WASHINGTON – Defense technology startup Shield AI and contract giant Boeing today announced a new partnership to explore how to accelerate the deployment of artificial intelligence and autonomous capabilities for warfighters.
The two companies signed a memorandum of understanding during the Air Force Association Warfare Symposium this week, in which Shield AI and Boeing’s experimental Phantom Works division will “explore strategic collaboration in the areas of autonomous capabilities and artificial intelligence in current and future defense programs,” per a press release from Boeing.
Shield AI will deploy its Hivemind AI pilot system, which has already flown planes and “can enable swarms of drones and planes to operate autonomously without GPS, communications, or a human pilot in the cockpit,” according to the press release.
“AI pilots are the most strategic deterrent technology since the advent of stealth aircraft and have proven successful in flying air combat scenarios,” said Brandon Tseng, president and co-founder of Shield AI, in a statement. “Integrating Boeing aircraft with our AI pilots would redefine what large planes could do, with or without a crew.”
Since its inception in 2015, Shield AI has itself acquired a number of companies focused on artificial intelligence and unmanned aerial vehicles. In 2021, it bought Heron Systems — the company whose AI defeated a human F-16 pilot in DARPA’s Alpha Dogfight trials — and Martin UAV, which makes the V-Bat drone.
Last year, Shield AI announced it had been awarded an Air Force contract worth up to $60 million for a series of projects with Hivemind. In February last year, Tseng told Breaking Defense in an interview that the company would integrate Hivemind into V-Bat as part of the deal. Tseng said at the time the goal was to have swarms of three to five V-Bat drones operational and ready for production by the end of 2023, increasing to 10 V-Bat swarms next year, and then to 30 by 2025.
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