Verizon Acquires Skyward For Drone Operations Management System

| About: Verizon Communications (VZ)
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Summary

Verizon has acquired Skyward drone management software company for an undisclosed amount.

Skyward has created an integrated drone operations system to simplify and improve drone operations by businesses.

The team and technology deal is part of an ongoing initiative by Verizon to build out its connectivity and management capabilities for connected moving devices.

Wireless carriers want to capture as much of the connectivity stack value as possible and I expect more deals and announcements in the future.

Quick Take

Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) has acquired drone operations management software company Skyward for an undisclosed amount.

Verizon was an investor in the development of Skyward's drone software and the deal is another step in VZ's initiatives to provide scalable connectivity and related management services to operators of connected moving devices.

As the burgeoning drone industry continues to grow in business adoption, I expect to see more acquisition and development activity by the major wireless carriers to capture as much of the value stack as possible.

Target Company

Portland, Oregon-based Skyward was founded in 2012 by CEO Jonathan Evans and others to create a unified drone operations management system for businesses.

The company has developed an integrated web and mobile system for companies that use drones as a tool for doing business to:

  • Maintain a single system of record.
  • Ensure processes are carried out.
  • Mitigate risks with standardized workflows.

Notable partners included PrecisionHawk, SenseFly and DroneDeploy for remote sensing applications, aerial imaging drones and advanced mapping technologies.

Below is a brief interview of CEO Jonathan Evans on commercial launch of the software:

(Source: Roswell Flight Test Crew)

Skyward raised over $8 million in early-stage venture capital investment from a variety of venture capital firms and strategic investor and now acquirer Verizon Ventures.

The software is currently used in many use cases in industries including:

  • Construction
  • Telecommunications
  • Film Production
  • Agriculture

Competitors in the drone operations management software space include:

  • Airware
  • Drone Compiler
  • Drone OS
  • VirtualAirBoss
  • Juniper Unmanned

Acquisition Terms, Rationale and Commentary

Neither company disclosed the acquisition amount, and there were no 'whisper' numbers in the tech press. Verizon had invested in the company through its Verizon Ventures investment group.

It is likely that Skyward had very little in the way of revenues, so the acquisition by Verizon is primarily a 'team and technology' deal. Skyward had raised only $8 million in its short history, so my estimate is that Verizon paid less than $40 million for the deal.

The startup will be folded into Verizon's IoT group. Verizon acquired the company because it wants to own as much of the value stack as possible in wireless connectivity for any moving thing.

Like other major telecommunications firms such as AT&T (NYSE:T), Verizon has developed secure communications protocols for all types of wireless devices and environments. It doesn't want to be just a 'dumb connection', rather it wants to offer a range of services to businesses related to productivity and operations of their moving devices.

So, whether it's drones, marine UAVs or terrestrial moving devices, the telecommunications companies have a significant interest in selling connectivity and related management services to device operators.

In that respect, Verizon acquired Skyward to 'simplify drone operations and reduce complexity for operators'.

As Skyward founder and CEO Evans said, "Skyward's drone operations management platform combined with Verizon's network, reliability, scaling expertise in delivering enterprise solutions will allow organizations to efficiently and safely scale drones across multiple divisions and hundreds of use cases."

Verizon recently announced its Airborne LTE Operations initiative, to simplify certification and connectivity of wireless drones.

Mike Lanman, senior vice president of Enterprise Products and IoT at Verizon, said, " this acquisition is a natural progression of our core focus on operating in innovative, high-growth markets, leveraging our network, scale, fleet management, device management, data analytics and security enablement capabilities and services to simplify the drone industry and help support the adoption of IoT."

Although U.S. regulations on drone operations are still restrictive compared with other countries such as the UK, adoption of drones by businesses for line of sight uses is growing.

I expect to see additional acquisitions and initiative announcements by wireless carriers as they expand their activities in this nascent market.

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