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As summer winds down, the number of reported transactions in robotics, autonomous vehicles, drones, and artificial intelligence increased, even as the total value dipped from the previous month’s big deals. The Robot Report tracked nearly 50 automation transactions, worth more than $1.8 billion, in August 2019.

In comparison, automation deals worth $10.1 billion occurred in July, and $1.1 billion in June 2019. The Robot Report recorded $925.33 million in investments for August 2018. There were 37 investments this past month, compared with 22 the previous month, 42 in June, and 29 a year ago. See also our roundup of the 20 largest investments in the first half of this year.

Aerial drones, AI and software, and autonomous vehicle startups did well in August 2019, followed by automation transactions in manufacturing, supply chain, and logistics. Service robotics, including robots for food handling, cleaning, and security, also received funding.

The table below lists investments in millions of U.S. dollars where figures were available.

Company Amt. (M$) Transaction Lead investor, partner Date Technology
Advanced Farm Technologies 7.5 Series A Yamaha Motor Ventures & Laboratory Silicon Valley Aug. 27, 2019 strawberry harvester
Aerones 2.9 seed InnoEnergy Aug. 5, 2019 heavy-lift drones
Airspace Link Ltd. 0.35 angel Aug. 23, 2019 drone management
Augmented Pixels Inc. 0.3 seed Aug. 30, 2019 AR for drone, robot navigation
Bear Robotics Inc. 10.2 equity sale Aug. 15, 2019 restaurant robots
Bestmile SA 16.5 Series B Blue Lagoon Capital, Translink Capital Aug. 28, 2019 autonomous fleet management
Clobotics 22 pre-Series B CDIB Capital, CMC Capital Group Aug. 8, 2019 vision for drone inspection
Cobalt Robotics 35 Series B Coatue Aug. 14, 2019 security, RaaS
Commsignia Inc. 11 investment Karma Ventures, Day One Capital Aug. 15, 2019 connected vehicles
CynLr 0.78 seed Speciale Invest, Arali Ventures, GrowX Ventures, CIIE Initiatives Aug. 6, 2019 machine vision
DroneShield Ltd. 6.5 post-IPO equity Aug. 6, 2019 drone defense
Elite Technology 14 Series B Shenzhen Guozhong Venture Capital Management Aug. 20, 2019 collaborative robot
Emotix 7.5 Series A Chiratae Ventures Aug. 13, 2019 Miko social robot
GelSight Inc. 6.1 stock sale Aug. 9, 2019 sensors
GITAI 4.1 investment Spiral Ventures Aug. 21, 2019 space robot
Harvest Croo LLC 0.5 investment Aug. 19, 2019 strawberry harvesting
i-Kingtec Series A BlueRun Venture Aug. 20, 2019 drone inspection
iotaMotion Inc. 2.52 seed Aug. 28, 2019 surgical robots
Left Hand Robotics 3.6 investment Catapult Ventures Aug. 28, 2019 field robotics
Lucid Drone Technologies Inc. 150 seed Y Combinator Aug. 20, 2019 drone cleaning
Mars Auto 0.15 seed Y Combinator Aug. 19, 2019 autonomous trucks
Ono Food Co. investment Michael Dempsey Aug. 15, 2019 robotic food truck
RailPod Inc. 8.4 equity sale Aug. 8, 2019 rail inspection
Re-Gen Robotics 1.2 investment Aug. 6, 2019 tank-cleaning robot
RT Corp. 4.69 investment Mirai Creation Fund II Aug. 23, 2019 food-handling robots
Scale AI Inc. 100 Series C Founders Fund Aug. 5, 2019 AI annotation
Starship Technologies Inc. 40 Series A Morpheus Ventures Aug. 20, 2019 robot deliveries
Shield AI 22.2 Series B Aug. 14, 2019 security drones
Swoop Aero seed Tempus Partners, Right Click Capital Aug. 23, 2019 drone delivery
Tier IV Inc. 4 Series A Quanta Computer Aug. 19, 2019 self-driving software
Titan Medical Inc. 3 share sale Aspire Capital Fund LLC Aug. 29, 2019 surgical robots
TriEye 2 investment Porsche Aug. 22, 2019 vehicle vision enhancement
TuSimple minority stake UPS Ventures Aug. 15, 2019 autonomous trucks
WiBotic Inc. 6.1 investment Aug. 20, 2019 wireless charging
XYZ Robotics 8 Series A Gaorong Capital, Morningside Venture Capital Aug. 16, 2019 putwall sorting
Zoetic AI investment BabyTree Aug. 29, 2019 companion robot

Last month’s acquisitions also covered a wide range of applications, from surgical robots to robotic deliveries. Corindus Vascular Robotics, which is working on the CorPath surgical system (see video above), was the biggest acquisition and automation transaction of the month. The Robot Report has also compiled a list of 10 notable mergers and acquisitions in the first half of 2019.

Company Amt. (M$) Partner, acquirer Date Technology
Carl Cloos Welding Technology GmbH 216.44 Nanjing Estun Automation Co. Aug. 27, 2019 industrial automation
Corindus Vascular Robotics Inc. 1100 Siemens Medical Solutions Aug. 8, 2019 surgical robots
Formation Formant Aug. 5, 2019 robot fleet management
littleBits Sphero Inc. Aug. 23, 2019 educational kits
Olympus Controls Corp. Applied Industrial Technologies Aug. 14, 2019 motion control, machine vision
Scotty Labs Inc. DoorDash Inc. Aug. 20, 2019 robot deliveries

Surgical robots lead automation transactions

The largest automation transaction of the past month was Siemens Medical Solutions’ purchase of Corindus Vascular Robotics for $1.1 billion. Waltham, Mass.-based Corindus has been developing its CorPath platform for heart and vascular procedures. Its hardware and software have received approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The Robot Report will continue to follow Corindus closely.

Titan Medical raised $3 million in a stock sale via Aspire Capital Fund. The company closed a $25 million initial public offering in March, and its Sport orthopedic surgical system has been delayed for further development.

IotaMotion raised $2.52 million in seed funding for its iotaSOFT surgical system, which can aid cochlear implantation surgery for the treatment of hearing loss.

In the Asia-Pacific region alone — and not including Japan, which has a rapidly aging population — healthcare spending on robotics could rise to $7.03 billion by 2022, predicts IDC.


The Robot Report is launching the Healthcare Robotics Engineering Forum, which will be on Dec. 9-10 in Santa Clara, Calif. The conference and expo will focus on improving the design, development and manufacture of next-generation healthcare robots. Learn more about the Healthcare Robotics Engineering Forum, and registration will be open soon.


Sight beyond sight for transportation automation

Reported automation transactions around self-driving cars and trucks totaled more than $36 million in August 2019. Bestmile raised a Series B round of $16.5 million for its Fleet Orchestration Platform. The Lausanne, Switzerland-based company said it will enable users “to plan, manage, and optimize autonomous and human-driven fleets.”

Commsignia closed an $11 million funding round. The Santa Clara, Calif.-based startup is working on “V2X” (vehicle-to-everything) systems to make connected vehicles safer. They use sensor data, software, and self-driving and smart vehicle infrastructure to help cars perceive beyond their line of sight.

Also in the business of helping smart vehicles see better, Porsche invested $2 million in TriEye, which is applying AI to short-wave infrared sensing.

After raising $100 million in July, Tier IV raised another $9 million as it develops the Autoware open-source software. Despite the competitive nature of efforts to develop self-driving cars, companies such as Baidu, Lyft, and Waymo recognize the need to get community help in solving software problems, building maps, and standardizing for safety.

Korea-based Mars Auto raised $150,000 from the Y Combinator incubator for autonomous trucks. Speaking of trucks, UPS Ventures invested an unspecified amount in TuSimple.

Not listed in the tables above is Didi Chuxing’s spinout of its autonomous vehicles unit. It is trying to catch up to rivals in China and the U.S., reported TechCrunch.

From field to table

Strawberries are often left to rot in the field because of a shortage of farm workers. Yamaha Motor Ventures & Laboratory Silicon Valley led the Series A funding of $7.5 million for Advanced Farm Technologies, which is working on robotic strawberry harvesting. Harvest Croo, which is also working on automating the labor-intensive process, raised $500,000 last month.

It’s not quite harvesting, but also in field robotics, the RT-1000 from Left Hand Robotics can both mow fields and plow snow. The startup will use its $3.6 million in funding to expand distribution.

Hungry college students will soon have robots at their beck and call, as Starship Technologies raised $40 million and expanded its mobile robot deliveries to more campuses.

It’s not the same as a home-packed meal, but RT Corp. has raised $2.8 million in Series B funding for its Foodly lunch-box-packing robot. For those who don’t pack a lunch, Michael Dempsey invested an unnamed amount in One Food Co., which is building a robotic food truck (in contrast to an autonomous one).

Even as companies develop autonomous vehicles and robots for delivery, another model is tele-operated deliveries, as seen in DoorDsash’s acquisition of Scotty Labs.

Industrial automation transactions

Since robots are already profitable in manufacturing operations, there are fewer flashy investments here. Still, Nanjing Estun Automation’s $216.44 million acquisition of Carl Cloos Welding Technology is noteworthy as the second largest of last month’s automation transactions.

China-based Elite Technology raised $14 million in its Series B for its collaborative robot, and India-based CynLr raised seed investment of $780,000 as it builds “visual object intelligence for industrial robots.”

August was a relatively quiet month for warehouse automation, but XYZ Robotics raised $8 million in Series A funding for its putwall sorting and picking technologies.

Robots are supposed to tackle dull, dirty, and dangerous tasks, and this especially clear in the energy industry. Continuing the international theme, Northern Ireland-based Re-Gen Robotics raised $1.2 million for an “explosion-proof” tank-cleaning robot.

RailPod raised $8.4 million for its rail inspection robots, according to a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission approved SoftBank Group’s acquisition of warehouse automation provider Berkshire Grey, but no details were available about the scale of the investment as of press time.

Drones taxi with funding

Like the consumer market before it, the commercial drone space is struggling because of slow growth, DJI’s dominance, and regulatory concerns, according to Bloomberg.com, but venture capital is still ready for takeoff. Aerial drones for infrastructure inspection, security, or consumer delivery still earned investor interest in August 2019.

You might see a flying window washer outside your office any day now, as cleaning drone company Lucid Drone Technologies raised $150 million in seed funding from Y Combinator.

In pre-Series B fundraising, computer vision firm Clobotics raised $22 million for drone deliveries and inspection of wind power facilities.

Shield AI raised $22.2 million in Series B funding for security drones, and DroneShield raised $6.5 million in post-equity sales for drone countermeasures. On a related note, Coatue led the Series B financing of $35 million for Cobalt Robotics’ ground-based security robots.

Aerones, which is developing heavy-lift drones for delivering cargo or even people in emergency situations, raised seed funding of $3 million.

Angel investors provided $350,000 to Airspace Link, which is developing drone-management software.

Beijing-based i-Kingtec raised unspecified Series A funding for its infrastructure-inspecting drones, and Australian drone delivery company Swood Aero raised seed funding.

OpenSpace, which raised $14 million, and Versatile Nature, which raised $5.5 million, are applying “4D” maps and AI to construction sites. While their sensors are currently mounted on hard hats or cranes, respectively, they could be relevant to data someday gathered by drones or mobile robots.

Software, hardware automation transactions

Machine learning is only as good as the data it’s trained on. San Francisco-based Scale AI, which is creating software to annotate images, raised $100 million in Series C funding last month.

Augmented Pixels raised $300,000 in a seed round. It offers autonomous navigation for drones and robots in GPS-denied environments, as well as real-time simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM) that’s optimized for low CPU usage and augmented and virtual reality.

Formant, or Figure Projects Inc., bought Formation for an unspecified amount. Formant offers cloud-based software for managing robotic fleets, and Formation provides teleoperation capability for semi-autonomous robots.

On the hardware side, sensor maker GelSight raised $6.1 million in a stock sale, according to a filing with the SEC. Wireless charging innovator WiBotic raised $6.4 million.

Applied Industrial Technologies bought motion control, machine vision, and robotics company Olympus Controls for an unspecified amount.

Service and social robots

Toy maker Sphero acquired littleBits, which makes modular electronics, in its bid to be the leading provider of educational robots. Sphero’s competition includes Emotix, which raised $7.5 million in Series A funding for its Miko social robot.

BabyTree invested an unlisted amount in Zoetic AI, which is developing a companion robot for children. Crowdfunding campaigns are beyond the scope of this roundup — see methodology below — but laundry-folding robot maker FoldiMate’s fundraising with SeedInvest is worth noting.

While a general-purpose humanoid robot is a long way off, Japanese startup GITAI raised $4.1 million as it develops a humanoid robot for demonstration in the International Space Station next year. Beyond unmanned probes, a new robotics phase has begun in the space race, with Russia, China, India, and the U.S. among the competitors.

There were no failures in August 2019 (but there has already been one in September). However, Blue Ocean Robotics did acquire the assets around the Beam telepresence robot from Suitable Technologies.


Editors’ note: What defines robotics investments? The answer to this simple question is central in any attempt to quantify them with some degree of rigor. To make investment analyses consistent, repeatable, and valuable, it is critical to wring out as much subjectivity as possible during the evaluation process. This begins with a definition of terms and a description of assumptions.

Investors and investing
Investment should come from venture capital firms, corporate investment groups, angel investors, and other sources. Friends-and-family investments, government/non-governmental agency grants, and crowd-sourced funding are excluded.

Robotics and intelligent systems companies
Robotics companies must generate or expect to generate revenue from the production of robotics products (that sense, analyze, and act in the physical world), hardware or software subsystems and enabling technologies for robots, or services supporting robotics devices. For this analysis, autonomous vehicles (including technologies that support autonomous driving) and drones are considered robots, while 3D printers, CNC systems, and various types of “hard” automation are not.

Companies that are “robotic” in name only, or use the term “robot” to describe products and services that that do not enable or support devices acting in the physical world, are excluded. For example, this includes “software robots” and robotic process automation. Many firms have multiple locations in different countries. Company locations given in the analysis are based on the publicly listed headquarters in legal documents, press releases, etc.

Verification
Funding information is collected from a number of public and private sources. These include press releases from corporations and investment groups, corporate briefings, and association and industry publications. In addition, information comes from sessions at conferences and seminars, as well as during private interviews with industry representatives, investors, and others. Unverifiable investments are excluded.

Source: The Robot Report

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