PrecisionHawk, a drone startup founded in Raleigh, North Carolina in 2010, announced on Monday that it has purchased Chicago-based drone inspection company Uplift Data Partners. This is the fifth acquisition the company has made this year alone, following their purchase of Droners.io and Airvid in the first half of 2018 and HAZON Inc. and InspecTools in September.
PrecisionHawk is one of many drone enterprise solutions that have become prevalent in the commercial drone market. The company provides inspection, assessment, and analysis in the fields of agriculture, construction, energy, insurance, search and rescue, infrastructure, and emergency response. Their network – most of which come from Droners.io – includes more than 15,000 commercially-trained drone pilots.
Uplift was formed in 2015 as a fully integrated subsidiary of Clayco, a large architectural engineering and construction firm. Now, they will only work for PrecisionHawk. “As we’ve started to see real pickup in the construction and BIM [Building Information Modeling] facilities space,” PrecisionHawk CEO Michael Chasen explained to a writer from Robotics Business Review, “We wanted to be able to make sure we can very quickly go after this emerging opportunity we’re seeing. Who’s the best player out there? It’s Uplift Data Partners…This is another combination that just makes sense.”
Chasen also added that PrecisionHawk makes so many acquisitions because they want to bring on the depth of understanding that comes from people like Suzanne El-Moursi, the former Uplift CEO who will now serve as the director of construction on PrecisionHawk’s executive leadership team. “Having people with that deep bench of knowledge, we’re able to create algorithms and machine learning, so our business in that space has evolved from basic aerial images to doing a lot of the analysis.”
In other words, even though PrecisionHawk certainly has the capital to start dedicating some of their drone operations to the construction space, Uplift will help them get the new business “off the ground” much faster and more efficiently than the North Carolina-based startup could on its own.
In the United States, commercial drone piloting of the kind performed by these companies only became legal in 2016, so it’s remarkable how fast the industry has grown. The utilities and construction industries alone will spend 1.733 billion dollars on enterprise drone solutions this year, according to analyst firm IDC. PrecisionHawk and other members of the UAS Integration Pilot Program are lobbying the FAA for weakened restrictions that will help the industry grow even further, especially the requirement that pilots of commercial drones remain within line of sight of their aircraft at all times.
“In particular, once they approve true beyond visual line of sight flying, I think it will be a game-changer for the industry,” Chasen said. “The commercial drone industry only became legal in August 2016, so of course, people are just now figuring out how to use drone technology. I think you’re going to see 2019 being the year of the drone.”
Is Chasen right? Will enterprise use of drones become a bigger part of the market than consumer drone companies like DJI, Parrot, and Altair Aerial? And what of PrecisionHawk itself – do you think its massive and rapid growth is a good thing for the industry, or cause for concern? Be sure to share your thoughts in the comments below!