Belgian uncrewed traffic management (UTM) tech company Unifly has received a significant boost to its drone navigation development capabilities with a $10.5 million capital infusion from two Japanese investors, including one co-financed by the government.
The new funding will be used by the Antwerp-based Unifly to both extend its geographical area of operation and client list, and produce tailor-made UTM systems to safely integrate drone flights into broader airspaces customers oversee. Its new financial inflow follows earlier fund raising in 2015, shortly after the company’s launch, and a second jolt in 2019, bringing its total thus far to nearly $35 million.
“The investment strengthens Unifly’s position as the sustainable UTM partner for the future,” said company CEO Andres Van Sawlm. “It will enable us to pursue our vision of enabling autonomous aviation.”
One of the new investors joining the Unifly team is Japan Overseas Infrastructure Investment Corporation for Transport & Urban Development (JOIN), a fund financed by the government and business partners to support Japanese companies developing infrastructure solutions domestically and abroad.
The other is Japan’s Terra Drone, a leading global producer of drone hardware and software, which also received JOIN funding during its Series B round earlier this year. That previous relationship presumably explains the simultaneous stake both have now taken in Unifly’s drone UTM activity.
That backing will help fuel the startup’s efforts to broaden its current activities in Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Austria, and Canada to additional markets and clients. Current customers include NAV Canada and the port of Antwerp’s drone UTM operation.
Though limited thus far in geographical scope, Unifly’s UTM tech was enough to convince Terra Drone CEO Toru Tokushige of its potential appeal to companies and public administrations looking for ways to integrate drones into traditional aircraft traffic.
“Our airspace is going to get more crowded than ever,” said Tokoshige. “There’s an urgent need for a global traffic management solution to enable safe and efficient drone and UAM operations. Terra Drone aims to be the leading player building the digital infrastructure in the sky together with Unifly.”