Ondas boosts ‘mission: critical IoT’ with $15.2m deal for Israeli drone firm Airobotics
US private cellular Ondas Holdings, parent of Ondas Networks, is to buy Israeli drone system and platform developer Airobotics in a $15.2 million merger acquisition. The new business will be combined with American Robotics, its other drone subsidiary, acquired by Ondas Holdings for $70.6 million last year; a combined drone solution will be offered, also, with its wide-area private cellular and “full-stack” industrial IoT offer to the utility and industrial markets.
The firm’s existing Scout System is billed as the “first” drone system to receive FAA approval for autonomous flight beyond-visual-line-of-sight (BVLOS); it comprises 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). Airobotics will bring a whole drone (UAS) system, under the brand Optimus System, including “automated data analysis and visualization platforms”, into the mix, it said.
The two systems are described as “highly complementary”. Ondas Holdings stated: “The combination of Airobotics with American Robotics is a seminal event in the drone sector, creating a leading global provider of commercial drone solutions capable of scaling for customers.” The firm’s private cellular unit, meanwhile, offers proprietary cellular for branded ‘mission critical IoT’ (MC-IoT), including in its own 700 MHz spectrum in certain US regions.
The new merger-acquisition deal, expected to close in the second half of the year, proposes that Airobotics shares are (each) converted and exchanged for 0.16806 shares of Ondas common stock. Ondas expects to issue approximately 2.8 million shares to the firm’s shareholders, excluding around 1.7 million shares in Ondas that retain distinct “options and warrants”. These other shares will be separate from the deal – and “outstanding following the acquisition”.
Ondas Holdings, via its networks and drone units, is targeting mission-critical users that require reliable and secure cellular, often across challenging geographic and radio terrains. These include the railway, aviation, energy, and oil and gas sectors, as well as various government entities. Its FullMAX radio platform for private field-area broadband MC-IoT overcomes the bandwidth limitations of “legacy private licensed wireless networks”, it reckons.
The system supports the IEEE 802.16s standard for private industrial networks, pushed through by electric utilities and telco manufacturers as a modified frequency-agnostic version of the old IEEE 802.16 WiMAX standard for 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.
WiMAX and LTE 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. A boiler-plate mission statement says: “Ondas Networks and American Robotics together provide users in rail, agriculture, utilities and critical infrastructure markets with improved connectivity and data collection capabilities.”
The acquisition is subject to the satisfaction of numerous conditions, including the receipt of Airobotics’ shareholder approval in respect to the acquisition and the receipt of all material third party consents. The parties intend to complete the acquisition in the second half of 2022. We can provide no assurance that the acquisition will be completed as proposed or at all.
Eric Brock, chairman and chief executive at Ondas, said: “The combination of Airobotics with American Robotics is a seminal event in the drone sector, creating a leading global provider of commercial drone solutions capable of scaling for customers. We believe the UAS industry will consolidate as the market transitions from development to growth. We will continue to position American Robotics to drive the technical and regulatory leadership required to lead this market.”
Meir Kliner, chief executive and co-founder at Airobotics, said: “Combining with American Robotics offers massive benefits to our company and customers and will help accelerate our growth. Airobotics has developed a strong customer pipeline and is now positioned to leverage our investments in technology and the hard work of our team for growth. We look forward to working closely with our colleagues at American Robotics to maximize the potential of our companies and deliver for customers.”