Qualcomm, Microsoft and Airbus invest in Santa Monica drone software start-up AirMap

The venture capital arms of Qualcomm Inc., Microsoft Corp. and Airbus have led a $26-million investment in AirMap, the builder of drone air traffic management software announced Thursday.

The Santa Monica start-up, which opened its first office in 2015, builds technology that tracks air traffic, weather and flight restrictions in real time to guide unmanned aerial vehicles. AirMap says its software supports more than 100,000 flights a day.

Drones are among the hottest emerging technologies, with companies including Amazon, AT&T and a variety of start-ups betting that the vehicles will play a greater role in the economy as their technology improves and regulations allow for increased use and, eventually, autonomous flight.

“Drones are proving their value today, but this is just the beginning,” AirMap co-founders Ben Marcus and Gregory McNeal said in a blog post about the investment.

“We’re looking forward to quickly bringing AirMap’s airspace management platform and solutions for cybersecurity, geofencing, Unmanned aircraft Traffic Management … and more to new markets worldwide,” the co-founders said, adding that the company is opening offices in Berlin and at the NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, Calif.

Other investors in the funding round are Sony, Rakuten and Chinese drone builder Yuneec.

AirMap said the funding round brought its financing to more than $43 million. 

Day writes for the Seattle Times/McClatchy.

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