Airware: Democratizing Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

May 16, 2013 Back to blog

I first met the Airware (Unmanned Innovations at the time) team at the Lemnos Labs demo day in December, 2012. Working out of the Lemnos garage in the untrendy part of San Francisco, Jonathan Downey and the rest of the Airware team had a grand vision for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), which are often conflated with drones (all drones are UAVs, but not vice versa - drones are by definition autonomous).

Jonathan patiently explained to me that the autopilot, which comprises a significant portion of UAV deployment and maintenence costs, was stuck in a very old paradigm of blackboxed, special purpose units - much like buying a computer in the 80s. This might make sense for a $17M military UAV, but Jonathan also noted that we are at the dawn of cheap, small, general purpose UAVs - UAVs that might be bought or rented for agricultural, real estate, law enfocement, and more. Buying a special purpose black box autopilot for every new UAV use case didn't make sense.

Enter Airware. If traditional autopilots were IBM mainframes, Airware systems are personal computers: robust, general purpose systems, and the foundation upon which billions of dollars of productivity are generated by the end users.

Now, it's easy to have a grand vision - but Jonathan and his team lived and breathed aircraft, both manned and unmanned. Kent Goldman of First Round Capital has a very good post on why the passion of founders is important. Combined with the team's impressive academic and professional background in engineering and aeronautics, Airware was a no brainer for RRE.

Few things we look at have the potential to radically change the pace of technological development. We're proud to officially announce our seed investment in Airware, a company that we believe has the potential to do just that.