Microsoft invests in maker of drone air traffic management software – The Seattle Times

The venture capital arms of Microsoft, Airbus and Qualcomm have led a $26 million investment in AirMap, the builder of drone air traffic management software said.

The startup, which opened its first office in Santa Monica, California, in 2015, builds technology that tracks air traffic, weather and flight restrictions in real time to guide unmanned aerial vehicles. AirMap’s software supports more than 100,000 flights a day, the company says.

Drones are among the hottest emerging technologies, with companies from Amazon to AT&T and a range of startups betting that the vehicles will play a greater role in the economy as their technology improves and regulations allow for increased use and, eventually, autonomous flight.

“Drones are proving their value today, but this is just the beginning,” AirMap co-founders Ben Marcus and Gregory McNeal wrote in a blog post on the investment.

Other investors in the funding include Sony, Rakuten and Chinese drone builder Yuneec.

Microsoft’s investment came from the Redmond company’s rebooted Microsoft Ventures arm, led by former Qualcomm executive Nagraj Kashyap. The group has bought stakes in more than 20 startups in the last year.

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