Last month, PRIME welcomed top executives from the newly created Parisian Drone Cluster. The cluster is located in the Essonne County (Paris Region), on a former military airbase. With dedicated flight areas and a real estate offer, the cluster provides favorable conditions for UAV companies to grow their business.
The ambition is to become the Paris reference site for the drone industry. The Parisian Drone Cluster bridges together all players across the value chain (companies, operators, R&D, training) and supporting services such as incubation and acceleration for startups, Fablabs, and networking opportunities. The Cluster also maintains close relations with public institutions and contributes to evolving regulations around drones and UAVs.
The goal of the expedition in Silicon Valley was to meet with key players and Bay Area companies to exchange on the drone industry in France and in the US, as well as discuss opportunities with the new Cluster.
France: pioneer in commercial drone regulation
France has highly advanced regulations around commercial drone use and was one of the first countries to regulate this space in 2012. This has enabled the sector take-off, in particular in relation to end-user drone applications. For example, pilots in the US are required to maintain visual contact with their aircraft, while businesses in France can fly drones within and beyond a pilot’s line of sight. In the US, although there are many companies developing solutions and applications for the drone industry, they have not been deployed as much due to limited regulation. The FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) is currently working on a proposal to regulate the drone industry, which should be released in 2016.
In 2015, drone companies have started to launch funds to invest in flying robots. DJI and Accel Partners created SkyFund, a $10 million investment fund for early stage drone startups. Airware announced the Commercial Drone Fund, which will invest $250,000 to $1 million in dozens of early stage startups that are building out other components of the enterprise drone ecosystem.
Funding in drone companies is pretty evenly split between hardware, platforms, and software services. The next big step is clear and it’s all about data analytics. Drone companies will need to build turnkey solutions for dedicated applications and markets: inspection and monitoring, mapping and surveying, and precision agriculture are the main targets. To answer these needs, computer vision, machine intelligence, data processing and analytics, as well as predictive analytics are the key areas upon which startups will build their groundbreaking technologies.