RALEIGH – PrecisionHawk Inc., a  Triangle-based drone technology company, has raised a $32 million investment from venture investors including Millennium Technology Value Partners, Third Point Ventures, Eastward Capital Partners, and others. The round brings PrecisionHawks financing  so far to more than $100 million.

PrecisionHawk CEO Michael Chasen tells WRAL TechWire the company has had 100 percent year-over-year growth for two years. It has 140 employees currently, but he notes that’s a deceptive figure since it employs a network of many thousands more, including drone pilots.

PrecisionHawk focuses on drones used to monitor energy, agriculture, and telecom spaces. It puts drones to work doing tasks that have previously needed persons to eyeball fields, cell towers, or equipment.

The financing will fuel continued innovation in PrecisionHawk’s software tool, PrecisionAnalytics that uses artificial intelligence/machine learning, to help enterprises better utilize data collected by drones to solve business challenges. The financing will also accelerate sales initiatives and further market expansion, the company said.

It has also had strategic investments from enterprise customers and partners including Comcast Ventures, DuPont, NTT Docomo, and Yamaha Motor.

“Investments such as this one underscore the tremendous potential of the UAS industry to deliver new applications and services across business sectors,” said Brian Wynne, president and CEO of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) in a statement.. “The demand for UAS technology is remarkable and demonstrates the great confidence investors have in a solid and growing market for years to come.”

The market for commercial drones is expected to reach $13 billion by 2025.

“We are excited to continue our support of PrecisionHawk during this next phase of its growth. The feedback from customers has been very promising and we believe PrecisionHawk is well positioned to capitalize on the huge market opportunity ahead of it,” said Sam Schwerin, co-founder and managing partner of Millennium Technology Value Partners in the financing announcement.

“PrecisionHawk’s powerful PrecisionAnalytics software applies the latest generation of artificial intelligence to aerial data unlocking the data’s potential to accelerate and optimize work for the enterprise.”

Some of the world’s largest organizations, including five of the top 10 utility companies, the largest provider of communications infrastructure in the United States and the “Big Six” providers of seed and agricultural chemicals, rely on PrecisionHawk to help them apply innovative drone hardware, software and services to address critical business challenges. From managing asset inventory to measuring the health of telecommunications towers.

photo cutesy of PrecisionHawk.

Drones replace formerly time-consuming and inefficient tasks, Chasen said. Farmers would have to walk acres of fields, for instance, and cell phone inspectors risk life and limb to check out towers, Drone inspections with AI software make those tasks much more effective due the company’s AI software.

Its software can recognize and evaluate 40 different crops in farm fields, he notes. “It can see where there is damage, a need for hydration, or spot pest infestations, he said..

The company, which hired more than 100 people in the first quarter of this year, expects to raise its head count to 350 Chasen told WRAL TechWire in May..It has moved into its new headquarters over Raleigh’s Milk Bar where it has room to grow.

PrecisionHawk CEO: “We’re seeing over 100 percent growth year on year”

The commercial drone industry has grown faster than anticipated and the FAA forecasts that it could triple between now and 2023, with an estimated 823,000 drones flying by that time. With this new funding, PrecisionHawk is positioned to support the next phase of unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) deployments, driven by the need for improved technology that can ensure quality and consistent data collection, maintain safe operations within the United States’ existing national airspace system, and organize and process drone data to make it consumable valuable and actionable.

The Triangle area has seen significant development of drone technology, particularly in the area of medical and other deliverrth Carolina State University, for instance, has received a $24 million grant to link drones and 5G technology, while Wake Med has pioneered drone drug deliveries.

Chasen told WRAl TechWire, “There is certainly a recruiting benefit to being among several, well-regarded universities. The access to engineering talent was one of the early considerations when we moved our HQ to Raleigh from Indianapolis. But another driver of drone-related activity is in part thanks to the state-wide leadership from the NC Department of Transportation( NCDOT). North Carolina has been one of the states at the forefront of drone policy and driving widespread adoption.

Photo courtesy of PrecisionHawk.

“We have been very fortunate to work with the NCDOT on various initiatives from hurricane response efforts to package delivery. There is tremendous benefit and unique opportunity to be in a state where advancing drone integration and technology is a priority.”

Chasen said drone delivery tech is interesting as is all drone development, but not PreciscionHawk’s primary focus.

Chasen, who chairs the Federal Aviation Administrations (FAA) drone advisory committee, said the FAA is exploring a number of critical topics and meets about once a quarter.