Ondas buys American Robotics for $70m, bundles drones with private cellular
US private cellular provider Ondas Holdings, parent of Ondas Networks, has struck a deal to acquire industrial drone developer American Robotics for $70.6 million. The strategy is to provide users in the utility and industrial markets with “full-stack industrial IoT solutions”, including drone systems for industrial surveillance and maintenance.
American Robotics, founded in 2016 by roboticists from Carnegie Mellon and Stanford, is the first and only company approved by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to operate drones beyond-visual-line-of-sight (BVLOS) without a human operator on the ground, said Ondas. Its drone platform (Scout System) will be integrated into the Ondas’ FullMAX private wireless offer,
Through Ondas Networks, formerly called Full Spectrum, Ondas is offering wide-area private networks based on proprietary cellular for so-called mission critical IoT (MC-IoT), including to run in its own 700 MHz spectrum in certain regions in the US. It is targeting mission-critical users that require reliable and secure cellular, often across challenging geographic and radio terrains.
Notably, it is targeting railways, the aviation sector, energy utilities, oil and gas companies, and various government entities. Its FullMAX radio platform supports private cellular-based field-area broadband MC-IoT networks, which overcome the bandwidth limitations of “legacy private licensed wireless networks”, the company reckons.
The system supports the new IEEE 802.16s standard for private industrial networks, pushed through by electric utilities and telecoms manufacturers as a modified frequency agnostic version of the old IEEE 802.16 WiMAX standard to operate in narrower channel sizes, from 100 kHz up to 1.25 MHz.
The IEEE 802.16s version, published in 2017, also claims reduced network overheads for max throughputs in narrower channels, compared with WiMAX, and also LTE, which both require channel sizes greater than 1.25 MHz — “which aren’t readily available to industrial users or are too costly”, according to Ondas Networks.
American Robotics’ new Scout System, billed as the “first and only” drone system to receive FAA regulatory approvals for autonomous flight, consists of an autonomous drone (Scout) equipped with camera sensors, a ruggedized base station (ScoutBase) for housing, charging, and cloud transfers, plus an analytics and front-end software package (ScoutView).
American Robotics claims “unmatched” autonomy, safety, and analytics with the Scout System. The combination with private wireless will help to “unlock” the commercial drone market, estimated to be worth $100 billion potentially, said Ondas. American Robotics claims high-margin robot-as-a-service revenues and a “deep customer pipeline” in industrial and agriculture markets. The deal is expected to close in the third quarter.
Eric Brock, chairman and chief executive at Ondas, said: “We are excited to bring American Robotics into the Ondas fold. The drone industry’s product is data, not aircraft. The drone is the ultimate data gathering edge device for mission critical operations, solving a huge pain-point for Ondas’ industrial and government customers and ecosystem partners. American Robotics’ full stack IP portfolio is a complete system enabling Ondas to turn these pain-points into growth opportunities fueled by more rich data collection.”
Reese Mozer, co-founder and chief executive at American Robotics, said: “It’s the perfect time for American Robotics to join forces with Ondas. Ondas’ deep experience and relationships in our target customer markets in addition to its next-generation industrial networking capabilities will be incredibly helpful as we penetrate the large markets we address. We see substantial customer demand and are ready to deliver systems across an impressive pipeline of blue-chip industrial customers in addition to new customer relationships via Ondas.”