RALEIGH – Drone technology and services startup PrecisionHawk is taking off to target another business sector with its fifth acquisition in recent months.

And the Raleigh-based firm is prepared to capitalize on opportunities with a growing network of more than 15,000 drone pilots who work as contractors.

“You need drone pilots across the United States to capitalize on opportunities and to service clients,” says PrecisionHawk Michael Chasen in an interview with WRAL TechWire. The company’s Droners.io, which was acquired earlier this year, was launched in order to get PrecisionHawk the certified operators it acquired as an acquisition strategy enabled by investment capital spurred the acquisition binge.

“We have a lot of momentum, and we are pursuing a lot of opportunities,” Chasen, who was named CEO in January of 2017, says.

Founded in 2010 as the private sector drone industry began to gain traction, PrecisionHawk raised a whopping $75 million in January. Chasen has grown the company’s workforce to 150 (“We’re always adding people,” he says), but rather than added hundreds of workers and pilots he chosen to invest in acquiring companies that already served business markets he saw as potential growth targets.

PrecisionHawk graphic

Drone industry growth

Thus today PrecisionHawk disclosed the acquisition of Uplift Data Partners, which was part of Clayco, a large architecture, engineering, design-build and construction firms which has $2 billion in annual revenues.

The fledgling unit thus becomes part of PrecisionHawk’s construction business initiative. And Chasen stresses that he sees construction/infrastructure as a “multi-billion-dollar opportunity.” “We needed expertise in that market,” he added. Thus, the deal.

And as an added benefit, Clayco has signed an exclusive contract project agreement with Clayco.

Neither financial terms of the acquisition nor the Clayco contract were disclosed.

The Clayco deal helps PrecisionHawk’s “go-to-market stratgegy” in construction and “provides a substantial number of clients as well” in addition to a skilled group of workers and construction/design-forced technology, Chasen says in explaining the rationale for the deal.

In the announcement, Clayco CEO Bob Clark describes PrecisionHawk as “leading the drone market by combining superior technology with deep expertise in the markets that they serve.” He adds that Clayco customers “gain access to a new level of technological sophistication for more scalable and robust operations.”

PrecisionHawk has cited a Goldman Sachs Research report that sees $13 billion being spent on drones through 2020 as just one indicator of the growth opportunity for the industry. Longer term, PrecisionHawk notes that PricewaterhouseCoopers forecasts drones and related services as a $100 billion-plus market.

In September, PrecisionHawk made moves into the utility sector, acquiring Hazon, which also utilizes drones, and InspecTools, a provider of software and data analysis tools. Hazon is based in Virginia; InspecTools in California.

PrecisionHawk also is targeting the energy sector for growth. “There is a LOT of interest in the energy sector,” Chasen says.

The company quickly emerged as a technology and services leader, playing key roles in securing federal FAA approve for usage of drones in the private sector.