Droning on about investment

Photo by Emiliano Arano from Pexels

Photo by Emiliano Arano from Pexels

For a glimpse into the not-to-distant future of the eVTOL market, people are casting their eyes to its slightly older brother, the drone market.

This week, we have seen two key investments, one into the commercial drone market and one into an emerging unmanned traffic-management start up.

Norwegian drone tech firm UBIQ Aerospace received an undisclosed investment from former 20th Century Fox CEO James Murdoch. The investment was made through the Murdoch-owned Lupa Systems.

Mr Murdoch recently left Sky after Fox sold all of its assets to Disney for $71 billion. The first thing the youngest Murdoch son did was invest in the Norwegian drone tech company.

UTM software company Unifly NV has completed its €17m Series B funding round. The company’s most-recent investor is Belgium’s Federal Holding and Investment Company (FPIM). The public-sector company manages the Belgian government’s shareholdings and invests in companies that will benefit the Belgian economy.

Unifly’s existing investors -- Terra Drone, QBIC Fund and early stage Belgian investor PMV -- also participated in the funding round.

Europe is fast becoming a hotbed for urban air mobility. This week, it reinforced its commitment to getting aircraft flying over cities by launching the first special condition certification for VTOLs.

On Tuesday, EASA announced that it has published the final Special Condition framework for manufacturers developing person-carrying VTOLs. This is the culmination of the public consultation EASA first opened in October last year, calling for information to help shape the framework.

Patrick Ky, EASA’s executive director, said: “We are actively engaging with the industry to develop the right technical requirements to take benefit of the new technologies bringing safety and environmental benefits to the community.

“The establishment of a common set of conditions for the certification of these new concepts of vehicles will enable a fair competition on the European market as well as clarity for future manufacturers and their investors.”

Both EASA and the FAA are determined to learn from their failure to keep up and work closely with the drone market, which has led to a whole new class of aircraft entering the airspace that are now retroactively being regulated. Regulators do not want to make the same mistake twice.