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Verizon acquires drone operations management company Skyward for undisclosed sum

Verizon on Thursday announced that it has acquired Skyward, a Portland, Oregon-based drone fleet management company for an undisclosed sum of money.

Skyward integrates and manages drone operations into one workflow.

Verizon will use Skyward’s technology to streamline the management of drone operations through one platform designed to handle end-to-end activities such as mission planning, complex workflow, FAA compliance support, supplying information about restricted airspace and pilot credentialing, drone registration and provisioning rate plans for drones on Verizon’s network.

The move plays into future plans for drone traffic management. NASA has been working on a plan for unmanned drone traffic management (UTM) that could be adopted by the Federal Aviation Administration, where multiple service providers would allow drone operators to connect with each other through a common application interface. Users would digitally  send information about their flight destination and receive data of other drone’s flight information.

“What that does is gives the operator and support services complete awareness of all the other operations going on in the airspace at the same time,” said Parimal Kopardekar, manager of NASA’s Safe Autonomous Systems Operations project.

Those private organizations are mostly startups like California-based startup AirMap, North Dakota-based Botlink and of course Skyward, which have created mobile and desktop apps that allow users to input data such as the drone’s final destination and time of flight. Large corporations like Google and Amazon may also develop their own software to allow their drones to interact with the central API.

“They are the services providers, like Verizon, AT&T and Sprint,” Kopardekar said.

And now, Skyward is Verizon.

” This acquisition is a natural progression of our core focus on operating in innovative, high-growth markets, leveraging our network, scale, fleet management, device management, data analytics and security enablement capabilities and services to simplify the drone industry and help support the adoption of IoT,” Mike Lanman, senior vice president of Enterprise Products and IoT at Verizon said in a news release.

Verizon had previously invested in Skyward in 2015 as part of a $4.1 million funding round, which also included investors Draper Associates, Voyager Capital, Norwest Venture Partners, Founders’ Co-­op and Techstars Venture.

This is not Verizon’s first foray into drones. The telecom giant announced in October 2016 that it would sell data plans specifically for drones, starting at $25 a month for 1 gigabyte of data and $80 for 10 gigabytes. The plans will allow drones to connect to the internet in flight for streaming videos and other data to the ground.

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