Nordic Unmanned last week said it has entered into an agreement in which it will gain control of 55% of the shares in DroneMatrix N.V. Nordic Unmanned said the investment will strengthen its position in Europe, complement existing systems for multiple market verticals, and accelerate DroneMatrix's development and growth.
“The partnership with DroneMatrix enables both companies to scale their commercial offerings through new services and solutions,” stated Knut Roar Wiig, CEO Nordic Unmanned. “DroneMatrix’s fully autonomous AI-powered Drone-In-A-Box solution will add significant value to all our verticals, especially the security vertical.”
Founded in 2014, Nordic Unmanned supports public and private customers with real-time data collected by unmanned systems. The company, which has offices in Sandnes and Oslo in Norway and Frankfurt, Germany, is ISO 9001-2015-certified by DNV-GL for the operation, maintenance, and sales of unmanned systems and sensor technology. Nordic Unmanned is listed on Euronext Growth Oslo as “NUMND.”
DroneMatrix offers operational flexibility
The Vanwelkenhuyzen family founded DroneMatrix in 2015. The Hasselt, Belgium-based RiskMatrix company said it offers autonomous aerial drones, docking stations, and proprietary software based on artificial intelligence that enables drones to detect and follow objects.
DroneMatrix claimed that its YACOB “Drone-in-a-Box” technology provides highly reliable, high-quality data connectivity. It also includes the Aerial Robotic Worksystem (AR-WS), a comprehensive command-and-control UOM platform.
Like the robotics-as-a-service (RaaS) model, Drone-in-a-Box “represents the next phase of industry development, as it allows for centralized, remote operations of drones, enabling rapid upscaling of lightweight drone operations,” said DroneMatrix. The company said it is responsible for the development of Belgium's commercial air layer operated by aerial robotics (6th NeTWorK).
“We offer a drone network where end users acquire the results and data from the drone operations in a smooth, simple way,” said Lander Vanwelkenhuyzen. “To ensure optimal operation, DroneMatrix relies on a network of ‘standby’ multifunctional drones and an open drone service platform. At the same time, we also see an increased demand from private infrastructures where the ‘buy and operate yourself’ formula is preferred.”
Drone-in-a-Box proven in port
DroneMatrix is currently operating at a large solar power plant in Spain, and it recently won a contract for the Port of Antwerp-Bruges in Belgium. The three-year service contract, which will begin in the third quarter of 2022, includes six Drone-in-a-Box units distributed across the port.
The drones will autonomously monitor the port. In addition, the drone solution will be available on demand to inspect for oil leaks and assist with rail inspections, perimeter control, and emergency situations, said DroneMatrix. The company claimed the contract is the largest of its kind awarded so far in Europe, opening possibilities for multi-client sharing of the service and data collected.
“DroneMatrix has been at the forefront of the development of Drone-In-A-Box solutions for a number of years,” said Steffan Lindsø, chief technology officer of Nordic Unmanned. “They have tested the use case with early adopters, and it is now believed that several industries are ready to take on board this new technology in the very near future. We see a significant increase in interest and use cases around the DroneMatrix solution and believe that the timing is perfect for accelerating the rollout of these products to a wider market.”
Roar Wiig added: “The fact that the technology is proven, with success in the Port of Antwerp-Bruges, ensures immediate scalability that will affect the Nordic Unmanned order backlog and 2022 revenues positively. The solution will immediately be added to Nordic Unmanned’s portfolio and be added to our LUC [light unmanned aerial system operator certificate] flight permit.”
Nordic Unmanned provides capital for growth
Through share purchase and an equity issue, Nordic Unmanned obtain control of 55% of the shares of DroneMatrix. The share purchase of €0.975 million ($1.02 million U.S.) will be settled on closing, which the companies expect at end of the second quarter.
The €1.5 million ($1.56 million) equity contribution will be fully paid before the end of 2022, said Nordic Unmanned. It said the contributed equity will ensure capital for scaling up and further developing DroneMatrix.
The transaction reflects a valuation of DroneMatrix on an enterprise value basis of €3 million ($3.13 million). Within the next three years, Nordic Unmanned plans to acquire the remaining shares based on a pre-agreed performance-based valuation matrix, with a minimum valuation of €3 million and a maximum valuation of €8 million ($8.34 million) on an enterprise value basis. Until then, the outstanding 45% of the shares remain with the Vanwelkenhuyzen family.
Founder Frank Vanwelkenhuyzen, CEO Lander Vanwelkenhuyzen, and the current management team will continue to oversee DroneMatrix's operations and development.
“DroneMatrix is ready for a partnership with a solid, like-minded, and ambitious business partner to realise the promising opportunities and enable future ambitious growth plans,” said Lander Vanwelkenhuyzen. “We have found a solid partner in Nordic Unmanned, the global leader in drone systems and services. The partnership enables us to scale our company and solutions while continuing running the operations and shaping our identity.”
DroneMatrix had revenues of €324,000 ($337,000) and a gross margin of 77% in 2021. It expects its revenues for 2022 to double. The company is hiring software developers, electronics engineers, project managers, customer support staffers, and financial specialists.
“We are very excited about the identified synergies between Nordic Unmanned and DroneMatrix,” said Roar Wiig. “The combination of Drone-In-A-Box solutions and our BG Rail and BG Cargo drones will enable us to advance our planned services within rail and cargo delivery onshore and offshore.”
“The Nordic Unmanned Operation Centre will remotely control the Drone-In-A-Box operations,” he said. “In addition, Nordic Unmanned will gain access to the Benelux market for our existing portfolio of solutions and services.”