The new year started slowly in the amount of funding announcements we normally see in the robotics, AI and automation space, but there were still some significant injections of new capital. Once investors return from their holiday breaks — as well as next week’s CES technology showcase – we expect to see funding pick up.
Today, we’re highlighting 17 recent robotics and AI transactions. If you’ve missed some other transactions from the past months, you can track them in the RBR Transactions Database. Our regularly updated database lets you sort deals by company, industry, technology, or transaction type.
If you’re an RBR Insider, don’t forget to check out the Q3 Transactions Report, which showcases and analyzes major investments from July through September 2018. It’s free for Insider subscribers to Robotics Business Review.
Military funding continues during government shutdown
Despite the recent government shutdown in the U.S., military spending on robotics continued over the past few weeks. Endeavor Robotics, which this week sued QinetiQ North America over two patents it claims were infringed by QinetiQ, earned a $32.4 million contract from the U.S. Army for continued support and maintenance of the Robot Logistics Support program.
QinetiQ North America also received some government funding recently – the company scored a $90 million contract last month for maintenance and support of the Tactical Adaptable Light Ordnance Neutralization (TALON) family of systems. Work is expected to be completed by Dec. 16, 2023.
The MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicle, made by General Atomics, continues to receive support funding. The U.S. Air Force awarded General Atomics a $291.4 million contract for support and services work, providing “program management, logistics support, configuration management, technical manual and software maintenance, contractor field service support,” and other services. Work is expected to be completed by Dec. 31, 2019.
In addition, Raytheon earned a $59.2 million contract for MQ-9 sensors contractor logistics support, with a similar Dec. 31, 2019, completion date.
The U.S. Navy awarded a $12.1 million contract modification to Insitu to provide spare and sustainment parts for the RQ-21A unmanned aircraft system. Known as the Blackjack, the small tactical unmanned air system is designed as a supplement to the Boeing Scan Eagle.
More robots in last-mile space
Getting mobile robots to make last-mile deliveries is certainly heating up, as we noted in this year’s 2019 robotics predictions article.
South Korea’s Woowa Brothers (or Bros) late last month announced a $320 million investment from Hillhouse Capital, Sequoia Capital, and GIC. The food delivery firm said it plans to use the new capital to expand into overseas market, but also develop autonomous robots for delivery.
Woowa itself is also an investor in the Bear Robotics’ Penny robot, which acts as a restaurant table busser.
Drones and counter-drone investments
A big story in the U.K. over the holidays was the appearance of several UAVs around London’s Gatwick Airport, which delayed thousands of holiday travelers as police attempted to track down who was flying the drones. This high-profile story will likely spur further investment in counter-drone technologies for companies and governments looking to defend themselves against unauthorized drone flights.
One firm in this space, Digital Global Systems, announced raising $7.5 million recently in Series B funding. The company said its CLEARSKY drone threat management system can detect drones in distances beyond 2 kilometers, with detection and classification occurring in less than 2 seconds.
“When a drone is traveling at high speeds and in congested areas, determining whether it is a threat and capable of delivering a payload in 2 seconds versus 20 seconds is a game changer,” stated Pete Dwyer, a partner at Unmanned Systems and Solutions (USaS), a provider of drone services and counter-drone solutions.
The company also said its systems could have located both the drone and controller in the Gatwick Airport incident.
“These capabilities would have been essential in helping security personnel locate the perpetrators,” said Fernando Murias, CEO of Digital Global Systems. “Additionally, CLEARSKY is designed to operate in chaotic and noisy RF environments, such as airports and sports stadiums.”
With additional UAVs expected to take to the skies this year, managing those flights will become even more important. Belgian firm Unifly announced raising $16.5 million in funding for its unmanned traffic management system. It allows integrating low-altitude drones into the airspace, giving authorities the ability to visualize and approve flight plans, and manage no-fly zones in real time.
AI Corner: Data-labeling, detecting leaks, diagnosing disease
We continue to see new capital for companies utilizing artificial intelligence to disrupt existing markets, and recent weeks are no different from much of last year.
Daivergent announced raising $950,000 in seed funding for its data-labeling platform, to help companies with their AI data processes. The most interesting part of the announcement, however, is that its marketplace platform gives individuals on the autism spectrum the chance to “enter the remote workforce for the first time by matching them with companies who submit work requests.”
“Anyone who’s tried to source high-quality training data knows how painful it can be,” said Bryan Dai, Daivergent’s co-founder and CEO, in a statement. “We offer a valuable talent pipeline for companies to engage with workers with the perfect skill set to power their AI and data products.”
The company currently serves 15 corporate clients and is expanding to new business lines.
Additional funding in the AI space recently includes:
- Up Learn, a U.K. firm using AI to assist students with its tutoring platform. The company raised $3.2 million in new capital.
- India’s Tranzmeo, which earned pre-seed funding for its AI-based petroleum leak detection system.
- China’s SoundAI, which raised $29 million for further development of its acoustic AI technologies.
- Chinese chatbot firm Emotibot, which raised $30 million for expansion of its emotional computing and AI-based platform for care robots.
- Switzerland’s SOPHiA Genetics, which raised $77 million for further development of its AI-driven health care diagnostics technology.
Wrapping up the rest
We’re gearing up for next week’s CES 2019 event in Las Vegas, where we expect to see lots of robots, drones, and self-driving cars. We’re also finalizing our presentations for the [email protected] event on Thursday, Jan. 10 – if you’re at the show, stop on by and say hello!
Here are the rest of the week’s transactions, in a handy bullet list:
- Samsara Closes Funding Round for Internet Sensor Data Platform Development
- China’s Yunzhou Tech Raises Funding for Unmanned Sea Vehicles Development
- Poland’s RoboCamp Raises Funds for Robotics Programming Online Textbook Offering
See you next week!