Saudi Aramco, the world’s leading oil producer, is making a multi-million dollar investment in Japanese drone and air mobility technology company Terra Drone as it seeks to fall in line with Saudi Arabia’s long-term initiative to reduce the nation’s dependence on hydrocarbons, the companies announced late Tuesday.
Through its $200 million venture capital arm, Wa’ed Ventures, Saudi Aramco is investing $14 million in Terra Drone which, in turn, will use the money to create the subsidiary Terra Drone Arabia. That unit will provide oil-gas inspection services for the company while at the same time generating local jobs and accelerating development of the drone industry in the Middle East, the companies said.
For Terra Drone, among the top two drone service providers in the world, its new subsidiary is an opportunity to further its global expansion. Terra Drone currently provides drone and urban air moblity (UAM) solutions in 10 countries.
“Saudi Aramco’s investment in Terra Drone through its VC arm Wa’ed Ventures is another example of the global recognition for our achievements, which raises the expectations for our team as we continue to push forward and lead Terra Drone to the forefront of the global innovation track,” said Toru Tokushige, founder and CEO of Terra Drone Corporation in a statement.
“They choose us because we have drone technologies software and services and the UTMsystem,” added Terra Drone COO Teppei Seki in an interview with Forbes.com. “We are the only global company to provide a full value chain to the oil and gas companies.”
Another key function of Terra Drone Arabia is development of the Unmanned Traffic Management or UTM system in the region. Think of it as air traffic control for low-flying aircraft such as drones. Terra Drone is largest shareholder of Unifly, the leading UTM technology provider in the world, which has a strong presence in Europe and North America.
Saudi Aramco’s move is a direct action to comport with Vision 2030, an initiative by Saudi Arabia to build and diversify its economy while reducing the nation’s dependency on hydrocarbons through the use of advanced technologies, such as drones for inspecting oil and gas lines.
It also includes creation of sustainable futuristic cities across several regions in a far-reaching project called NEOM, which Terra Drone will support as well.
“Supported by the global track record of Terra Drone, our investment represents our commitment towards building the UAM ecosystem in the Kingdom, one that circles around a sustainable economy. We foresee rapid adoption for UAM technology as an emerging tech vertical in the region, and Terra Drone is well-positioned to localize their innovation across the region, starting with the Kingdom,” added Fahad Alidi, Managing Director at Wa’ed Ventures.
While Terra Drone creates this new subsidiary in Saudi Arabia, its existing Terra Inspectioneering B.V. unit continues to grow. Based in the Netherlands the company specializes in conducting inspections in confined environments such as storage tanks mainly for the oil and gas industries but extend to the food and beverage and power and waster incinteration sectors.
Drones measure the thickness of tank walls, and carry out thermal and visual inspections. Key clients include Shell Oil, ExxonMobil, Heinekin, Deme Offshore and e-on.
Terra Inspectioneering will start speaking “very soon” to companies in Houston, Texas and Louisiana said Seki who declined to identify the businesses.
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