San Diego-based Shield AI has secured an additional $300 million in fresh capital through an expanded Series F round, bringing total funding raised to date to $500 million. In October, the company secured $200 million in an initial Series F tranche, which valued Shield AI at $2.7 billion. The new financing will accelerate development and deployment of the company's Hivemind AI pilot system across various aircraft.
Founded in 2015, Shield AI is building autonomous flight technology for defense applications. Its flagship Hivemind product serves as an AI co-pilot enabling aircraft to operate without human pilots, GPS navigation or communications infrastructure.
Hivemind is described as an "aircraft agnostic autonomy stack" similar to the self-driving systems used in cars. So far it has powered successful autonomous test flights of quadcopters, Boeing subsidiary Aurora Flight Sciences' robotic MQ-25 Stingray drone, and even an F-16 fighter jet executing air combat maneuvers.
The funding announcement comes on the heels of Shield AI's introduction of V-BAT Teams - the first software enabling coordinated missions by groups of Kratos Defense's jet-powered Valkyrie drones controlled entirely by Hivemind without any human intervention.
Shield AI CEO and co-founder Ryan Tseng touted the strategic potential of autonomous systems: "AI pilots are becoming a strategic conventional deterrent in class with our aircraft carriers and guided missile submarines." Company president and former Navy SEAL Brandon Tseng also noted AI pilots can overcome electronic warfare attacks disabling communications links that are currently devastating drone operations. These issues have been particularly prominent in the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict, where GPS and communication jamming have been detrimental to drone operations. AI pilots, with their ability to operate autonomously, offer a solution to these challenges, enhancing national security and global stability.
The Series F extension includes $100 million in new equity financing plus a $200 million debt facility from investment firm Hercules Capital. Shield AI says the capital infusion will help push more Hivemind-powered platforms into active military service and allied nations over the coming months.
With the defense department taking increasing notice of AI's untapped potential from commercial providers, Shield AI's fresh funding will help the company continue developing autonomous air power technology. The startup's technology could one day enable radically new operating concepts using cost-efficient drones and uncrewed vehicles to take on missions dominated by expensive manned platforms today.