Microsoft Ventures invests in AirMap, a startup that maps the skies

Drones. Militaries across the globe have cherished the benefits of a pilot-less aircraft for centuries, going back as far as 1849. Now, finally, the technology is mature enough for use by the normal folks.

AirMap is betting on just that; the California startup offers a real-time mapping service that allows drones to broadcast their flight path and plan. In addition to that, the drones also receive information from other drones about their flight path. AIrMap’s system is also useful for governments as it can also broadcast and accommodate for temporary no-fly zones.

It’s essentially an automated air traffic control for drones. Just as is the case with regular aircrafts, AirMap’s technology is embedded within the drones. So far, the company has managed to partner with the some of the biggest names in the industry like Intel, 3D Robotics, Aeryon Labs, and even DJI.

AirMap claims that their dashboard is also in use by over 125 airports to track drone traffic.

Microsoft Ventures

Today, AirMap raised $26 million in a Series B round of funding led by Microsoft’s investment arm: Microsoft Ventures.

In a world where drones are gaining prevalence at an alarming rate, Microsoft Ventures investment in AirMap doesn’t seem too strange. Microsoft makes the majority of its money via the services it provides to large enterprise, and AirMap holds the potential to become yet another service.

Today’s miniature drones can be used for surveillance, transporting cargo, maintaining infrastructure, constructing structures, and much more. Amazon wants to deliver packages via drones – it just shows how significant a role drones can play just five years from today.

While the manufacturers design cheaper, lighter, and more efficient drones and the giants figure out how to use these drones to make their tasks more efficient and cheaper; AirMap will help them keep the skies safe and secure. That’s a service everyone will need, and AirMap can deliver.

Microsoft & Drones

Google, Amazon, Facebook, and the likes – almost all of Microsoft’s competitors – have been making quite a lot of noise with drones. Microsoft, on the other hand, has been relatively mum about it.

Microsoft Research did recently open-source a simulator for drone manufacturers to test their drones with, but the fact that Microsoft Ventures is now a lead investor in AirMap could suggest that the Redmond giant wants to be a bigger player in the race.

Though, Microsoft’s would likely prefer selling a service rather than operating a network of drones. AirMap sits right in the league.

The Flying You-Know-What

In the end, there are flying cars. Science fiction strikes again, and this time it might not just be fiction.

AirMap thinks the future of flying cars is closer than we think. They might not be wrong; Airbus CEO Tom Enders said just last month that the aviation giant was building a self-piloted flying car prototype. Airbus expects it to be ready by the end of 2017.

If flying cars do end up becoming something worthwhile, AirMap sees a future in managing their autonomous traffic.

Microsoft’s investment is a minor one at this point – $26 million isn’t very much for the company – but it is a crucial one for the future.


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