CyPhy Works FLIR drones Helen Greiner

CyPhy Works shuts down, FLIR acquires tethered drone company’s assets

CyPhy Works, a pioneer in the drone industry that was famous for its tethered drones, is no more. What remains of its assets and intellectual property has been acquired by sensor company FLIR for an undisclosed sum of money.

CyPhy Works was founded in 2008 by iRobot co-founder Helen Greiner (who is most famous for creating the Roomba), and backed by several top technology investors. The company was known for its tethered drones, which enabled them to fly for days, rather than hours or minutes as is the case with most drones. Those tethered drones connected to a base station by microfilament wire, which provided both continuous power and secure communications.

But the company underwent a shift in January 2019, relaunching as Aria Insights, a company that would focus on drone data rather than drone hardware. And even that wasn’t enough. Aria Insights ceased operations just a couple months later in March 2019. 

CEO of CyPhy Works Helen Greiner during 2015’s TechCrunch Disrupt SF event. Steve Jennings/Getty Images for TechCrunch

Their story is largely similar to other American drone companies who have struggled to compete with DJI in building profitable, competitive drone hardware companies. 3D Robotics shut down their manufacturing operations, pivoting to drones as a service. Airware started as a drone manufacturer before pivoting to software and eventually shutting down (its assets were acquired for an undisclosed sum of money by French company Delair.

But there’s a glimmer of hope: FLIR is bullish on tethered drones, and isn’t giving up on CyPhy’s hardware.

“Tethered UAS systems are becoming an increasingly valuable tool for force protection, border security, and critical infrastructure protection,” said David Ray, president of FLIR’s Government and Defense business in a prepared statement. “Aria’s innovative technology and IP assets will enable us to enhance current capabilities and advance the range of solutions we can deliver to customers in this growing market segment.” 

FLIR said Aria’s assets will be integrated into FLIR’s Unmanned Systems and Integrated Solutions Division. 

FLIR has been a part of the drone industry for years, but it seems 2019 is the year FLIR is stepping up its game. Just last month, sensor-maker FLIR launched a new product called the FLIR MUVE C360, a multi-gas detector specifically built for drones.

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