Telecoms giant Verizon last week announced it has acquired drone company Skyward, following an initial investment in 2015.
Skyward sells a drone management platform that helps companies to register drones, remain compliant with Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) drone regulations, and plan flight paths that do not breach rules on restricted airspace.
Under the terms of this acquisition, customers will be able to wirelessly connect their drones and get rate plans on Verizon’s network.
According to Verizon, this will provide them with a single source for drone integration and management, along with connectivity through the company’s mobile private network, secure cloud interconnect and data analytics capabilities.
Terms of the transaction have not been disclosed.
A strong push into IoT
In the last few years, there has been an increase in the number of businesses using drones. However, as Jonathan Evans, CEO of Skyward, has noted, the problems of scalability and drone management remain, whether it’s in use cases such as delivery services (à la Amazon), conservation or maintenance engineering.
Ward claims that combining Skyward’s platform with Verizon’s network will tackle these problems.
This is Verizon’s latest push into the growing Internet of Things (IoT) and drone markets. Last year, it acquired fleet management company, Fleetmatics, and announced it had completed tests to see how drones could be used to fly LTE cells into the skies to rebuild cellular networks when damage occurs.
With encouraging revenue growth in its IoT operations, compared to some other areas of its business, the company is clearly looking to IoT as a significant business driver in future.
Where does Skyward fit?
Mike Lanmnan, Verizon’s senior vice president of enterprise products and IoT, 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.”
However, Clive Longbottom, analyst at Quocirca, told Internet of Business that while Skyward provides Verizon with the capabilities to manage drones, more important is its significant domain expertise, such as airspace knowledge, which will assist with compliance in an ever-changing legal landscape.
“Maintaining mixed fleets of vehicles – cars, lorries, airplanes, boats, drones – is where Verizon’s heartland is,” Longbottom said. “Assuming that Verizon can create a core underpinning of a workflow and scheduling engine, it then needs to layer the various models over the top that enable all transport types to work against the platform.
“Skyward fits into this with its domain expertise around airspace and legal requirements management for drones. Whether its underlying platform is scalable and functional enough for Verizon to use it for a general transport management platform is another thing – I doubt that it is.
“However, Verizon already operates a range of fleet management offerings. This will be the underpinning platform – it then needs the different capabilities to deal with different transport types. I expect that Skyward will be built into this to provide the drone aspect.”