Advanced Computing in the Age of AI | Thursday, February 29, 2024

Shield AI Raises Valuation to $2.8B with New Funding 

Shield AI's V-BAT

Shield AI, a defense technology company, raised its valuation to $2.8B with additional capital in Series F funding, which now stands at an impressive $500M. The tech startup is aiming to build the world’s first AI pilot for the U.S. military and its allies. The new funding will take it closer to achieving this goal.

According to Ryan Tseng, Shield AI’s CEO and Co-Founder, AI pilots are “becoming a strategic conventional deterrent in class with our aircraft carriers and guided missile submarines”.

Interestingly, this is the first software-defined strategic deterrent, which has only been possible with the recent advances in AI technology and compute power. Tsend believes that the AI pilot would be a huge paradigm shift for the aerospace and defense industry.

The new funding for Shield AI includes equity and debt. There is $100 million in equity raised at Series F price and $200 million in debt. The debt provider is Hercules Capital, while the identity of the equity provider has not been revealed by Shield AI.

The flagship product of Shield AI, Hivemind, is designed to enable teams of intelligent aircraft to execute missions autonomously in high-threat environments, without relying on GPS, waypoints, or remote operators. The use case for Hivemind includes everything from penetrating air defense systems to dogfighting F-16s.

“The defense and investment communities are seeing the profound impact AI pilots will have on national security and global stability. AI pilots solve the electronic warfare (GPS- and communications-jamming) problem that’s devastating 10,000 drones per month in the Russia-Ukraine War, and they enable the operating concept of intelligent, affordable mass, where swarms of affordable aircraft can accomplish missions normally reserved for expensive, exquisite aircraft,” said Brandon Tseng, Shield AI’s President, Cofounder, and former Navy SEAL.

The aircraft agnostic autonomy stack behind Hivemind is similar to the self-driving technology used for autonomous vehicles. Shield AI has already completed extensive flight hours with Hivemind on quadcopters and F-16s. The startup has more total autonomous flight hours than any other company in the world.

Venture debt often gets a bad rap, but if the capital is used strategically it could be exactly what is needed by late-stage companies such as Shield AI. The injection of new funding offers startups to access additional capital to accelerate growth without sacrificing equity. If Shield AI is successful in its goal to build an AI pilot that turns aircrafts into autonomous systems, it would usher in a new era for the aerospace and defense industry.

Shield AI recently launched its V-BAT teams that operate and complete missions autonomously. V-BAT is a type of reconnaissance unmanned aerial vehicle with the ability to land and take off vertically.

In his recent testimony before the U.S. Sense, Brandon Tseng emphasized the importance of AI pilot technology in the country’s overall deterrence strategy.  According to Brandon Tseng, AI-piloted systems “will be the greatest military deterrent of our generation."  However, he admitted that incorporating AI-systems in the Department of Defense has been challenging and urged the DoD to be more receptive to the “next game-changing technological assets."

About the author: Alex Woodie

Alex Woodie has written about IT as a technology journalist for more than a decade. He brings extensive experience from the IBM midrange marketplace, including topics such as servers, ERP applications, programming, databases, security, high availability, storage, business intelligence, cloud, and mobile enablement. He resides in the San Diego area.