New Zealand drone company Aeronavics is looking to raise $5 million to push its international growth plans.

The Raglan-based outfit makes high-performance drones for tasks like carrying movie cameras and spraying crops.

The company launched a campaign through equity crowdfunding website Snowball Effect last year, hoping to raise between $750,000 and $1.5m. It hit the $1.5m quickly, closing the campaign three weeks before the deadline.

Investors bought 15 per cent of the company.

Co-founder Linda Bulk said Aeronavics had expanded since the first round of funding, adding more staff and developing more products.

About another 10 staff were expected to added this year, boosting the total to about 36.

Having started as a drone parts manufacturer, it now designs and manufactures complete drones and provides training to fly them.

The time of putting drones together yourself was ending, Bulk said, which was why the business had to change.

A lot of the drone technology will be fully autonomous.

Aeronavics is looking at its next stage of growth, which will focus on commercialisation and product development.

Management had been working on a long-term product development road map, which Bulk said was eventually an autonomous vehicle that collects data. 

"Obviously all of this needs to be funded," Bulk said.

"Ideally, [investors will] either already have a distribution network that we could use to bring our product further to market, or in some other way to add value to the company.

"It's either professional investors or companies that we are talking with."

Ideally that could include a business that produces sensors, or a utility company that wanted to progress its own development, she said.

"It's investing in us as a company and also progressing in a tool that will be valuable to them."

Aeronavics exports worldwide, but the plan is to expand in North America, Australia, Europe and New Zealand, by setting up its own sales channels. 

The company has been selling direct to customers in these countries but Bulk said she hopes to find distributors.

The company is faced with the challenge of figuring out how to compete in the growing industry.

Bulk said a brand overhaul was in the works to differentiate Aeronavics from its competitors.

There has been a huge amount of growth in the industry, with big companies bringing out new products at a low prices.

"How do you compete with the Chinese? You don't."

Aeronavics wants to position itself as a high quality, innovate industrial manufacturer.

"We want people to recognise that brand and be a world leader, which we are but we are not really that visible."

Bulk will soon step down as chief executive to become the chief brand officer for the company.

Chief operating officer Jon Fletcher will become chief executive.

Fletcher has worked in senior executive roles in Britain, Australia, India and New Zealand.

He has been involved in the steel, construction, aluminium extrusion and energy cables industries. He started with Aeronavics in August last year.


 - Stuff

Image: Aeronavics co-founder Linda Bulk will step down as chief executive in a few months, she will step into the new role of chief brand officer.


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