Skyfish M4 drone

Skyfish set to double in size with key cell tower industry board appointment and $20 million investment

2020 was a huge year for American drone maker Skyfish, and 2021 is set to be even bigger. That’s thanks to a newly-announced $20 million in Series Seed funding. With it, the Missoula, Montana-based company is set to double its staff in size. And already, the company has made one key industry board appointment that could help Skyfish accelerate its market share in the cell tower industry.

Skyfish Skyportal
A screenshot from the Skyfish Skyportal shows how you can review, manage, and share data and
models of images generated via a drone. Image courtesy of Skyfish.

Skyfish’s $20 million Series Seed funding  just announced a massive $20 million in venture-backed Series Seed funding. The founding round was led by Bayshore Capital CEO Henry Wolfond and Chairman of SBA Communications Steven Bernstein.

Some of the funds are earmarked to grow customer revenue, expand drone manufacturing capacity, and to improve customer service. But there’s one area that will see a huge chunk of the money: job growth.

Skyfish set to double the size of its workforce 

Most of Skyfish’s Series Seed funding will go towards hiring, as the company looks to double the size of its workforce from about two dozen employees currently to more than 50 by the end of the year.

Among the jobs it’s hiring for include assemblers (after all, the Skyfish drones are made in the U.S.), engineers and salespeople. It’s also hiring drone pilots.

Skyfish M4 drone
Skyfish manufactures a few drones, including the Skyfish M4, pictured here. Image courtesy of Skyfish.

Most of the new jobs will be in Stevensville, Montana, where the company’s headquarters are located. Stevensville itself is a small town of less than 2,000 people, but it’s located about 25 miles from Missoula, Montana and is about a 45-minute drive from Missoula International Airport.

Given how small the population of Stevensville is — and how large Skyfish is set to grow — the company is dubbing Stevensville as a “local thriving community  of mapping, modeling and radar technology specialists.”

That said, not all jobs will be set in Stevensville. The company is looking to add small, satellite offices in cities still to be determined, but that could include Atlanta, Denver and a North East location, with an emphasis on cities with relatively mild climates where drones can be flown year-round. And most of those remote or satellite jobs will be for drone pilots.

Skyfish sends drone pilots with customer engagement skills out into the field to demonstrate how their autonomous drone platform works — and sometimes actually provide flying and data-gathering services — for customers.

“It’s helpful for customers to see what engineering-grade photogrammetry can do for them,” said Skyfish CEO, Orest Pilskalns. “With our very precise, and autonomous drone system it’s very easy for the Pilot to fly something like a cell tower, electrical substation or power lines. Customers are literally amazed at the end result and get a working 3D model from Skyfish to share with the rest of their team.”

“I think it’s just as good as being onsite, except a lot safer, when from the safety of your desk you’re, zooming in to measure the thickness of a steel mount, or measuring the exact length of an electrical cable, that’s actually 250 feet in the air.”

skyfish cell tower photogrammetry
Especially since the addition of Steven Bernstein to Skyfish, the Montana-based company is leaning specifically into using drones for cell tower inspections. Image courtesy of Skyfish.

Cell tower industry veteran Steven Bernstein joins Skyfish

One of those key additions to Skyfish team is Steven Bernstein, who is not just an investor but who will sit on Skyfish’s Board of Directors. Bernstein built SBA Communications Corporation, a real estate investment trust that owns and operates wireless infrastructure in multiple major countries including the U.S. 

skyfish cell tower photogrammetry
No, that’s not modern art (well, maybe it is). That’s a 3D model of a tower using Skyfish Skyportal. Image courtesy of Skyfish.

Leaning into photogrammetry — and more specifically, cell tower analysis

Skyfish came onto the scene with its made-in-America drone — an autonomous work drone for scanning infrastructure that enables detailed centimeter grade measurements. 

And given that Skyfish is an American drone company, many enterprise clients are drawn to companies like Skyfish. In fact, 88% of respondents in a 2019 survey said they would prefer to purchase drones from a U.S.-headquartered company. Much of that is due to concerns over how foreign governments may be using data collected by drones made in their countries (China, particularly). Skyfish drones comply with Congress and DoD supply chain standards and is NDAA sec. 848 compliant, which is important (and necessary) for some drone operations.

Since introducing its U.S.-made drone, Skyfish has grown into a position as the industry leader in engineering-grade photogrammetry and 3D Modelling for inspection, precision measurement and analysis of critical infrastructure, including power lines, dams, bridges, electrical substations, wind turbines and airports.

Photogrammetry, which is a technique where a very accurate 3D model or digital twin, of an infrastructure target is created by using large numbers of photos composited together, has become a huge aspect of enterprise drone use in conducting large-area surveys and models of critical infrastructure.  

As of late, the company is looking to lean in most specifically to doing surveys of cell towers, aided in large part by its ability to leverage Bernstein’s expertise.

“After speaking with Skyfish customers, we quickly understood that Skyfish is unique in the commercial drone world, producing precise ‘engineering  grade’ drone enabled photogrammetry and 3D Models of infrastructure”, Bernstein said. “These are the best cell tower digital-twin models I’ve seen, and could significantly enhance the cell tower industry’s inspection, measurement and mount mapping processes.”

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