Shield AI on Wednesday said it has agreed to acquire Martin UAV in a deal that will bring in-house an existing portfolio of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) that will be integrated with the company’s artificial intelligence (AI) platform for autonomous operations.
Terms of the transaction, which is expected to close within 10 days, were not disclosed.
Shield AI, a small San Diego-based company with about 240 employees, is fresh off its acquisition of Heron Systems Inc., which develops AI software for fighter aircraft designed to help the Defense Department ultimately achieve its goals of unmanned or optionally-manned next-generation fighters.
Martin UAV, which has about 100 employees and is based in Plano, Texas, develops and produces the V-BAT series of UAS, which take off and land vertically, hover, and transition to fixed-wing flight. The company’s V-BAT 118 has been evaluated and used by several customers, including the Defense Department and Department of Homeland Security, and its new V-BAT 128 was
recently selected by the Navy for a prototyping effort (Defense Daily, April 28).
Shield AI’s main product is its Hivemind software that removes the need for human operators, GPS and RF links for UAS and allows them to operate autonomously and highly contested and GPS-denied environments.
“GPS and communications on the battlefield are no longer assured,” Ruben Martin, CEO of Martin UAV, said in a statement. “A great aircraft without an AI to make intelligent decisions will be sidelined against China, Russia, and an increasing number of adversaries who are fielding electronic warfare and anti-air systems. Shield AI is one of the only companies that has operationalized advanced aircraft autonomy on the battlefield. Hivemind will make V-Bat the first and only Group 3 UAS built for sustained operations in denied environments.”
Shield AI also offers a small quadcopter UAS equipped with Hivemind that can carry payloads above and below the air vehicle.
A spokesman for Shield AI told Defense Daily that the company’s strategy includes having its own products to integrate with Hivemind and to work with defense manufactures to integrate the software into their UAS systems, including larger air vehicles.
The V-BAT 118 is eight-feet long with a nine-foot wing span, weighs 88 pounds, and has an eight-hour endurance and eight-pound payload capacity. The V-Bat 128, which will be publicly introduced at next week’s Navy League Sea-Air-Space show in Maryland, is nine feet long with a 9.7-foot wing span, weighs 125 pounds, and has a 25-pound payload capacity and 11-hour flight endurance.
The Martin UAV systems can each fit in the bed of a pickup truck or inside a UH -60 Black Hawk helicopter.
Shield AI and Martin UAV are pursuing multiple opportunities, including U.S. Special Operations Command’s Multi-Mission Tactical UAS, the Army’s Future Tactical UAS and the Marine Corps’ Small Tactical UAS programs, the spokesman said.
Houlihan Lokey is Martin UAV’s financial adviser on the deal and Shield AI is being advised by JPMorgan Chase & Co.