Drone startup Airware raises $25M Series B to build out its staff

Airware drone

Drones are complex; they are flying robots after all. But Airware wants to simplify their adoption in just about any industry–from mining to oil to wildlife conservation–with a tiny little box that can adapt drones to work with all kinds of software and hardware.

The startup announced today that it has raised $25 million in a Series B funding round it will use to hire engineering, sales, marketing and customer support employees. It already employs around 50 people in a new San Francisco office it moved into this year.

The Airware office in San Francisco's SoMa neighborhood. Airware makes and tests its hardware in the basement. Photo by Signe Brewster.

The Airware office in San Francisco’s SoMa neighborhood. Airware makes and tests its hardware in the basement. Photo by Signe Brewster.

Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers led the round. Additional funding came from Andreessen Horowitz and First Round Capital. Airware raised a $12.2 million Series A round in 2013 from Andreessen Horowitz, Google Ventures, First Round Capital and Felicis Ventures.

Airware founder and CEO Jonathan Downey said in an interview that he views the funding as continued validation for the company, plus a sign of traction among the early customers it is working with ahead of its full commercial launch later this year.

Airware founder and CEO Jonathan Downey with an Airware-equipped drone. Photo by Signe Brewster.

Airware founder and CEO Jonathan Downey with an Airware-equipped drone. Photo by Signe Brewster.

“Building and operating commercial drones is extremely complex and could be radically simplified with a common, flexible platform, ” KPCB general partner and newly appointed Airware board member Mike Abbott said in a release.  “Airware recognized early the opportunity to apply drone intelligence to commercial applications, and is now at the forefront of an industry that will soon experience rapid global expansion.”

The commercial launch vaguely slated for later this year centers around a small box that fits into drones. It communicates between software programs, the drone itself and added hardware like sensors and cameras to make it easier to add new capabilities without totally rebuilding a drone.

A Delta Drone UAV equipped with Airware's hardware. Photo by Signe Brewster.

A Delta Drone UAV equipped with Airware’s hardware. Photo by Signe Brewster.

Downey founded Airware in 2011 and has since begun working with early-stage customers like Delta Drone and Cyber Technology. Airware’s drones have been used for anti-poaching efforts in Kenya and to test medicine delivery for MIT. The startup’s website lists agriculture, infrastructure monitoring, mining and humanitarian campaigns as other applications.

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