Detroit-based Airspace Link has positioned itself as a provider of increasingly critical infrastructure in the growing drone services space, giving operators quick local and federal approval. With $23 million in new backing, the company now plans to take its platform to other countries that want to get their drone industries off the ground.
The company’s main offering is an online service that helps anyone working with UAVs obtain FAA permission to fly, showing that the necessary safety protocols are in place. This process, like any form of red tape, is especially difficult for startups and individuals to manage, and even larger companies with compliance teams will want to make it easier.
“The drone industry beyond sight, things like food delivery, has been held back by it,” CEO Michael Heillander said. “We all know that drones can do these things, but there is no integration into the national infrastructure. Operators are building their systems to prove that they have radar and surveillance systems, with the potential to crash on people.” To count, on critical infrastructure… you have to make a security case for the FAA.
Airspace Link partially automates this process, tracking ground-based infrastructure such as radar coverage, notable other flights and assets in the area, and so on.
“Our goal is to tell the operator, ‘There’s a crop duster coming to your area, so stand up, and here’s a place to land,'” Heilander said. But unlike other companies that market their services as software for drone pilots, Airspace Link is establishing itself as an infrastructure provider at the state and local levels.
“Municipalities are white-labeling Airspace Link platforms and saying, ‘This is Michigan’s system.’ You’re not proving your security case to the FAA – the state is providing that service,” he explained. For a fee, sure, but that’s a convenience fee, not a fee for airspace use – if you want to do your paperwork, you can. CFO Bill Johnson thinks local governments are looking for a way to turn this from a line item into a revenue generator.
“The way roads are used – we are enabling economic activity in that region, we are enabling partners and technological advancement. Everyone in the ecosystem stands to benefit from this advancement,” They said.
This will only increase if FAA regulations continue to clamp down on drone operations, most notably a mandate starting in September (with a penalty a year later) that all drones broadcast their location. That’s something that promises to come with a lot more for service providers in this area, and it’s part of why the company is raising money.
“The reason we’re stepping on gas is because it’s a tiny bit of land grab in the next four years. And we’re trying to do it before people understand How We’re doing it,” Heilander said. That is to say, instead of selling to individuals and companies building themselves into the government pipeline as infrastructure.
“We are going to put gasoline in some areas to expand here in the US, but global expansion is the main reason we pulled capital up. Many countries want things like this and drone companies are going global as well,” He continued.
As an example he suggested the United Arab Emirates, where after years of lax drone regulations, the country abruptly banned all drone operations pending new policies a few months ago. Following companies such as the FAA (which oversees most drone research and commerce) and Airspace Link are the easiest and quickest route for these countries, which, like any state or city, want to explore the possibilities of UAV services. .
Airspace Link is partnering with Thales, a global airspace monitoring company, and ESRI, the location data giant, to make sure they can roll out a product in places like Dubai, which is their It is not easy to adapt and localize despite the demand. product to.
The $23.1 million B round was led by Avanta Ventures, the VC arm of CSAA Insurance Group — representing another category with an interest in easing red tape and measuring risk. Ultimately something like an airspace link can be a contributor or a requirement for insurance policies. The round also included investments from Morningside, Caprock, Altos Ventures, Indicator Ventures, 2048 Ventures, Detroit Venture Partners and Thales Group.
The company is now rapidly recruiting close to 50 employees, and expects to grow even more rapidly as it pursues the next phase of its ambitions. “If we want to go global, we have to build a global team,” Heilander said.