A DJI Phantom 4 drone
Boeing's HorizonX investment arm has led a funding round for Robotic Skies, a worldwide brokered network of regulator-certified MRO stations for unmanned aircraft.
The two companies last year pledged to work together, along with Boeing subsidiaries Jeppesen and Aviall, to provide supply chain management and MRO services for commercial and civil drones. Boeing is now revealing a desire to expand on that partnership and leverage Robotic Skies network as a basis for future urban air mobility (UAM) vehicles.
"With safety as a cornerstone, we are shaping a robust operational ecosystem for on-demand mobility that supports the future of aircraft, air vehicles and autonomous systems," said Brian Schettler, managing director for Boeing HorizonX Ventures, in a release.
Other participants in the funding round included Thayer Ventures, Sun Mountain Capital and KickStart Seed Fund. The companies have not revealed the total money raised or the amount of Boeing's investment, but Robotic Skies CEO Brad Hayden said the money would "allow us to continue to grow our global footprint and expand operational capabilities to support customers."
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Robotic Skies' network of repair shops numbers 170-plus across more than 40 countries, each certified by the FAA or relevant civil aviation authority. As the only service provider of its kind, it makes sense as a partner for Boeing Global Services, which the manufacturer has been pushing hard to grow swiftly. That is especially true if Boeing sees promise for the burgeoning — and potentially massive — UAM market to use the same facilities.
"Our investment in Robotic Skies complements Boeing Global Services’ strategy to grow the business aviation and general aviation market segment and demonstrates our continued commitment to creating the infrastructure and services for safe autonomous aerial vehicles," said Boeing spokesperson Janelle Bernales. The two companies will also jointly pursue regulatory compliance, parts distribution ground support, field upgrades and vehicle retrofit capabilities.