Shield AI to buy Australian tech company amid AUKUS collaboration – Defense News

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California-based Shield AI announced April 4 it will buy Australian company Sentient Vision Systems and establish Shield AI Australia as part of an effort to grow its market there.

The move comes after increasing collaboration between the two companies. In August 2023, the two artificial intelligence firms announced the joint development of a ViDAR-enabled wide area motion imagery payload called Sentient Observer, which the companies expect to fly this year.

Sentient’s ViDAR is an artificial intelligence-powered electro-optic/infrared sensor that can detect and classify targets within the imagery it collects.

Sentient told Defense News the following month the company was working to integrate its ViDAR with Shield AI’s Hivemind autonomy package for better performance.

“The DOD has asked for an all-seeing eye over tens of thousands of square miles, 24/7, without the need for GPS or communication links. For Shield AI, Sentient Observer is the final piece of that puzzle,” Shield AI president and cofounder Brandon Tseng said in the companies’ announcement.

“The DOD can begin augmenting and replacing their legacy solutions for a distributed, low cost, low risk solution that doesn’t break the bank if an aircraft is shot down,” he added, noting the two companies could pair Sentient’s ViDAR with Shield AI’s Hivemind AI pilot to enable a fleet of unmanned aircraft to collaboratively patrol an area.

Though both ViDAR and Hivemind are platform-agnostic, Shield AI acquired the V-BAT group 3 unmanned aerial vehicle in 2021 and plans to apply the ViDAR and Hivemind combo on this vertical-takeoff drone, the statement noted.

“What stood out to us about Shield AI is that they are the only company in the world with an operational AI pilot, and therefore have the technological expertise and maturity to really deliver on the AI technology workstream underlined in AUKUS Pillar 2,” Sentient CEO Mark Palmer said in the statement, referring to the Australia-United Kingdom-United States nuclear-powered submarine collaboration, whose Pillar 2 is focused on cutting edge technologies.

Under AUKUS Pillar 2, traditional barriers to tech-sharing between these three nations are being reduced such that the three can co-develop or sell autonomy, unmanned, quantum computing, hypersonic and other in-demand technologies to support operations in the Indo-Pacific region.

The companies did not disclose the value of the acquisition when asked by Defense News.

Megan Eckstein is the naval warfare reporter at Defense News. She has covered military news since 2009, with a focus on U.S. Navy and Marine Corps operations, acquisition programs and budgets. She has reported from four geographic fleets and is happiest when she’s filing stories from a ship. Megan is a University of Maryland alumna.

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