Drone Delivery Firm Antwork Closes Series A+ Round
23 August, 2018
Antwork recently announced the completion of its Series A+ round worth RMB30 M, which was led by Panda Capital with participation from Gobi Partners. Existing backers Sequoia Capital China and Unity Ventures, also followed on. Previously, Antwork announced a Series A funding round worth tens of millions of RMB, which was led by Sequoia Capital China with participation from Unity Ventures.
Antwork is a drone logistics startup. The company was established in 2015, and in the following year collaborated with China Post to launch the first Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAVC) postal route. The route covers one town and four villages, and is still operating today, with over 1,000 flights made daily.
Subsequently, Antwork began working with several companies, including: Cainiao Logistics; China Post; Changjianghui Modern Art Center; the Second Affiliated Hospital of Zhejiang University School of Medicine; Suning.com; and ZTO Express to deploy their UAV system in more than a dozen provinces in China. The deployment process was completed within 2017, which showcases the company’s ability to cover a wide range of landscapes, including islands, mountains, plains, and rivers.
Antwork told 36Kr that the company has currently accumulated more than 40K km of mileage, and their number of daily flights is close to 20K. While gradually expanding the scale of their operations, Antwork is also utilizing a large amount of real-world operational data from different situations to train the drones’ autopilot algorithm; this will allow the drones to handle more problems autonomously during the transportation process, which will in turn reduce the reliance on remote manual intervention and further enhance the safety of the aircraft.
36Kr last wrote an article on Antwork in 2017. At the time, the company had just launched their first UAV logistics distribution service for mass consumers named “Antwork Express”, which provided the drone delivery service for users that were within the coverage area. The service was initially targeted at customers in suburbs with limited access to transportation, but Antwork recently began focusing on urban areas as well.
In the second quarter of 2018, Antwork set up five unmanned distribution points in Hangzhou’s Future Sci-Tech City. Eight drones and multiple food delivery workers were deployed simultaneously. The orders were made through Antwork’s app, and more than 7K deliveries were completed, with the highest amount delivered in a day being 400.
Zhang Lei, CEO of Antwork, told 36Kr that in terms of autonomous logistics, the value and overall market space of urban areas is much higher, but the amount of technical difficulties to be faced correspondingly grows higher as well. In urban areas, not only must the drones have the intelligence of a single robot; they must also be able to act as a large-scale robot cluster, complete with planning and scheduling capabilities, and the standard of quality that meets high security requirements.
The Antwork team estimates that by the end of 2018, the company will be launching an autonomous logistics system that fully integrates air and ground transport seamlessly, a first for the real-time logistics industry. In addition, Antwork will be releasing a new generation of robotic logistics solutions at the AI World Conference, which will be held in Shanghai from September 17 to 19. The solutions will include new fully operational unmanned aerial vehicles, unmanned ground vehicles, and unmanned stations.
Antwork has also worked on the development of its team; in 2018, the company established an autopilot research and development (R&D) center in Beijing and hired 20 people, including a team leader who is a postdoctoral fellow returning to China from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) Robot AI Lab. The Lab focuses mainly on the development of intelligent algorithms for the planning, scheduling, and computer vision of robotic transport systems, as well as the R&D of unmanned logistics vehicles.