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'Waze for Drones' App Hivemapper Launches Public Beta, Raises $3 Million Seed Round

Spark Capital led the investment.


If you drive a car a lot in 2015, you’ve probably used Waze — the popular Google-owned navigation app with a fondness for side streets and left turns into traffic. Waze’s key innovation is that drivers can report car accidents, heavy traffic and other on-the-road events, using this information to turn your smartphone into a news helicopter.

Hivemapper is a startup that, basically, wants to do for drone navigation what Waze has done for driving.

Today, the company is launching its public beta and announcing a $3 million seed funding round led by Spark Capital, with participation from Harrison Metal, Founder Collective, Google Ventures, Homebrew Capital, Subversive Capital and Michael Auerbach, an executive from Albright Stonebridge Group.

Hivemapper works on the software platform of DJI, the Chinese drone maker that’s quickly taking over the market. The app is only available on Android right now, but Hivemapper says it’s working on an iOS version.

The app itself is straightforward. On your phone, you see what the drone sees, and there are Waze-like pop-ups showing things like building distances, points of interests and altitude. Users can highlight places that seem interesting, and Hivemapper scrapes data from sources including the FCC and FAA to make sure you don’t steer your drone into a no-fly zone.

Figuring out what happens with drone regulation is especially important right now. Last month, the FAA announced that it’s going to require all recreational drone users to register their devices with the government, which anticipates that as many as a million drones could sell during the holiday season. Hivemapper founder and former Yahoo exec Ariel Seidman doesn’t sound all that worried.

“One of our investors is Michael Auerbach of the Albright Stonebridge Group, and he has been helping us coordinate with some of the key folks influencing government policy, like [former student of President Obama] Lisa Ellman, so that those channels are very open,” Seidman told Re/code. “Amazon, Google and DJI are doing an A++ job working with government regulators to develop sensible drone policies, so that we can focus on building great tools for their platform.”

In a blog post, Spark Capital General Partner (and new Hivemapper board member) Mo Koyfman pointed out that the app already has “detailed data on the footprints of 20 million buildings, the height of 10 million buildings, roughly 15 million points of interest and tens of thousands of no-fly zones in the U.S.”

You can watch a demo of Hivemapper below, on the campus of UC Berkeley:

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