2021 was a record-breaking year for the drone industry, and it follows a history of records being broken in terms of drone industry investment every year since 2013. Yet perhaps what’s most impressive about the 2021 drone investment figures: they nearly tripled the investment dollars that came out of an already record-breaking 2020.
That’s according to the annual Drone Investments Database German-based drone analytics and research group Drone Industry Insights.
Their data tracked 199 investment deals involving a drone company in 2021, amounting to nearly $7 billion in combined value. In contrast, 2020 saw a then-record of $2.4 billion in drone investment deals. By those metrics, not only did 2021 drone investment deals break records, but they nearly tripled them.
What’s perhaps even more wild is that 2019 was also a record year for drone investments. Meanwhile, 2020 just about doubled 2019’s record of about $1.2 billion in investment funding.
Note that DII’s definition of a drone company is somewhat loose, and basically encompasses any company that builds drones or drone-adjacent products in some capacity. But still, drone industry investment is soaring.
Which drone companies received the most 2021 drone investment?
Most of the 2021 drone investment dollars went to hardware. Hardware-focused drone companies took in a combined $5 billion in investor dollars, which is double last year’s figure.
Drone service companies received $1 billion in 2021, a massive increase from the $160 million they brought in 2020.
Software-focused drone companies took in $639 million.
While a relatively small piece of the investment puzzle as UTM companies took in just $38 million in 2021 drone investment dollars, that’s a nearly 3x increase (up from $13 million in 2020).
And what were the biggest individual companies raking in profits this year?
Beta Technologies raised the highest amount of money in terms of venture capital investments in 2021, taking in more than $511 million over the year. The 300-person, privately held company headquartered in Burlington, Vermont is developing electric vertical take off and landing aircraft for the cargo and logistics industry. While they’re also building passenger aircraft, the company builds autonomous delivery aircraft as well.
The highest-grossing single Private Investment in Public Equity (PIPE) deal belongs to Archer, which took in $857.6 million as part of its business combination SPAC deal with Atlas Crest Investment Corp. Archer is a Palo Alto-based company working on sustainable air mobility to transport people around cities via an electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft. In September 2021, Archer closed its business combination with Atlas, which is a special purpose acquisition company, upon which Atlas changed its name to “Archer Aviation Inc.” Archer trades under the ticker “ACHR.” $600 millions of the proceeds from the $857.6 million PIPE deal will help fund Archer’s vision of bringing an electric vertical takeoff and landing vehicle (eVTOL) to market.
Why were 2021 drone investments so big?
In some ways, it’s a bit mind-boggling to see that — amidst the COVID-19-related uncertainty of 2020 and 2021 (and the economic challenges that came with the pandemic) — drone investments continue to break records.
“The years 2020 and 2021 brought recessions and uncertainty for various industries thanks to the pandemic, but they have also provided a chance for investors to put their money into the future,” according to a statement from Drone Industry Insights.
Given the newfound desire for social distancing coupled with an ongoing labor shortage, in some ways the rise of drones is a natural fit. COVID-19 largely had a positive impact on the drone industry, with 52% of respondents in a 2021 survey conducted by DII reporting that COVID affected drones for the better, and 33% saying the pandemic had a negligible impact. Meanwhile, only 15% said COVID affected the drone industry for the worse.