The valley has a bit of a thing for drones lately — have you noticed? Airware, which builds brains for commercial unmanned aircrafts, just raised $10.7M. Longtime Wired Magazine editor Chris Anderson left his position to go full-time on his DIY drone company, having raised $5 million. Even Union Square Venture's Fred Wilson has been brainstorming what he'd do with a drone of his own. Later this week at the AngelPad demo day, another drone-centric company will make its debut: DroneDeploy. Unlike the rest of the lot, DroneDeploy doesn't want to build drones, or even the parts that go inside. They want to make the software that companies use to control their drones. Now, remember: we're talking about commercial drones, here, not military drones. The drones that the Valley has a budding interest in are the type that might, say, scan our gas infrastructure for leaks, deliver your lunch, or search for stranded skiers in the Alps — not the kind that shoot you from 1,000 feet above. DroneDeploy, for example, is already working with teams scanning for pirates off the coast of Sierra Leone, and delivering medical supplies in West Africa. As we've discussed in-depth before, drones are not inherently evil. DroneDeploy is a web-based drone control and management platform. (Let that last sentence serve as a friendly reminder that we live in the friggin' future.) Their goal is to be compatible with as many different popular drones as possible, providing their owners with things like: Browser-based drone control Fleet management/tracking, with electronic filing of the required paperwork Data logging Automatic flight regulation assistance. Not allowed to fly drones after midnight in a certain region? DroneDeploy will remind you. Automated log analysis that will help identify things like a motor that's about to fail. Expandability, by way of an App Store of sorts. Want all of those pictures your drone can take to be stitched together into one big panoramic map view? They've got an app for that. The way DroneDeploy sees it, there will be two big sectors in the commercial drone world: those who make the drones and those who make the software that manages said drones. By launching into beta now — about two years before the U.S. government is requiring the FAA to open up U.S. airspace to commercial drones — they're looking to conquer that second sector right off the bat. The commercial drone market is already valued in the billions, and that's before it's really even gotten started. Generally when I write about a company rolling out their beta signups, I do so with the expectation that we'll flood their signup page with more users than they know what to do with. Given that most TechCrunch readers probably don't have a legion of drones waiting at their behest, though, I assume that won't be the case here. If you do have a drone or 10 that need managing, however, you can sign up for DroneDeploy's beta here.
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