Sunday, 29 May 2022

Drone company Skyward crash-lands as Verizon pulls plug

by Harry Baldock, Total Telecom
Wednesday 11 May 22

The operator has closed down the drone software specialist, aiming to refocus on ground-based robotics

US operator giant Verizon has notified customers that it is closing down its drone software company, Skyward.    Skyward, founded in 2012 and purchased by Verizon in 2017, specialised in drone management, providing a software platform, drone hardware, and training for customers interested in integrating drones within their own operations. At the time of purchase, Verizon hoped that Skyward’s platform would provide a focal point for all their drone…

US operator giant Verizon has notified customers that it is closing down its drone software company, Skyward. 
 
Skyward, founded in 2012 and purchased by Verizon in 2017, specialised in drone management, providing a software platform, drone hardware, and training for customers interested in integrating drones within their own operations. At the time of purchase, Verizon hoped that Skyward’s platform would provide a focal point for all their drone-related activities.
 
Since then, the company has continued to find success, notably coming to prominence by receiving a temporary operating licence by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in 2020 to help inspect Verizon’s infrastructure during the wildfires in Washington. 
 
Just last year, Verizon and Skyward were testing drones connected to the company’s 4G LTE network, aiming to bring the first out-of-the-box connected drone solution to the US. 
 
Thus, it seems somewhat surprising that Verizon has suddenly decided to axe the business, sending an email to customers this week to notify them that the business was closing down.
 
“We are announcing today that Skyward, A Verizon company, will be ending operations in the coming weeks,” said an email to customers. “This was not an easy decision.  The Verizon Robotics team will be focusing our efforts on ground robot management, connectivity services, and solution development.”
 
In a statement, Verizon said that the decision was based on “market agility” and “ensuring that Verizon continues to focus on areas that provide both near and mid-term growth opportunities,” perhaps suggesting that Skyward was not making commercial progress quite as fast as the operator had hoped.
 
Instead, it seems that the company will be focussing on its ground-based robots, particularly Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs).
 
“The Verizon Robotics Group enables enterprise customers to efficiently adopt and scale Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMR) to improve productivity, deliver faster time to insight, and reduce costs through automation and 5G,” said Verizon in a statement. 
 
This shift in focus is perhaps reflected in Verizon’s purchase of Austrian start-up incubedIT in February last year, a company that offers autonomous navigation and fleet management solutions for AMRs. This company was incorporated into Verizon’s Robotics Business Technology unit in July 2021, as was Skyward itself. 
 
What this will mean for Skyward’s employees is currently unclear, with reports suggest that some will be retained as part of the Verizon Robotics business, others within Verizon’s wider operations, and some will be forced to seek employment elsewhere.
 
While Verizon seems to be moving away from its connected drone ambitions, this is not true of its domestic competitors. T-Mobile, for example, partnered with Lucid Drone Technologies just last month, seeking to enable industrial cleaning drones. AT&T, meanwhile, was recently reported to be testing a drone carrying a lightweight signal generator to measure the radiated patterns of high-gain outdoor antennas.
 

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