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Valqari acquires IDU Group in quest to build citywide drone networks

Merged companies will build drone infrastructure on roofs, windows and ground

The combined company will deliver pharmaceuticals, groceries, hot meals and more (Photo: Shutterstock)

Plenty of companies are laser-focused on the last mile of delivery and its many pitfalls. Some are even honed in on the final hundred feet. 

But for a select few, the last mile is really a game of inches.

Valqari, a Chicago-based drone delivery startup, on Tuesday announced it had acquired Staffordshire, U.K.-based IDU Group, which builds drone infrastructure that can be installed from rooftops and the windows of buildings. Combined with Valqari’s drone landing stations and smart mailboxes, the merged company is solving what it calls the “last inch” problem.

In other words, its focus is on the final handoff between the drone and landing station or receptacle — the last inches of the delivery. The goal is for any drone or delivery provider to be able to make deliveries across a range of industries. Pharmaceuticals, hot meals, groceries, e-commerce packages — you name it, Valqari thinks it can deliver it.

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By adding IDU’s above-the-ground infrastructure to products like the Drone Delivery Station and Smart Drone Delivery Mailbox, Valqari founder and CEO Ryan Walsh envisions the company enabling drone delivery in cities from top to bottom.

“Adding IDU’s impressive and extensive team and technology gives us an even stronger platform to offer our customers,” Walsh said. “Our vision is to provide customers with the solution that best fits their needs, all on one interconnected platform for ease of use by the various drone operators. We will be working tirelessly to provide the next generation of drone infrastructure using the best of both of our technologies.”

Not much is known about IDU’s product offerings outside of SmartBox, the startup’s flagship product that will be incorporated into Valqari’s portfolio. It also has “several other unreleased models of infrastructure” centered around autonomous docking and delivery handoffs. According to a news release, Valqari and IDU have fostered a relationship for several years.

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“Valqari has been and will continue to be the market leader in this space, and we are excited to merge our efforts under such a strong brand with an extensive patent portfolio,” said Kevin Duckers, the current CEO of IDU who will act as chief operating officer of Valqari following the merger.

The portfolio Duckers alluded to includes patents for Valqari’s two core products as well as an array of other features the company has added over the years, like a window-mounted landing pad and a virtual wall that secures packages from potential thieves.

But that list may soon grow even longer. 

In a news release, the combined company said it would be making “a number of major announcements” before the end of the year, suggesting there could be more patents, partnerships or acquisitions on the horizon. It also hopes to expand its geography to cover Africa and the Middle East as its team grows.

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Jack Daleo

Jack is a staff writer for FreightWaves and Modern Shipper covering topics like last mile delivery and e-commerce fulfillment. He studied at Northwestern University, majoring in journalism with a certificate in integrated marketing communications. Previously, Jack has written for Backpacker Magazine and enjoys travel, the outdoors, and all things basketball.