Written by Jackson Barnett
Startup defense tech company Anduril Industries announced Thursday its purchase of a small tube-launched drone manufacturer to expand its suite of emerging tech offerings into the unmanned systems market.
Anduril acquired Area-I to marry its automation and data-sensing technology from Anduril with the hardware capabilities of the Atlanta-based drone developer, the companies’ CEOs said in an interview with FedScoop.
Area-I sells a range of unmanned aircraft systems but specializes in tube-launched drones, which are fired mid-air from other larger aircraft and then fly on their own, maneuvering independently. The company will operate as a wholly-owned subsidiary of Anduril, allowing it to continue its operations with a new influx of cash. Neither company would disclose the transaction amount.
“We believe that to really enable these technologies to go, you have to solve the autonomy side,” Anduril CEO Brian Schimpf said.
Anduril has positioned itself as a “next-generation” defense tech company, aiming to corner the military’s burgeoning artificial intelligence, automation and sensing market. Small drones have become increasingly popular in the government, with military agencies strategizing around their use for everything from surveillance to creating on-the-fly mesh radio networks.
Area-I had already found success riding the wave of small drone interest within the DOD. The company’s Agile-Launched, Tactically-Integrated, Unmanned System (ALTIUS) drone was one of the technologies included in the Army’s Project Convergence test events that experimented with linking sensor data to increase targeting and shooting speed.
Similarly, selling technologies to power Project Convergence and the encompassing Joint All Domain Command and Control (JADC2) concept is a core part of Anduril’s business, company leaders have said.
Area-I has been on the hunt to partner with another company to increase its ability to sell to the military. But many of the traditional options emerging technology companies take, like being acquired by a traditional, old-guard defense contractor, would come at the cost to its innovative culture, Area-I CEO Nick Alley said.
“For years I have looked [at] joining forces and being acquired by a large aerospace prime; historically that just ruins the type of company that we are and the technology development gets slowed,” Alley said.
The spark for joining forces came after hours of “nerding out” on phone calls between the two CEOs. Both said they appreciated the priority each places on innovation, and Alley said that Schimpf’s “strategic vision” was what helped seal the deal.
Anduril was mainly looking to acquire a company that could provide a capability it knew the government wanted, Schimpf said. “Let’s just pick the thing that you obviously have to have to win.”