One of Silicon Valley’s most heavily funded drone companies, Airware, has ceased trading. The San Francisco-based drone startup is ceasing operations immediately.
Airware ran out of money after trying to manufacture its own hardware that couldn’t compete with drone giants like China’s DJI. Airware had developed cloud software system that helps enterprise customers like construction companies, mining operations, and insurance companies use drones to collect and analyze aerial data.
Airware launched its own Commercial Drone Fund for investing in the drone market back in 2015, and acquired 38-person drone analytics startup Redbird in 2016 in the pre-AI boom. However, over a period of time, commercial drone hardware from other manufacturers overtook Airware making it irrelevant, which eventually led to layoffs over the past two years, culminating in today’s shutdown. Airware confirmed the shut down answering a TechCrunch’s inquiry with this statement:
“History has taught us how hard it can be to call the timing of a market transition. We have seen this play out first hand in the commercial drone marketplace. We were the pioneers in this market and one of the first to see the power drones could have in the commercial sector. Unfortunately, the market took longer to mature than we expected.”
Founded in 2011 by Jonathan Downey, Airware first built an autopilot system for programming drones to help in data collection. Later it attempted building its own drones before propagating the efficient application of drones to its clients. The company went through a series of business transitions and began building entire drones, and later pivoted to a company that would consult other companies on enterprise applications. According to Airware’s own blog post, they were “pioneers in this market and one of the first to see the power drones could have in the commercial sector.”
Only 5 months ago Airware acquired Item 9 Labs, a diversification from their core business of drone tech and a move into cannabis products.
At the time Bryce Skalla, Co-Founder & CEO of Item 9 Labs, commented, “We are pleased to have closed on our transaction with Airware Labs. Item 9 will utilize Airware Labs proprietary technology to create a first to market medicated nasal delivery device that provides specific cannabinoid dosing utilizing the nasal mucus-membrane”.
The sudden shutdown prompted Airware to open a Tokyo headquarters alongside an investment and partnership from Mitsubishi just four days ago.