The first month of the year is over – holy cow! Investors in recent weeks continue their push to provide financing for aerial-related companies, as well as artificial intelligence-based software companies across the business landscape.
Today, we’re highlighting 19 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.
Military continues spending on aerial drones
When it comes to funding companies in the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) space, aka drones, nobody does it quite like the U.S. military. As in previous weeks, the military branches have funded a number of companies providing drones for military purposes.
FLIR Systems was awarded a $39.6 million contract from the U.S. Army to provide additional Black Hornet Personal Reconnaissance Systems (PRS) to support soldiers. The nano-UAV systems will support platoon and small unit level surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities as part of the Soldier Borne Sensor (SBS) Program, the Army said. Originally awarded in 2018, the first phase of the SBS contract are now being delivered to the army for initial integration into the force. FLIR said it has delivered more than 8,000 Black Hornet nano-UAVs around the world.
Speaking of FLIR, the company also announced acquiring Aeryon Labs for $200 million. Waterloo, Canada-based Aeryon Labs, a developer of unmanned aerial systems for government and defense contractors, has provided systems to 20 militaries in more than 30 countries around the world, including the U.S. The company makes vertical takeoff and landing quad-copter airframes, integrating multiple sensors (including FLIR thermal technology), giving users “high-resolution intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capability,” FLIR said.
The company’s SkyRanger UAS drones are rugged and portable, with the ability to be deployed in minutes by a single operator, FLIR said. The devices can operate in demanding environments, including high altitudes, gusting winds, rain, and snow. The system now has a modular and open architecture, which lets end users and third-party developers create integrated payloads and software systems for the SkyRanger program. This enables rapid solution development, onboard AI, and autonomous operations capabilities, FLIR said.
“As drone technology and its markets evolve, customers are seeking UAS as just one component of a broader solution,” said Dave Kroetsch, co-founder and CTO at Aeryon Labs. “While Aeryon has been evolving in that direction for the past few years, being part of FLIR Systems brings a path to include our hardware and software technologies in much bigger solutions than would have ever been possible on our own.”
The U.S. Navy did some autonomous vehicle spending on its own – awarding a $19.6 million modification to a previously awarded contract to Northrop Grumman for additional support of the MQ-8 Fire Scout Unmanned Air System. The MQ-8 is an unmanned autonomous helicopter designed for reconnaissance, situational awareness, aerial fire support and precision targeting support for ground, air, and sea forces. Work on the contract is expected to be completed by December 2019.
With all of these drones flying around various militaries, it’s no surprise that they’re also investing in anti-drone technology. The U.S. Army has awarded a $74.8 million contract to DRS Sustainment Systems for the development, production, deployment and support of the Mobile-Low, Small Unmanned Aircraft Integrated Defeat System. The program aims to provide systems that can protect its forces against ‘low, slow and small’ UASs. “The U.S. Army has identified a need to develop countermeasures against enemy-armed and intelligence gathering UASs operating at various speeds and altitudes, which are targeting U.S. interests both at home and abroad,” the Army said during a request for information related to the program.
Unmanned systems not related to the military
Two companies that are not in the military, yet providing support for autonomous drones and vehicles, also received some funding recently.
AirWorks Solutions raised $2.3 million in seed funding for its aerial mapping software, which helps civil engineers and land developers assess and analyze construction sites in near real time. The company’s software can interpret aerial data from drones, aircraft, or satellites to analyze construction sites, giving engineers important information about a site’s features. Through its proprietary machine learning and aerial mapping technology, AirWorks can convert aerial datasets into computer-aided design site plans autonomously, the company said.
“The technology used in construction has remained virtually unchanged in the last 100 years,” the company said in its funding announcement. “This is especially true in how accurate location data for site surveys is captured in the design and quality assurance processes. Engineers often wait months for site data such as topography and existing conditions before projects can move forward. Often, critical decisions have to be made without such data.”
AirWorks said it plans to use the financing to increase the speed of software development, and launch a software-as-a-service platform later this year. The platform “will allow clients to find existing information in one centralized database and offer the opportunity to order aerial site inspections.” It said this will decrease the turnaround time for creating aerial site plans from seven days to 24 hours.
China’s Nasn Automotive Electronics, which is developing self-driving car technology, completed a Series B round of funding, raising $59.61 million in new financing. The funding round was led by Matrix Partners China, according to a China Money Network report.
Buildings and real estate get smarter
There were a few recent transactions that aim to give real estate agents assistance, as well as building managers.
Zan Compute raised more than $1 million in its seed funding round this week. The company is creating a smart facility management platform, initially for smart washrooms that includes advanced sensing and machine learning capabilities. The Smart Washroom AI Platform (SWAP) is a cloud-based AI system that lets facility managers and operators adopt a predictive cleaning process to maintain more efficiency in buildings and airports.
Logical Buildings closed a Series C-1 offering to expand its smart building software platform. The company develops its SmartKit AI building energy management platform, which “synthesizes real-time smart meter utility and grid data with building mechanical and IoT sensor data to optimize building performance and improve property management decisions,” it said in a statement. The platform can also integrate with existing building management systems, IoT smart devices and voice activation services to “augment onsite property management capabilities to enhance tenant comfort and property resiliency.”
In Finland, startup SkenarioLabs received an undisclosed amount of seed funding. The company provides AI-based data services to the real estate industry, providing diagnostics on property portfolios. The system can be used to plan maintenance, renovations, and determine technical risks and its effects on real estate value, rent, and income projections. Data can also be used to make estimations on renewable energy and energy consumption.
AI Corner: prediction and prevention
Several companies continue to develop AI and machine-learning systems that can help companies predict when their machines might break down, giving businesses the chance to prevent downtime.
Augury announced raising $25 million to further develop its AI-based machine health platform. The system uses wireless vibration, temperature, and magnetic sensors to monitor industrial machines, transmitting data to the cloud. Algorithms can then compare unique machine signals to thousands of similar recordings that could detect anomalies, predict malfunctions, and provide alerts to companies.
The company said it would use the funding to expand its global operation and enhance its industrial analytics capabilities. In addition, Augury announced completing its acquisition of Alluvium, a startup that provided real-time insights for industrial operations.
In Singapore, Avanseus Holdings announced raising $1.3 million in bridge financing to further development of its AI-based predictive maintenance software. While the company’s software is used to predict faults across telecommunications and other networks, it also has applications in the manufacturing and IoT space.
Other AI-based company funding announcements included:
- Zero Day Diagnostics, which raised $8.6 million in financing for its disease diagnosis software.
- Japan’s Cinnamon AI, which scored $15 million for its AI data conversion system.
- Kite, which raised $17 million in funding for its AI-enabled coding assistant platform for Python programmers.
- Verbit, which raised $23 million to further its AI and human intelligence based smart transcription and captioning solution. I totally need to use this service for all of my interviews.
Wrapping up the rest – mergers and name changes
Yikes, it’s Super Bowl weekend already – and yes, I’m rooting for the New England Patriots (it’s almost a law around here). Gotta go paint my face blue and red, but before I do, here are a bunch of other recent transactions in the automation world:
- Allvision Scores Seed Funding for Geospatial Analytics System
- Rockwell Automation Acquires Emulate3D for Automation Simulation Software
- ComplyAdvantage Changes Name to Mimiro, Raises $30M
- Nidec Acquires 70% of German Firm DESCH Antriebstechnik
See you next week!