Fortem Technologies in March said it has received a $15 million investment from Japan’s Toshiba Corp.
that will allow it to quickly scale and meet demand for increased production of its counter-drone systems.
The two companies also agreed to a strategic alliance that involves the integration of their complementary counter-unmanned aircraft systems (C-UAS).
“We feel this is real validation for both the market and our technology,” Timothy Bean, CEO of Utah-based Fortem, told HSR in an interview ahead the announcement. “This is a real market. You don’t see it too much in the U.S., but international. There’s a lot of problems that are caused by drones and people are looking to secure their venues, their campuses, their oil fields and their cities in some places from rogue drones.”
In addition to allowing Fortem to boost production, Toshiba’s investment will help it expand its global footprint to support resellers of its products with marketing and technical resources, he said.
Bean said most of the demand for his company’s products is from international customers, with Fortem’s products “deployed widely” in Japan, the Middle East, the U.S., Canada, and Southeast Asia. Toshiba will be responsible for sales in Japan and be part of Fortem’s reseller group, he said.
Customers include the U.S. Defense Department, international militaries, including friendly partners in the Middle East, civil government law enforcement authorities, in particular international organizations, and the private sector, he said.
Fortem breaks out its end customers into three categories. Military and defense, civil authorities such as police, FBI and airports, and commercial. The defense market is the largest but civil government, in particular international, is the fastest growing segment, Bean said.
Bean described the budgets in the U.S. for C-UAS as “small,” and in most cases limited to technology evaluations.
In June 2020, Fortem said it sold its SkyDome System to a customer in the Persian Gulf region for use in national security and defense.
Fortem’s key products include its TrueView active electronically scanned phased array radar that includes artificial intelligence at the edge for autonomous detection of rogue drones, and its DroneHunter interceptor drone that interdicts potential threat drones and disables them by firing a net at them in midair and then tows them to the ground safely. Together, TrueView and DroneHunter make up the SkyDome system.
Fortem also supplies a command-and-control software platform that integrates TrueView and other sensors to alert operators or launch DroneHunter.
Toshiba’s Toshiba Infrastructure Systems & Solutions business invested in Fortem and formed the strategic alliance with the U.S. company. Toshiba has a commercial drone detection system based on radio frequency technology to detect and track small UAS systems in flight. The two companies have teamed previously to offer multi-layered C-UAS solutions, Bean said.
“We are an overlay to what Toshiba does in terms of their RF system,” he said. “They also have some long-range radars. Our niche is we have small and medium-sized radar to populate and instrument an urban environment.”
With the short- to long-range radar, the RF and DroneHunter, it gives Toshiba a broader solution to take to the market, he said.
Fortem said that it and Toshiba will have mutual access to each other’s sales network.
The new investment by Toshiba follows a $15 million investment round in Fortem in 2018 by Boeing [BA], the United Arab Emirates’ Mubadala Investment Company, and other investors. Bean said the strategic investments by all three companies give them an equity interest in Fortem and each a seat on the company’s board.