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American Robotics drone Scout emerging from ScoutBase
Image credit: American Robotics

Ondas acquires American Robotics for its ‘rugged, real-world’ drones that can fly by themselves

May 19, 2021

American Robotics, a startup developing rugged, fully autonomous drones for use in industrial and agricultural settings, has been acquired by wireless tech firm Ondas, the two companies have announced. The terms of the deal, including financial details, were not disclosed.

Ondas — which develops software-based wireless tech for broadband connectivity — plans to integrate American Robotics’ Scout drone system with its own FullMAX platform, which enables multiple-standard telecommunications across wide-area networks for a variety of industrial field operations.

In a statement announcing the deal, American Robotics described itself as being “focused on designing, developing, and marketing industrial drone solutions for rugged, real-world environments,” helping its users to “better see how their physical assets — from railroads to utilities and crops — are performing.”

The Marlborough, Massachusetts-based startup’s ‘pilotless’ drone is called Scout. When it is not in use, Scout resides in a weatherproof box, ScoutBase, which can be kept on location and acts as an ‘edge computing’ station where in-field data analysis can take place, while also allowing the drone to recharge. When it’s time for a mission, the top of the box opens and Scout takes off to collect data. Users can manage the drones and the data they collect through an app-based platform called ScoutView.

Founded in 2016 by a team of robotics experts from from Carnegie Mellon and Stanford, American Robotics claims that it is the first and only drone company to receive US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approval for flights that extend beyond the visual line of sight. The FAA currently requires drone operators to keep the drone in actual sight at all times, limiting their deployment over wider areas or when constant visual monitoring is not possible.

As the only startup in the game with the ability to fly drones beyond the line of sight, American Robotics offers an advantage over competitors that still has to keep the drone in view. This makes it an appealing acquisition target for Ondas, which services a variety of industries including agriculture, transportation, and energy.

As a number of drone-focused companies fizzled out or pivoted to other industries in recent years, a few players have risen to the top of the ag drone sector.

Earlier this year, Canadian drones-as-a-service firm Deveron UAS raised $4.56 million to explore M&A opportunities in agronomy and crop consultancy. Last July saw Israel-based ag imaging drone startup Taranis close a $30 million Series C round from investors Hitachi, Micron, and Temasek affiliate Vertex Growth, among others.

In China, Suzhou-based EAVision raised $30 million in Series C funding from Temasek, Bits x Bites, and others for its specialist drones adapted to hillside farms; while Guangzhou’s XAG has secured close to $230 million from the likes of Baidu, SoftBank, and Hillhouse Capital across multiple Series C tranches since November last year.

Acquisition activity is gaining momentum throughout agrifoodtech across a variety of subsectors, and drones are no exception. In one example from earlier this year, Wichita, Kansas-based ag drone company AgEagle acquired aerial intelligence startup Measure Global for $45 million.

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