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London Tech Week

With $165M funding, Shield AI joins SpaceX to become a multi-billion-dollar autonomous defence-tech startup

Shield AI
Image credits: Shield AI

Shield AI, a San Deigo-based defense technology company building AI pilots for aircraft, announced that it has secured $90M in equity and $75M in debt as part of a Series E fundraising round at a $2.3B valuation. 

With this deal, Shield AI joins SpaceX, Palantir, and Anduril as the only multi-billion-dollar defense-tech startups in the past 20 years. 

The round was led by Snowpoint Ventures’ DougPhilippone, who has also served as Palantir’s Global Defense Lead since 2008. 

Others, including Riot Ventures, Disruptive, and Homebrew, also participated. The company’s lead investors include Point72, Andreessen Horowitz, Breyer Capital, and SVB Capital.

“The future of defense aviation is autonomy. AI pilots are the most disruptive defense technology of our generation – and Shield AI is committed to putting the world’s best AI pilots in the hands of the United States and our allies. No company has assembled more, or recruits better AI engineering talent for, aviation autonomy and intelligent swarming than Shield AI,” says Shield AI’s co-founder and CEO, Ryan Tseng.  

Hivemind 

Founded by Andrew Reiter, Brandon Tseng, and Ryan Tseng, Shield AI‘s Hivemind software enables intelligent teams of aircraft to perform missions ranging from room clearance to penetrating air defense systems and dogfighting F-16s. 

Hivemind employs state-of-the-art algorithms for planning, mapping, and state estimation to enable aircraft to execute dynamic flight maneuvers and uses reinforcement learning for the discovery, learning, and execution of winning tactics and strategies. 

The software enables full autonomy and is designed to run fully on the edge, disconnected from the cloud, in high threat, GPS, and communication-degraded environments.  

The US company’s hardware products are – small-unmanned aircraft system (sUAS) Nova and its medium-size vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) UAS, V-BAT. 

Hivemind is integrated onboard Nova since 2018 and it will soon be integrated onboard the V-BAT. The company has offices in San Diego, Washington D.C., Dallas, and Abu Dhabi.

“Investors are flocking to quality. This round is a reflection of Shield AI’s success in creating great products, building a business with strong fundamentals, and dominant technological leadership – with an AI pilot proven to be the world’s best in numerous military evaluations. We love that they are leveraging an AI and software backbone across a variety of aircraft to deliver truly game-changing value to our warfighters. The work they are doing today is just the tip of the iceberg,” said Doug Philippone, co-founder of Snowpoint Ventures.

“Russia and China are jamming GPS and communications. U.S. and allied forces need swarms of resilient systems flown by AI pilots to operate in these denied environments. We call it low-cost, distributed strategic deterrence. If we had put up a bunch of AI-piloted swarms on the border of Ukraine, the Russians may have thought twice about invading. Distributed swarms are also more survivable than traditional strategic assets like an aircraft carrier (which is a high-cost, centralized strategic deterrent). Every ally is modernizing their military, and they’re looking at how AI-piloted aircraft can give them a strategic, tactical, and cost advantage,” said Brandon Tseng, Shield AI’s co-founder, President, and a former Navy SEAL.  

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