News about Terra Drone's strategic investment in Aloft Technologies made waves across the drone industry, as it brought the UAS Service Supplier under the wing of one of the world's largest industrial drone solution providers as an affiliate. It’s a development that puts Terra Drone in a position to further contribute to the development of the UTM (Unmanned Traffic Management) ecosystem on a global scale.

We can talk about this news as a further contribution of the endeavor on account of Terra Drone’s 2023 acquisition of a majority share of Unifly, which expanded its global drone and UAM (Urban Air Mobility) operations. Unifly has a longtime commitment to leading and setting benchmarks in UTM and UAM, which was recently highlighted with the completion of an FAA-backed UTM project.

While the news about Terra Drone investing in Aloft mentioned that evolving UTM on a global level was one of the drivers, there were actually several motivations behind Terra Drone's decision to make this investment. Yuki UenoExecutive Officer of Terra Drone and part of the newly joined Aloft board of directors, further detailed many of these reasons.

“Firstly, UTM is fundamental to our strategic vision,” Ueno explained to Commercial UAV News. “We anticipate that, in the long term, UTM will not only revolutionize the drone industry but also play a pivotal role in facilitating UAM endeavors, such as the integration of eVTOLs (electric Vertical Take-Off and Landing aircraft) and drone delivery services. By embracing UTM, we aim to unleash the full potential of these industries. Furthermore, we recognized the importance of establishing a presence in the United States. The US offers a unique environment, distinct from Europe or Japan, and boasts one of the largest GDPs globally. Anticipating that the US will emerge as a key market for drone and UAM/AAM (Advanced Air Mobility) companies, we saw this investment as a strategic move to position ourselves for growth.”

The FAA's Innovate 28 was also mentioned as one of the reasons that the investment made sense for Terra Drone, as the initiative underscores the increasing significance that the FAA  places on UTM with the future of aviation. The “Innovate 28” plan includes various components and the sequence they will occur in for operations to be at scale at one or more sites by 2028. The investment will help position Terra Drone as a key player in this evolving landscape of aviation and drone technology.

Another significant factor driving Terra Drone's investment is the appeal of the people behind it. Founded in 2015 by Jon Hegranes and Joshua Ziering, we’ve detailed Aloft’s efforts to create tools that support safe and compliant drone operations as well as how their solutions can help define the future of the airspace. Those efforts have enabled Aloft to boast an 80% share of the U.S. UTM market, which is in stark contrast to many similar service providers that have disappeared. Their focus and resilience resonated with the Terra Drone team on multiple levels.

“We have immense confidence in the visionary leadership of its founders, Jon and Josh, who have consistently demonstrated unwavering dedication to the industry's advancement,” Ueno said. “This belief in Aloft's leadership and potential led us to recognize a natural synergy between Aloft and Terra Drone. Becoming Aloft's largest shareholder signifies a significant milestone and paradigm shift in our collaboration. In essence, aligning with Aloft signifies a pivotal advancement for Terra Drone, driven by our trust in the company's leadership and its capacity to augment our capabilities within the industry.”

Current Aloft customers won’t notice any major changes with the Aloft solution, as ongoing operations and services are expected to continue seamlessly. While there won’t be a short-term impact on Aloft's existing customers, it’s the long-term opportunities that are most exciting to the people involved and the industry as a whole.

While Aloft has not yet expanded globally, Terra Drone's affiliation offers the possibility of reaching broader markets. This partnership has the potential to enhance Aloft's ability to serve a wider customer base beyond its current geographical scope to become a bigger enabler of the US drone industry, creating opportunities that will be realized across the world.

“With this announcement, we anticipate witnessing a groundbreaking worldwide collaboration among leading players and thought leaders in the industry,” Uenomentioned. “Terra Drone, as one of the largest drone solution providers over the past five years, along with our group company Unifly, boasting the largest track record in nationwide UTM deployments, particularly in Europe, the Middle East, and Canada, and Aloft, commanding a significant share within the Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC) system and empowering numerous corporate and government entities across various industry verticals. This partnership marks a pivotal moment, positioning us as true enablers of the US drone industry and paving the way for innovative solutions and industry-wide advancements.”