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US drone companies receive millions in recovery funds from Department of Defense

US drone companies receive millions in recovery funds from Department of Defense

US drone companies receive millions in recovery funds from the Department of Defense. On Friday, the department announced that it will issue US$84.4 million in funding through the Defense Production Act to small drone makers, shipbuilders, and a space company. Skydio is one of the companies that benefitted from the financial injection.

US drone companies receive millions in recovery funds from the Department of Defense

According to Defense News, The Pentagon announced that the funds will be divided among seven different companies and will be used to “sustain and strengthen essential domestic industrial base applications. These actions will help to retain critical workforce capabilities throughout the disruption caused by COVID-19 and to restore some jobs lost because of the pandemic.”

Off the $84.4 million, $13.4 US million went to the following five ‘small’ unmanned systems companies or US drone companies:

  • AirMap, in Santa Monica, California, which received $3.3 million. The money will “aid product development and engineering support for integration of sUAS mission planning, post-mission analysis, and unmanned traffic management software.”
  • ModalAI, of San Diego, California, which received $3 million to “develop their next-generation U.S.-made flight controller that will enable advanced autonomy including GPS-denied navigation, and all-environment obstacle avoidance.”
  • Skydio, in Redwood City, California, which received $4 million to “improve the flight controller hardware/software and data link for their sUAS so that highly capable components can be purchased and used across U.S. Government unmanned systems.”
  • Graffiti Enterprises, located in Somerset, New Jersey, which was given $1.5 million to “modify their commercial data link for DoD’s sUAS use including operation in restricted frequency bands, reduction in the size, weight, and power of the hardware, and software developments to improve security and resiliency of their data link.”
  • Obsidian Sensors, from San Diego, California, which received $1.6 million to build a “low-cost, dual thermal sUAS camera that can be mounted onto a stabilization gimbal and then integrated and flown on small, packable, ISR systems.”

The funding was awarded through the Defense Innovation Unit and was authorized and appropriated under the Coronavirus Aid, relief and Economic Security Act. According to the department, the funds will have “saved 14 jobs, created 20 new positions, and will support continued advancement of capabilities providing the companies additional paths for recurring revenue.”

Of course, it is great that these US drone companies will get help from the government to safeguard, continue and grow their business, but keep in mind that in the bigger picture these amounts do not move the needle in any significant way for the U.S drone industry on a global level. We’re talking about saving 14 jobs and creating 20 new ones… For comparison, Skydio and Parrot compete with DJI, which employs thousands of drone engineers at much lower wages in China.

French drone maker, Parrot who recently launched the ANAFI USA unmanned aircraft was not mentioned on the list, but we did learn from them that the U.S. Government is currently working with two drone makers to develop Short-Range Reconnaissance (SRR) drones. One of them is Parrot. The other one is almost certainly Skydio. Update: check out this latest news here!

DJI and Autel did not receive any funding because, well… they’re Chinese drone makers.

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