Investment Platform is a digital and quarterly publication that reports on investment activities involving German and Chinese companies. They commonly focus on Case studies on participations, acquisitions, greenfield investments and joint ventures.
Recently they published a Case Study on Unmanned Aerial Vehicles featuring the acquisition of Aircam by Microdrones in late 2018. A .pdf of the German and Chinese article can be downloaded by clicking on the appropriate cover. The English translation is available to read below.
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles
BY NORBERT HOFMANN
At the end of 2018, German drone pioneer, Microdrones, continued to advance its global growth with the acquisition of the Chinese company Aircam UAV Technology, thereby using China as a base to secure even better access to customers in Asia.
Sinopec, the world's largest oil refining company, uses drones for inspecting its pipelines in southern China. Since late 2017, the md4-1000 quadcopter from Microdrones will have flown more than 40,000 kilometers. The result: cost savings and a reduced risk of injury for employees. The drones are also used for a variety of other applications including land surveying, agriculture, construction and mining, and many more. Asia is considered to be a promising market. With the acquisition of Aircam in Foshan, Microdrones has created more direct access to the market. “For a decade, we have already been connected by a strong sales relationship, targeting professional users,” explains Vivien Heriard-Dubreuil, President of Microdrones. With the acquisition, the company will gain additional capacity for production and sales.
From starting in a garage to soaring high
The Microdrones story begins in a garage in Siegen. Shortly after the turn of the millennium, German engineer Udo Juerss, an avid model airplane builder, designed a flying machine with four rotors. The result was the world's first quadcopter. The design was unique and required relatively little power for flight stabilization thanks to its rotor arrangement. Shortly thereafter, Microdrones was founded and encountered rapidly growing interest in its Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs). Around the same time, Vivien Heriard-Dubreuil founded a drone company in the United States. Since he was looking to merge with a manufacturer, he invested in Microdrones. Another company he founded in Canada - Avyon - helped grow the business throughout North America. In 2016, Microdrones and Avyon merged, keeping the name Microdrones.
Since then, Microdrones has been offering complete Integrated Systems, which include not only the resilient drone platform but also integrated software and workflow solutions - making for successful market positioning. "For the software and sensors connected with a drone as a platform, there are many exciting application possibilities across the country, which open up a worldwide market potential for companies like Microdrones," says Philipp Wrycza from the Fraunhofer Institute for Material Flow and Logistics IML.
Expansion is a factor of success in the industry. "We see a clear trend towards market consolidation through cooperation and acquisitions," says Wrycza. The acquisition in China, which was completed in December 2018, should now provide additional growth. The Aircam brand and corporate identity will change to Microdrones, and all aspects of the business will be directed by the Microdrones global leadership team. "Through our presence in China, we will now offer our professional solutions across the continent," says Francois Gerner, SVP Corporate Affairs at Microdrones. The merger provided Microdrones a strong customer base in surveying and mapping, utilities, and the oil and gas industry. The location near Guangzhou is also set to become the service center for the entire region of East Asia, the Pacific and Australia.
Great potential for complete solutions
The acquisition will continue to develop the strength and versatility of Microdrones in new markets. Their Integrated Systems generate powerful data deliverables like 3D pointclouds, orthomosaics, and methane inspection concern maps. They also have systems which can provide important insights into the vitality of crops in agriculture and ortho-photography for true-to-scale imaging of the earth’s surface.
"Above all, there is considerable infrastructure potential for drone applications worldwide", says Ralf Böhle, Manager of CIO Advisory at PwC.
This ranges from inspection in the energy sector to road construction and the optimization of irrigation and fertilizer use in agriculture. PwC estimates global sales of these three applications alone at approximately $100 billion annually. Many applications are also available in the logistics sector. "They are often more economical than other solutions," says Wrycza. This ranges from inventory analysis, in which drones facilitate the measurement of meter-high goods pallets, to in-house transportation of production parts. In the Far East they are already ahead of the game. "For transporting parcels or tools, for example, China offers significantly more regulatory freedom than Germany," says Böhle, the expert. In China, online retailers are already delivering their parcels to interim storage facilities by drone, where they are then picked up by carriers.
The market for drones in China is heavily influenced by domestic manufacturers; their customers are predominantly public authorities. The private sector is still exercising restraint where the use of drones is concerned, so there is also potential for Microdrones. The company can also gain invaluable experience. "Collaboration between German and Chinese companies definitely makes sense, especially in the key technologies of AI and drones, because China has caught up with and partly even overtaken Europe," says Böhle. Transfer of knowledge from China to Europe is also already taking place. One reason for this: "Innovations are easier to implement in the People's Republic of China due to the tendency towards centralized regulation."
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