Drone-maker Aeryon Labs Takes Flight With $60 Million Investment

Waterloo Region drone maker Aeryon Labs is set to double its operations after securing $60 million in investment to boost its presence in the fast-growing global market for small unmanned aerial systems.

Aeryon which currently employs 100 people in Waterloo’s north end, will likely add another 100 employees across all areas of the business over the next year, along with another facility to handle the growth, CEO Dave Kroetsch told Communitech News today.

“We’re thrilled to be in this growth stage and to keep our business in Canada,” Kroetsch said during a busy day of media interviews.

The equity investment from U.S.-based Summit Partners will help the eight-year-old company build on its leading position in the high-end sUAS market, said Kroetsch, whose drones serve mission-critical functions for police, military and utility agencies.

The company’s Scout and SkyRanger drones have been shipped to more than 35 countries and have shown up frequently in high-profile news stories, including the Nepal earthquake last April and 2011 uprising against Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

Kroetsch said Canada’s more permissive aviation and export regulations, along with Waterloo Region’s tradition of building business as opposed to consumer technology, have been key to Aeryon’s success.

“Waterloo’s got a very enterprise-minded DNA, and we chose right from the beginning of Aeryon not to build toys, but to build tools,” he said. “When you look at the demographic of our customers, whether they’re military, police, the power-line inspectors or the emergency response personnel, these are people who need to get a job done.”

The presence of BlackBerry (formerly Research In Motion), in particular, has given Aeryon access to key, enterprise-grade technical talent, said Kroetsch, who like many in his company, once worked at RIM as a co-op student.

“If you look under the hood of our technology, and replace the screen on a BlackBerry with four propellers, from a technology perspective, it’s very similar,” he said. “We do high-density electronics; we do batteries; we do GPS; CPUs; all that kind of stuff that’s similar to hand-held technology.”

Read the rest of this article on Communitech.