Blackbird, Costanoa lead $23m funding round for drone survey startup Propeller

Blackbird, Costanoa lead $23m funding round for drone survey startup Propeller

Propeller co-founders Rory San Miguel and Francis Vierboom (Photo credit: Propeller)

A Sydney-based software company using drones to help clients like Boral (ASX: BLD) and Hensel Phelps create accurate 3D maps of worksites has raised USD$15.35 million (AUD$22.9 million) in a funding round led by Blackbird and Costanoa.

Propeller’s raise was also supported by new investors Aware Super, Canva founder Cliff Obrecht and Saniel – the fund of Aconex founder Leigh Jasper.

Founded in 2014 by Rory San Miguel and Francis Vierboom, Propeller has built its own ground control points (GCPs) called AeroPoints to accurately capture positions on large industrial builds. From there, the company’s software uses thousands of drone-captured images to create 3D maps for its customers.

The latest funding round will be used to bolster staff and product development – particularly for a new worksite collaboration platform called DirtMate, which uses survey-grade machine sensors to track how each machine moves across a busy worksite and address potential production delays.

According to the company, it is assisting more than 15,000 worksites per month.

“Historically, the construction industry hasn’t had the data or tools available to effectively track their projects, often resulting in delays and cost overruns,” investors at Aware Super said.

“Propeller makes data capture and survey analysis available to everyone to support the delivery of effective project management and better outcomes.

“From our very first meeting, we were impressed by the team’s execution and the vision they’ve laid out to become the clear leader to digitize the construction industry.” 

While Propeller is based in Sydney, it has also offices in Denver, Colorado and boasts around 200 employees in total.  

Over the last nine years, the company has worked with the likes of Lendlease (ASX: LLC), McConnell Dowell, Nevada Goldmines, Orica and Hensel Phelps, the latter having used the tech to create a 3D map of its worksite in Honolulu during the construction of Hawaii State Hospital.

“With Propeller, we really encourage all our field staff and office staff to utilitse it to plan our work,” Hensel Phelps area superintendent Andrew Low said in a video on Propeller’s website.

“We’re looking at quantities, we’re using the drone pictures to do our site logistics plans, we’re using it to help in our sub-coordination meetings to show where underground utilities might conflict with an excavation we have out there and how we can keep people safe.”

“We were spending time internally in the virtual design and construction (VDC) department processing our own data. It wasn’t uncommon that we would spend a few hours on each data set that we captured,” Hansel Phelps lead VDC engineer Mark Blacklin added.

“Now with Propeller, we can capture that data set, hand it off, and 12 hours later we had a [whole] data set – that’s remarkable.”

The raise comes only a few days after it was announced Leigh Jasper backed employee benefits platform Circle In in a $2 million funding round led by venture capital firm (VC) Alberts Impact Ventures.

“In an environment where most VC-backed companies have been forced to take significant actions to preserve cash and defer funding rounds, Propeller stands out for its high growth with remarkable capital efficiency,” investors at Aware Super said.

“The company’s ability to raise a very strong round of funding in a difficult market is a testament to this.”

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