Small form UAVs have arrived, that much is certain. Walk around Palo Alto and you’ll see at least 1-2 hovering at any point in time (safely in the backyards of their owners, of course!). And these aren’t just Brookstone toys. We’re talking powerful, software-driven machines that can fly long distances, carrying all sorts of sensors and cameras to beam home rich data and imagery. These “drones” have the potential to impact a wide variety of industries, from film and production, to surveying and GIS, insurance, construction, mining, and even oil & gas. Many enterprises have deployed UAVs today and many more are unpacking their potential – in addition to the thousands of entrepreneurs and hobbyists working on big, audacious use cases and applications.
But we’re a ways away from drones becoming a standard part of our skyline. For one, we’re in the first innings of their deployment. Drones are becoming sturdier, more powerful and cheaper by the month, driven by the R&D of some tremendous new hardware brands. But secondly, UAVs are missing an important piece of software. “Obstacle avoidance,” or the ability to intelligently navigate random terrain, is crucial to ensuring the safety of operators and citizens alike. Without it, we’re beholden to pilot skill (and error), and drones as a movement may never get off the ground.
Today, we’re announcing our seed investment in Skydio, an obstacle intelligence and navigation software startup aiming to make drones intuitive, safe, and easy to operate. We love funding companies that are working on important problems, and Skydio certainly fits that bill. As founding engineers of the Google[x] Wing Project and MIT grad students, they’re exactly the sort of raw, passionate founder-engineers to tackle this critical part of the UAV “stack.”
We’re big believers in the future of drones. But in order for them to be useful, they’ll need to safely coexist with us – our land, our people, and our structures. Adam, Abe and Matt are working to power a much brighter future for UAVs – oh, and they look pretty cool doing it.