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Plano-based aerospace company Martin UAV sells to Shield AI

Martin UAV is best known for its series of unique unmanned aircraft.

Plano-based aerospace company Martin UAV will be acquired by San Diego-based Shield AI, the companies announced in a joint statement Wednesday.

With the acquisition, Shield AI — which applies self-driving car technologies to military aircraft — will integrate its Hivemind autonomy software to Martin UAV’s vertical takeoff and landing unmanned aircraft called V-BAT. The terms of the deal weren’t disclosed.

Martin UAV, founded in 2015, serves several different markets, including the defense, government and commercial industries. The addition of AI technology will better equip the V-BAT to complete sustained operations in difficult environments, Martin UAV chief executive officer Ruben Martin said.

“GPS and communications on the battlefield are no longer assured,” Martin said. “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.”

The V-BAT is propelled by a single, ducted, thrust-vectored fan and takes off and lands like a SpaceX rocket. The aircraft offers 11 hours of flight time, carries 25 pounds of payload and has a logistics footprint that fits in the bed of a pickup or Blackhawk helicopter.

One of V-BAT’s most unique qualities is its ability to launch and recover from a hover position. It can also make midflight transitions to “hover and stare,” or remain stationary in midair.

“Our team extensively examined the VTOL aircraft market. The architecture of the V-BAT is special,” said Shield AI CEO and co-founder Ryan Tseng. “It looks different because it is different — no product or technical architecture is better positioned to meet current and future Department of Defense needs.”

Shield AI is rapidly expanding into the defense technology market. Just days before the company’s acquisition of Martin UAV, Shield AI announced the acquisition of Heron Systems Inc., a software company known for AI pilot technology.

In February, the company raised $90 million in Series C funding, according to PitchBook.

Marin Wolf. Marin Wolf is a breaking news reporter for the Dallas Morning News Business Desk. She previously covered race and diversity for Bloomberg News. She is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Hussman School of Journalism. @maringwolf
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