HH Some Drone Startups Crash, While Others Take Off
For years we’ve been told that soon, flying drones will deliver packages, tend farmers’ fields and even secure borders.
But the only drones most of us see today are toys deployed by hobbyists at local soccer fields. And lately it seems like the only drone startups making news are doing so for the wrong reasons.
Case in point, Lily Robotics. In early 2015, Lily racked up more than $34 million in pre-orders from consumers. The key to the company’s successful campaign was a video showing off its prototype’s remarkable video-capturing aerobatics. Unfortunately, that video was apparently a fraud. It was shot on a Chinese-made DJI drone with a GoPro camera, not Lily’s own build.
And just this week, Lily’s headquarters were raided by San Francisco law enforcement as part of a criminal investigation, as reported by the San Francisco Business Times.
Fortunately, customers were refunded for their Lily pre-orders. Venture capitalists who put $14 million into the company, however, were not so lucky.
Steering Clear of Drone Makers
Despite the demise of several prominent drone startups, the future is bright for flying robots.
However, the best investment opportunities won’t be in companies building mass market drones. For now that ship has sailed, and China’s DJI is the winner.
DJI sold around $1.4 billion worth of drones last year. Its product quality is extremely high, and it has the scale to price out even well-funded competitors like GoPro.
I’m not holding my breath for the next great drone maker investment to come along. What I am looking for is companies building promising commercial drone solutions. Companies that will use drones in unique ways that increase efficiency and productivity.
Let’s take a look at an example.
One of the most promising applications of drone tech is security. Today’s drones are fast, maneuverable and capable of taking high-resolution video from miles away.