Mapping drone startup Wingtra is eyeing a new future after landing $22M.


Wingtra drones are used by organizations around the world, including NASA and the Army Corps of Engineers, to perform surveying missions. Now that the startup has landed $22 million in Series B funding, it’s planning a new expansion strategy that will use it to improve existing technology and add new features. “Our product roadmap is top secret, but our high-level vision for a decade or so is to take people out of the loop and have fully automated data collection, processing and analysis,” said co-founder and CEO Maximilian Bosfeld. TechCrunch told him.

With offices in Zurich, Switzerland, Fort Lauderdale and Zagreb and about 200 employees, Wingtra claims to be the world’s largest manufacturer of commercial vertical towable (VTOL) drones. It makes mapping drones, develops software for fully autonomous flights and the WingtraPilot app that collects and processes aerial survey data. Wingtra drones are used by surveyors in a variety of industries, including construction, mining, environmental protection, agriculture, urban planning and land management.

From the images collected by the WingtraOne drone

Investors in Wingtra’s Series B air mobility fund DiamondStream Partners, EquityPitcher Ventures, Verve Ventures, Ace & Company, European Innovation Council Fund (EIC Fund), Ace & Company and Spring Mountain Capital founder John L. Stephens.

The genesis of Wingtra came together in 2014 when Bosfeld, Basil Weibl, Elias Kleimann, and Sebastian Verling began working on a thesis while studying at ETH Zurich’s Autonomous Systems Lab. The paper proposed a design for a small unmanned aerial vehicle that would take off and land vertically like a helicopter, but transition to fixed-wing mode for long-distance flight.

While still working on their dissertations, the four registered Wingtra as a company to develop and commercialize the technology. They have been accepted into the Wyss Zurich Accelerator program, an incubator for promoting scientific discoveries from ETH Zurich and the University of Zurich. While in the program, Wingtra One, a professional mapping and surveying UAV, was developed.

Wingtra’s flagship drone, now the WingtraOne VTOL commercial drone, is used by hundreds of businesses and organizations in 96 countries, including NASA, Texas A&M University, Ohio State University, CMX, Rio Tinto, the Army Corps of Engineers and the Kenya Red Cross. . In total, Wingtraons makes more than 100,000 flights each year, and has mapped 18 million hectares of land and sea.

Released in 2021, the startup’s second-generation unmanned drone is called WingtraOne Gen II and will create survey 2D and 3D maps with RGB cameras. Wingtra claims that one flight covering more than 100 hectares can be digitized at 0.5 inches/pixel, or up to 30 times faster and 90% cheaper than land surveying.

The three main industries that Wingtra sells to are Construction and Industry, Urban Planning and Land Development and Mining.

Bosfeld told TechCrunch that the biggest challenge of managing such large assets is the availability of timely, accurate and affordable data. Lack of information leads to inefficiencies, high costs and preventable CO2 emissions. But land surveying can be labor-intensive and dangerous, such as on construction sites, and when natural disasters such as landslides occur, it cannot be done without costing lives and financial penalties.

Wingtra are made to work in all those situations and make asset management more efficient and sustainable. The startup says it can collect survey-level data 30 times faster than other survey methods, including other drones or ground-based instruments, and requires less training to operate thanks to the WingtraPilot app’s simple operating system and automated route planning.

One example of an organization using Wingtra drones to make survey data more efficient is the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT), which uses them to monitor the maintenance and repair of the state’s road infrastructure. ALDOT flies drones over construction projects every weekday and uses data collected to ensure proper installation of measures such as erosion control, including silt fences.

Another example of how Wingtra is being used is the Red Cross in Kenya, which deployed the startup’s drones and software to control a massive locust infestation. The data collected using Wingtra was able to track locust swarm migration, crop damage and ultimately make decisions on how to mitigate the infestation.

In terms of competition, Wingtra’s most notable competitors are the eBee from AgEagle and the DJI Phantom 4 RTK and M300. Bosfeld says EB is the first drone to pave the way for attainable industrial-grade unmanned photogrammetry. Both lead the survey and mapping industry for different reasons—the eBee X is a well-engineered and reliable fixed-wing survey and mapping drone, while the WingtraOne provides VTOL coverage with high-level image quality. But their main difference is the take-off and landing technology, Bosfield said.

It allows WingtraOne’s VTOL to take off and touch like a multicopter before transitioning to a fixed wing to cover large areas. The eBee X, on the other hand, requires a traditional fixed-wing drone to take off manually and land on its belly, and Bosfield says operators need to make sure launches and landings are with wide clearance and on dry, smooth surfaces. Support him. High-end aerial mapping cameras are heavy and fixed-wing drones like the eBee X can’t support their weight, he added. “Currently, only VTOL drones can provide 42MP image quality, which leads to better accuracy and ultimately more reliable map reconstruction”.

As for the Phantom 4 RTK, Bosfield says it doesn’t have much in common with the WingtraOne, even though it’s marketed as a survey and mapping drone. Unlike the WingtraOne, the Phantom 4 RTK is a conventional multirotor, meaning it acts like an aa helicopter in the air. This difference means that the WingtraOne can provide the wide coverage required by most mapping projects, while multirotors such as the Phantom 4 RTK cover relatively limited areas.

The DJI M300 is a large multirotor that Bosfield is a good drone for inspection, search and rescue, and other medium-sized applications, but it is less efficient for certain mapping tasks. For example, although it is larger than the Phantom 4, it is a multirotor that relies solely on batteries large enough to lift it.

Wingtra, which has been blacklisted by the US Department of Defense for alleged ties to the Chinese military, should not deal with the political issues that DJI makes in the US market.

In a statement about the investment, Dean Donovan of Diamond Stream Partners said, “We are very excited to be partnering with Wingtra. The product’s simplicity, high-reliability engineering, and the company’s global network of value-added resellers and service providers position it to expand its leadership in the $83+ billion mapping aerial intelligence market globally. We look forward to helping the company in the United States and Latin America, which will be very important geographies as Wingtra continues to expand.”


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