In a development that many didn’t see coming, Ondas Holdings has announced a deal to acquire drone-in-a-box solution provider Airobotics. The news comes barely a year after Ondas’s acquisition of American Robotics, a fellow player in the fully automated drone ecosystem.
The Airobotics deal is a stock-for-stock merger, which comes out to an estimated $18.4 million based on Ondas’s current stock prices. The Israel-based drone company was founded in 2014 and is known to have raised $130 million to date.
So, what went wrong?
Airobotics was regularly hailed by the media as a tech startup making waves, but industry experts have pointed out some basic flaws in the company’s business model.
DroneAnalyst’s head of research David Benowitz calls it a case of an old drone story made worse by a tightening VC market. He points out that Airobotics tried to accomplish way too much (fully autonomous drone-in-a-box) before building the foundation, i.e., just making and selling automated drones. Moreover, they released their product without a legal and reasonable pathway in place for real adoption or to scale operations.
Airobotics’ fall from grace has now become a steal deal for Ondas. The software-based wireless broadband company insists Airobotics is a good fit for its portfolio because the incoming tech stack would help to accelerate its subsidiary American Robotics’ technical development and regulatory roadmap. The deal would also enable American Robotics to expand the breadth of its applications, use cases, and vertical markets.
Eric Brock, chairman and CEO of Ondas, explains in a press statement:
Airobotics’ Optimus System is a sophisticated automated drone platform designed for high-value use cases in industrial, homeland security, and smart city services markets. The proposed acquisition of Airobotics will provide strategic technology, regulatory, and business capabilities to both American Robotics and Ondas Networks, opening new geographies and end markets and further strengthening our ability to deliver complete end-to-end solutions for customers on a global scale.
That said, some redundancy is naturally expected since both American Robotics and Airobotics are trying to solve the same problem within the broader drone industry. But as American Robotics points out, the number and types of markets, users, and use cases for autonomous drone-in-a-box technology are vast. As such, the combination of both companies is expected to bring together the best-in-class elements of both, enabling accelerated product offerings to a broader set of markets.
Moreover, significant opportunities exist to share advanced technology and IP between American Robotics and Airobotics. Critical system elements including payloads, detect-and-avoid (DAA), safety systems, and data analytics can be optimized in the companies’ current and next-generation drone platforms.