Tucked away in a nondescript office building near the edge of Umstead State Park in Wake County, a drone technology startup is flying high with an updraft of new investment.
PrecisionHawk raised $18 million in April to enhance its signature software program, DataMapper, which gathers and analyzes data from sensors placed on drones. Its primary mission is to help farmers with technology that can pinpoint crop disease and highlight dry areas down to the individual plant.
"We really envision a day when drones are going to be a part of every single farmer's workflow," PrecisionHawk spokeswoman Lia Reich says. With the infusion of funds, the firm plans to expand beyond agriculture and into fields such as insurance. "They're going to be used by every major insurance company to help in the claims process."
DataMapper will allow information from satellites and piloted aircraft to be compared with data gathered by drones. PrecisionHawk also is launching a drone with improved data collection and safety features. The new batch of investors includes Verizon Ventures, Yamaha Motors and insurance giant USAA, bringing PrecisionHawk's total funding to $30 million.
The company was founded in 2010 in Toronto, aided by an investment by Bob Young, the Canada-born co-founder of Raleigh-based open source software company Red Hat. Headquarters shifted to Raleigh in 2013, and Young took the helm as chief executive officer last year.
"When we really started thinking about where we wanted to get talent and being in an area we could recruit people to come, Bob had a lot of success here," Reich says. PrecisionHawk employs about 50 people in Raleigh, where its software is developed, and more than 100 worldwide...