Increasingly drone technology firms are forming partnerships with established businesses that offer significant distribution potential in specific market sectors. One hot sector in the drone space is construction. Several partnerships have been announced in the last couple of months. Airware leveraged its acquisition of Redbird and announced a partnership with Caterpillar and Kespry recently announced a partnership with John Deere. But no other firm seems to have embraced the notion of partnerships more fully than DroneDeploy, the drone based mapping and data analytics platform company headquartered in San Francisco.
In a conversation with Mike Winn of DroneDeploy, he discussed the value of partnerships and the importance they have for DroneDeploy’s overall strategy. DroneDelpoy had just announced a partnership with CNH Industrial which Winn characterized as “a really big deal.”
CNH describes themselves as “a global leader in the capital goods sector that, through its various businesses, designs, produces and sells agricultural and construction equipment, trucks, commercial vehicles, buses and specialty vehicles, in addition to a broad portfolio of powertrain applications. Present in all major markets worldwide, CNH Industrial is focused on expanding its presence in high-growth markets, including through joint ventures.”
Mike Winn on the CNH partnership
According to Winn, CNH is the 2nd largest equipment manufacturer in the agricultural space. The partnership will enable their customers to get access to drone technology along with support and training from a trusted source. CNH is traded on the NYSE trades on the New York stock exchange (ticker:CNHI). To get a sense of their products, services and global footprint from their Youtube video here.
Winn reported that, while agriculture is DroneDeploy’s largest user base, construction is its fastest growing sector. CNH’s distribution channels will help. Their joint initial focus will be in the US with eventual expansion to foreign markets.
As mentioned, DroneDeploy is not the only analytics firm to enter into a partnership with a construction firm. Kespry has partnered with John Deere and Airware has partnered with Caterpillar, all of which are large companies that trade on the NYSE.
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While many analytics firms are pursuing partnerships with construction firms, DroneDeploy appears to be the most aggressive firm in terms of pursuing a range of partnerships and having that as part of a long term strategic goal. This may stem from a fundamental difference in strategy regarding how the companies present their offerings. DroneDeploy is an open system. Though optimized for DJI drones, DroneDeploy’s back end can work with data from any drone. Kespry and Airware, on the other hand, offer closed, turnkey systems. Their drone and back end analytics platform are all one system and they view that as an advantage.
DroneDeploy offers their app for free. Winn said this has been “massively helpful”, making the tech accessible to anyone. “Anyone in any industry can get a bird’s eye view of the area they care about,” he said.
For Winn and DroneDeploy “partnerships are very important . . . We need to work with best players across every industry such as DJI. We couldn’t be the best at building drones. DJI is a best of breed solution.”
DroneDeploy has expanded on that philosophy and started an app store. Winn continued, “We cannot build every piece of software.” They partner with other software companies such as AirMap, Autodesk, and Skyward, to provide supporting tools that integrate with the DroneDeploy platform to provide a comprehensive, sophisticated solutions for specific markets. DroneDeploy seeks partners to expand and grow, serving larger customers and deliver enterprise products going forward.
“People buy from firms they trust” Winn explained. “The CNH solution has 170 years of experience in selling to agriculture. We could not match that. This is an exclamation point on partnerships.”
Frank Schroth is editor in chief of DroneLife, the authoritative source for news and analysis on the drone industry: it’s people, products, trends, and events.