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Bessemer leads $22m funding round for drone maker CyPhy

The company says its drone system's unlimited flight duration and secure data transmission offer tremendous potential for agricultural use.

Venture group Bessemer Venture Partners (BVP) has led a $22 million funding round for drone maker CyPhy Works, giving it the firepower to make and market vehicles that stay in the air longer than most commercially-available alternatives.

BVP led the $22m Series B funding round to help CyPhy roll out its Persistent Aerial Reconnaissance and Communications (PARC) vehicle system commercially. The round included new backing from Motorola Solutions Venture Capital, UPS Strategic Enterprise Fund and Draper Nexus, as well as support from existing investors Lux Capital and General Catalyst Partners. It follows a $7 million financing round in September 2013.

The PARC relies on a 550-feet Kevlar-enforced microfilament tether for power and secure data exchange between the drone and its controller on the ground. This means that PARC’s flight duration is not limited by battery life, which averages about thirty minutes for most commercially-available drones, CyPhy vice-president of commercial systems Kirsten Helsel told Agri Investor.

“You could be sitting in your office and monitoring what’s going on, on your farm, a long way away,” Helsel said.

The PARC system is principally used by the US military for monitoring purposes, but liberalisation of rules on drone use could open doors for other applications. The system’s ability to carry a variety of payloads, from infra-red or high definition cameras to 4G LTE systems, means PARC can be used for long-term data gathering, ground-monitoring, or communication, making it useful for the commercial agricultural sector.

Current US Federal Aviation Administration regulations require drone pilots and observers to be present at flights, and ban high-altitude and night flights. However, Helsel said PARC systems could be tethered to mobile farm equipment, including tractors and harvesters, allowing for continuous monitoring and data collection.

Orders have been backing up since CyPhy first made the PARC system available in August. The company’s latest fundraising round will help the company ramp up production, Helsel said.

Bessemer Venture Partners currently has $4 billion in investments under management in early-stage and hyper-growth startups, with significant investments in information technology. It has had 46 exits in the past three years through a combination of sales and initial public offerings.