The Saudi Aramco Emerging Investment Fund supports a Japanese start-up company that develops drone software, as part of the world’s largest oil company’s pursuit of cutting-edge technologies.
Wa’ed Ventures, the venture capital fund of the state-owned Saudi Petroleum Corporation, said it would invest $14 million in Terra Drone, a Tokyo-based company that designs software that helps drones inspect, test vehicles, and monitor pipes, tanks, and other enclosed or confined spaces.
The “Wa’ed Ventures Fund” targets technologies that it believes may introduce novel activities to Saudi Arabia, which seeks to diversify its sources of revenue from activities other than oil.
The fund is betting that Terra Drone will localize technological development in Saudi Arabia. This will help fulfill Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s ambition to turn the country into a center for advanced technology.
The fund’s investment portfolio includes more than 50 companies. It is part of a national effort to increase investment in technology.
Aramco also owns another investment arm called Aramco Ventures, which manages high-value funds, including the $1 billion “Prosperity7” fund.
The Kingdom’s Public Investment Fund recently raised its stake in electronic game giant Nintendo, while making a major investment in Kakao Entertainment in South Korea.
Terra Drone Company intends to use the funds to establish an office in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Additionally, it plans to qualify drones to inspect oil tanks, gas tanks, and facilities owned by Saudi Aramco. This is according to the statements of Tipi Ski, director of the Terra Drone Company.
Ski said in an interview: “We are very keen on expanding our activity in the Middle East. This investment puts us on the map as one of the most significant (drone) companies in the world, which is something we need to launch on the global market.”
Drones are used in a wide variety of activities: from military attack to aerial surveillance, photo and video mapping, search and rescue, package delivery, oil rig monitoring, power lines, and precision farming systems.
While the Chinese company “DJI Technology” (SZ DJI Technology) is one of the largest manufacturers of consumer drones, Terra Drone makes much of its revenue by helping companies map forest lands, inspect pipelines, tanks, flare stacks, and other hard-to-reach equipment.