One rapidly growing drone company could move to even faster growth, thanks to a Series A funding round. Japan-based drone service provider Terra Drone Corporation this week announced that it had raised 1.5 billion JPY, which is the equivalent of about $14.4 million in a series A round.
The funding was led by INPEX, which is Japan’s largest oil and gas exploration and production company, and Nanto CVC, the corporate venture fund of Nanto Bank.
The company said it will use the money to “further develop technologies and grow the client base…enhancing safety and efficiency.”
With investment from an oil and gas company, it looks likely that Terra Drone could continue to develop tech in the energy sector. That’s thanks to products like Terra Inspectioneering’s UT drone, which is a patented drone that can conduct Ultrasonic Thickness measurements to conduct inspections for things like storage tanks, chimneys, boilers, and vessels. That hardware leverage another Terra product, Terra 3D Inspect, which is a full cloud-based platform for industrial inspection data. And Terra Drone’s C-Astral makes long endurance fixed wings that can be used for things like pipeline monitoring (as well as other use cases like forest fire detection and border controls).
“Terra Drone is focused on providing industrial drone solutions while possessing unique patented technologies for drones and sensors,” said INPEX General Manager Toshio Todoroki. “They also have a vast experience of onshore and offshore drone inspection, with major oil & gas companies in the world. Terra Drone is the only drone company in Japan, targeting to be the No.1 global company as a drone solution provider.”
Drone use among energy companies has skyrocketing beyond just Terra Drone. Drone use among energy companies — which include businesses in the renewable energy (e.g. solar) companies, utilities and oil & gas industry — increased 74% and users increased 13% in 2020’s Q2 vs. Q1, based on internal customer data from DroneDeploy. The energy sector has long been thought to be the largest industry within the commercial drone market.
Outside just the energy sector, the company provides end-to-end solutions specializing in other sectors including renewables, construction, mapping and more.
Terra Drone, which was established in 2016 and is headquartered in Tokyo, has been climbing the ranks of drone service providers. German-based drone market research company Drone Industry Insights annually ranks the top drone service providers. Drone Industry Insights named Terra Drone the second-largest drone service provider in 2019 (behind drone delivery company Zipline), and the top drone service provider in 2020.
Not only is Terra Drone growing faster than the competition, but it saw huge revenue growth in 2020, especially notable as many sectors of the economy crumbled under coronavirus (and even some drone companies underwent layoffs). The company did acknowledge that it too was “severely affected by Covid-19”. Even still, Terra Drone increased its revenue and profits in 2020, reporting consolidated annual revenue of approximately $20 million.
While Terra Drone is based in Japan, the company has since expanded to operating in more than 25 countries, including opening up local subsidiaries in established European markets, as well as in growing markets like India.
Terra Drone has also had its hands in coronavirus relief efforts. Early on in the pandemic, drone delivery company Antwork Robotics (which is a part of Japanese drone company Terra Drone) used drones to fly medical samples and PPE between Xinchang County People’s Hospital, Xinchang County disease control center and Dashiju branch of Xinchang County People’s hospital.