Airobotic’s HQ in Petah-Tikva

The belief is that growth in revenue for the industrial drone market will outpace that of the consumer drone market, once regulations have opened up. However research firm IBISWorld see the things differently. According to the company, revenue for the UAV industry soared to a peak in 2010 but has since sharply declined in about 8% from 2010 to 2015 in the US due to a decrease in primary combat missions and congressional efforts to shrink the US federal budget deficit. However, in the next five years leading up to 2020, the relaxation of regulations on the export and commercial use of drones is expected to provide new growth opportunities for the industry.

DJI – and all the rest

Chinese drone manufacturer DJI dominates the drone market, with 70% market share. Other companies struggle to match DJI’s prices, and as a result, have chosen to focus on software or drone add-ons rather than compete with DJI on hardware. 3D Robotics, once DJI’s American competitor, had run out of the drone manufacturing business, had to shut down its production line and pivoted into a software. Autodesk now invests in the company to turn it into a flying scanner. 3D provides now a fully autonomous drone with a Sony camera and software, scanning a construction or manufacturing site, and building a CAD plan. In that way, 3D Robotics may escape a fierce competition with DJI, just to compete directly with a bunch of other full-stack drone startups, such as Kespry, DroneDeploy, and Airobotics.

While Airobotics has raised $28.5M, competitor DroneDeploy has raised $31M, Kespry has $28.35M in funding, and Skycatch has raised $46.67M to build an app to automate data capture, map territories, and enhance flight control. 3D Robotics has received $126.08M in funding, but spent most of it on an unsuccessful drone and have since pivoted to just doing software. In their recent re-incarnation, they have raised $26.7 million in debt and warrants.

But Airobotics is not merely a software company, although it has some proprietary flight management and cloud system. Much of Airobotics’ solution focuses on high-end and expensive hardware. Therefore, the effectiveness of the company’s complete end-to-end solution may convince some large industrial customers to pay the higher prices.

Software companies compensate for the lack of hardware through partnerships, such as Swiss drone producer senseFly signing an agreement with agricultural data gathering software company MicaSense and US drone services company Airware acquiring French drone analytics company Redbird as well as partnering with DJI for hardware. Through these partnerships, some companies that offer much less complete solutions than Airobotics can provide bundled services that compete more fully, often at lower prices.

There are some signs of consolidation in the drone industry, as evidenced by Airware’s acquisition of Redbird and Verizon buying drone operations company Skyward. However, Airobotics’ focus on an end-to-end solution may lessen their chances of being acquired by another company looking for particular expertise or products and may mean that the firm’s main path is to grow and compete with other industry leaders on their own.

Airobotics’ workshop

Pricing

There are doubts in the industry about Airobotic’s pricing and the viability of competing with market leader DJI in the drone hardware market. Airobotics does not publicize pricing, but our sources agree on the fact that Airobotics’ solution is expensive.

WIRED magazine wrote that Airobotics charges a monthly fee of “tens of thousands of dollars per unit” – for the drone, its software and servicing. In comparison, the DJI Phantom 4 PRO is considered one of the most advanced drones available (although it is mostly for consumer use) and is priced at $1,499, although this price is just a one-time payment for the drone itself. Pricing is unclear. But Airware, a company that presented a commercial drone for industrial use cases, is pricing its drones at $2,500 per drone per year.

It’s the regulation, stupid

Regulations are a continuing issue for drones. The company has noted that it currently works with clients on private property and that the regulation for operating in public spaces is still too limiting for the time being.

However, The Civil Aviation Authority of Israel (CAAI) was the first in the world to authorize commercial, entirely unmanned drone flight in their nation’s airspace, and it gave Airobotics the first license ever to do so. With this license, Airobotics will be the world’s first drone company to enjoy the freedom to fly autonomous drones for business purposes, on-site and on condition, the drone does not cross the customer’s facility’s borders. In the country, Airobotics already operates some drones in ICL factory in the Dead Sea, mapping phosphate piles, and securing Intel’s facilities in Kiryat Gat. However, the company’s growth in the U.S is restricted until the FAA will not solve the problem in the same way Israel did it.

The future of industrial drones… Delivering a pizza?

Airobotics and the entire commercial drone industry sees mining, oil & gas, seaports, and other industrial facilities as their primary target markets. In the long term, Co-Founder & CEO Ran Krauss has spoken of drones like theirs eventually being used in cities, initially in functions like emergency response, and eventually in everyday commercial use in services like package delivery, precise mapping for autonomous cars, real estate, and construction.

The industrial drone market is promising and is just opening up, as regulations develop and drones become more accepted. Additionally, Airobotics and their products have received positive reviews. However, the company has only worked with a limited number of customers and is seen as relatively expensive. To succeed, it is likely Airobotics will have to focus on lowering costs and gaining market share by adding a significant number of large customers in the industrial sector.

This post is based on a series of deep analysis reports dedicated to drone companies. If you wish to order a deep analysis report on a startup click here, search a company and order the report.

**This post is based on a series of deep analysis reports dedicated to drone companies. If you wish to order a deep analysis report on a startup company, search it and order the report here **

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