California-based private wireless connectivity provider Ondas Holdings is acquiring American Robotics, whose drone robot-as-a-service platform is pictured here, for a deal reportedly valued at $70.6 million. (American Robotics)
California-based private wireless broadband provider Ondas Holdings is acquiring American Robotics, the first company approved for beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) drone operations without human observers in U.S. airspace, according to a May 17 earnings call.
Ondas wants to give industrial companies across a variety of sectors the ability to deploy private wireless broadband networks that can use the American Robotics Scout drone system as a data collecting and analyzing edge computing device. The two companies want to leverage Ondas’ wireless platform’s ability to expand the Scout’s robot as a service offering into a new type of airborne edge computing sensor that collects physical data and analyzes that data at the edge before transferring it back to operators.
“Scout is the type of system that is coveted by our critical infrastructure customers. The platform fits like a glove with our mission-critical wireless FullMax platform, both from a customer marketing standpoint as well from a wireless connectivity perspective. The drone needs connectivity,” Eric Brock, Chairman and CEO of Ondas said during the earnings call.
Ondas describes FullMax as a mission-critical internet of things (IoT) platform that enables the deployment of an “end‐to‐end, encrypted, Layer 2, Ethernet connection between the Base Station and Remote units,” according to the FullMax product description. A variety of different operations are deployed over FullMax, including the transport of SCADA traffic, voice-over-internet protocol (VoIP) GOS transport, security and video surveillance, and AMI data, according to the company.
The acquisition of American Robotics by Ondas will allow the company to go after what Brock describes as a $100 billion market opportunity in commercial drone services, including those that are increasingly being deployed and operated by the existing critical infrastructure and asset owners that use their wireless platform.
“Of course the drone, is the ultimate MC IOT weapon for ONDAS its a mobile data gathering solution and we believe this groundbreaking scout system will be coveted by our industrial customers,” Brock said. “Today railroads, utilities, oil and gas field operators in addition to the critical industrial public and safety and government markets are spending significant cap-x, and op-x dollars on drones that provide valuable data services and the budgets are in place and growing.”
Brock told investors many of their existing customers are already engaging them about resolving their “drone radio network challenges.”
The American Robotics Scout System is more than just a drone, as the complete robot as a service offering is charged as an annual subscription fee to end-users and includes the artificial intelligence (AI) powered Scout unmanned aircraft system (UAS), and a secure web portal, ScoutView, that interacts with the system storing data and analytics.
The Scout UAS is equipped with acoustic detect-and-avoid (DAA) technology and a layered redundant safety algorithm created by American Robotics that are also key to enabling BVLOS flights with no human operator.
“Flight is actually just one component of what it takes to use a drone for a business purpose. At the end of the day, what our product is is data, not the drone itself,” Reese Mozer, co-founder and CEO of American Robotics said during the earnings call. “We’ve automated mission planning, precision landing, charging, data processing, data storage, data transmission, physical storage, all of that together and now you can install these systems in your field and they will live there indefinitely conducting 10-20 missions per day, everyday processing that data at the edge and transferring it back to the customer.”
Mozer further described the end-to-end drone service capability to investors on the earnings call by explaining how image data is transferred from a drone sensor, to a base station and uploaded to their proprietary cloud computing network where the end user can view the data and apply customized analytics and algorithms to it.
"Typically we’re talking about collecting a very large amount of image data on the order of 20 gigabytes a day that is all offloaded to the base station, and within that base station—these also function as edge computing centers which is a key step to making this work—those images are stitched together processed and to some degree analyzed at the edge," Mozer said. "And then that finished product is uploaded to the cloud through our front end software called ScoutView. And then you can apply additional AI to analyze that data."
Ondas expects to close the American Robotics transaction by the third quarter of this year.