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Josh Ziering: Kittyhawk Forges Ahead With $5M Funding from Bonfire Ventures, Boeing HorizonX

Co-founders of Kittyhawk.io

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Josh Ziering: Kittyhawk Forges Ahead With $5M Funding from Bonfire Ventures, Boeing HorizonX

Josh Ziering: Kittyhawk Forges Ahead With $5M Funding from Bonfire Ventures, Boeing HorizonX

California-based full stack drone startup Kittyhawk.io has until now laid low in the funding arena. Founded in 2015, the company has been riding on the seat of their pants with a miniscule $1.5 million in funding.

All this is changing however, with co-founders Jonathan Hegranes and Joshua Ziering announcing this morning that they have successfully raised $5 million in funding to expand Kittyhawk’s capabilities as a full stack enterprise drone solution.

Led by Santa Monica-based seed fund Bonfire Ventures, the funding round also includes Boeing HorizonX Ventures, and Freestyle Capital, as well as a return investment from The Flying Object.

Kittyhawk’s strength lies in their ability to recognise the evolution of the enterprise drone market.

With an ever increasing amount of companies wanting to bring their drone programs in-house, a multitude of solutions, license agreements, and support procedures have sprung up, that as a result present data security concerns.

Kittyhawk’s vision of a one-size-fits-all enterprise drone solution that brings together all aspects of the drone ecosystem – the mission, the drone, and the data – addresses this.

Along with an impressive customer base, the startup is now like bees to honey for investors including Jim Andelman, Managing Partner at Bonfire Ventures.

“We were blown away by the quality of Kittyhawk’s enterprise customer base: Fortune 500 companies who themselves are leading the way in enterprise UAS adoption,” he said.

“We were impressed by not only this current level of traction but also by the team’s thoughtfulness about the coming evolution of this industry. With their degree of forethought and vision, we’re confident that Kittyhawk will be well positioned to continue to lead the way. They’re two steps ahead of how we heard everyone else thinking about this space.”

Assembled from top talents in the aviation and technology sectors, the Kittyhawk team is focused on the development of a single platform that will allow enterprises to manage the people, the aircraft, analytics and insights, as well as ensuring compliance to meet safety requirements and ROI.

Kittyhawk Web Dashboard

Kittyhawk Web Dashboard

The partnership with Boeing will enable Kittyhawk to further work towards the cultivation of a UAS Traffic Management System (UTM) that will offer a level playing field for commercial customers.

“When paired with the broad portfolio of complementary data service offerings within Boeing, Kittyhawk is poised to help us shape the future of safe autonomous flight,” said Brian Schettler, Managing Director of Boeing HorizonX Ventures. “Boeing’s partnership with Kittyhawk on the FAA Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC) program heralds the continued maturation of the commercial drone industry. We are excited to continue to explore new capabilities made possible through foresight, expertise and a focus on holistic solutions that support the safe integration of unmanned systems into the national airspace.”

Kittyhawk’s collaboration with Boeing on the LAANC is just the start, albeit an important and integral stepping stone towards what co-founder Josh Ziering envisions could eventually become a global drone solution. We caught Josh to find out more:

How do you see Kittyhawk utilising the funding to expand their enterprise solutions?

Kittyhawk has taken a very contrarian approach to funding in the drone industry. As the industry was maturing, we raised as little money as we could in order to try and grow with it, particularly as customers were still determining their needs. Now that the enterprise drone market is maturing and companies are moving their drone operations in-house by training their existing employees, Kittyhawk is in an excellent position to address this market. We’ll be adding in functionality for the enterprise like built-in sensor data processing, improved reporting, and even an AI called Hawkeye to help managers address flights that are out of the ordinary and may require additional scrutiny.

Will the Kittyhawk/Jeppesen collaboration on the LAANC be an integral part of this? How is this expected to play out?

The Kittyhawk/Jeppesen collaboration is going to enable Kittyhawk to offer LAANC well before the FAA rolls out LAANC to the new USS suppliers. This allows Kittyhawk to offer LAANC alongside the prototype members picked by the FAA like Airmap, X, Rockwell Collins and Amazon. This will let Kittyhawk enterprise users have a cohesive experience for getting authorizations that they’ve come to expect from a full stack enterprise drone solution like Kittyhawk.

How will Boeing’s expertise and data offerings enrich Kittyhawk?

As the largest aviation company in the world, Boeing and Jeppesen have robust data sets that we’ll be able to leverage. As Kittyhawk continues to expand beyond just the United States, we’ll be leveraging Boeing broad international data sets and expertise to provide value to enterprises in the US and abroad.

What are the broad hopes/outcomes for the evolution of the commercial drone ecosystem?

A day is coming where drones are going to be boring. The public is not going to bat an eye on aircraft autonomously moving above them. Drones will be quietly, and sustainably providing value to people without them ever knowing it. Enterprises will become more efficient, jobs get safer, and the commercial drone ecosystem continues to grow, unfettered. Behind it all are robust open standards and interoperable services that abstract away the complexities for autonomous aircraft to quietly thrive as a monstrously large industry.

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