The US Air Force has awarded a $60 million contract to San Diego-based startup Shield AI, paving the way for the company to install its autonomy software in a range of aircraft.
Shield AI is developing its Hivemind autonomy and AI stack that uses “state-of-the-art path-planning, mapping, state-estimation, and computer vision algorithms, combined with reinforcement learning and simulations, to train unmanned systems to execute a variety of missions.”
Software on In-House Drone Swarm
The manufacturer says that the software is designed to operate “intelligent” drone swarms in Global Positioning System and radio frequency-denied environments.
Shield AI co-founder Brandon Tseng told Breaking Defense that the company plans to first install the software in multiple company-developed V-Bat drones — three to five V-BATs by the end of next year and 30 by 2025.
Following this, the company may receive approval to integrate the software on a commercial electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft – Beta Technologies’ ALIA – as part of the Air Force’s Strategic Funding Increase (STRATFI) Program.
Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) Brig. Gen. Justin Hoffman said, “The AFWERX STRATFI with Shield AI will advance the autonomous collaboration capabilities of AFSOC’s UAS [unmanned aerial systems] enabling them to team with Air Commandos in complex environments.
“Human-machine teaming is a critical capability for AFSOC’s broader transformation for strategic competition.”