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Is the commercial drone industry finally ready for takeoff? Ondas Holdings certainly thinks so. That’s why the developer of proprietary, software-based wireless broadband technology today spent $70.6 million to acquire American Robotics.
Marlborough, Mass.-based American Robotics develops Scout, a fully-automated commercial drone system. It is the first and only company the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has approved to fly drones beyond-visual-line-of-sight without a human operator on the ground.
Scout is designed for data gathering applications in industrial, agricultural and governmental settings. Scout consists of a fully autonomous drone with imaging payloads, a base station for housing, charging, data processing, and cloud transfer, and an analytics and front-end software package.
“It’s the perfect time for American Robotics to join forces with Ondas as we bring Scout System to the market and scale customer deployments,” said Reese Mozer, co-founder and CEO of American Robotics. “Ondas’ deep experience and relationships in our target customer markets in addition to its next-generation industrial networking capabilities will be incredibly helpful as we penetrate the large markets we address. We see substantial customer demand and are ready to deliver systems across an impressive pipeline of blue-chip industrial customers in addition to new customer relationships via Ondas.”
With its FAA approval, Ondas said American Robotics has a “first-mover advantage to unlock the commercial drone market.” Scout will be integrated into Ondas’ FullMAX platform, a standards-based networking solution designed to enable enhanced data communications for field operations. By combining these two platforms, Ondas said users will have access to a fully integrated, end-to-end industrial solution that uses edge computing and sensor-type technologies to their fullest extent.
“We are excited to bring American Robotics into the Ondas fold,” said Eric Brock, Chairman and CEO of Ondas. “At the end of the day, the drone industry’s product is data, not aircraft. The drone is the ultimate data gathering edge device for mission critical operations, solving a huge pain-point for Ondas’ industrial and government customers and ecosystem partners. American Robotics’ full stack IP portfolio is a complete system enabling Ondas to turn these pain-points into growth opportunities fueled by more rich data collection.”
American Robotics was founded in 2016 by roboticists from Carnegie Mellon University and Stanford University. Prior to the acquisition, it had raised about $10.5 million in funding, including a $5 million Series A round in January 2019. American Robotics was the first resident of MassRobotics, the Boston-based non-profit organization serving as the innovation hub for robotics and connected devices.
“We’re excited for this next phase for American Robotics,” said Joyce Sidopoulos, co-founder and VP of programs and community, MassRobotics. “It’s been great to follow their growth since they were the first of our startup residents in 2017.”
Ondas’ acquisition will be paid through a mixture of cash and equity securities. Ondas loaned American Robotics $2 million in April 2021. The transaction is subject to customary closing conditions, and is expected to close in the third quarter of 2021.
Mozer was a guest on The Robot Report Podcast shortly after the company received the FAA approval. We discussed how these flights are vastly different from previous BVLOS flights, and the implications for the company and the commercial drone industry. He also described the technical capabilities of the company’s drones, how humans will remain in the loop, what types of missions its drones will now carry out, and how the company landed in Boston. You can listen to the conversation with Mozer below.