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Boeing Invests in Drone Startup Fortem Technologies

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【Summary】Fortem specializes in drone-based systems and operations with Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) requirements.

Michael Cheng    Mar 20, 2018 10:08 AM PT
Boeing Invests in Drone Startup Fortem Technologies

Boeing, one of the largest industrial companies in the world, is gearing up for the era of drone-based services and transportation. The business, under HorizonX, recently participated in a Series A funding round, offered by Utah-based Fortem Technologies.

Fortem specializes in drone-based systems and operations with Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) requirements. Read on to learn more about the startup's mission to improve aerial safety using cutting-edge radar technology and drones.

Series A Funding Round

During the financing round, which was led by Data Collective (DCVC), the startup raised a total of $15 million. Other investors include the following groups: Mubadala Investment Company, Manifest Growth, New Ground Ventures and Signia Venture Partners. Fortem will use the newly acquired funds to expand operations and supplement ongoing projects.

Boeing's contribution marks the company's second investment in an autonomous systems startup, since the inception of its venture capital arm.

"With the wonderful support from all our investors and the addition of Boeing and Mubadala, Fortem can scale more quickly to simultaneously improve airspace safety and secure critical infrastructure," explained Timothy Bean, CEO of Fortem Technologies Inc.

In the drone-sensor space, Fortem is competing with Washington-based Echodyne. Like Fortem, the startup is focused on developing radar and security platforms for UAVs. Its investors include Microsoft co-founders Paul Allen and Bill Gates. The tech giant participated in Echodyne's Series B funding round in 2017, which raised $29 million.

TrueView and BVLOS

Fortem offers a range of solutions for optimized tracking during aerial operations. The company's robust radar system, TrueView, is capable of detecting small targets over a wide line of sight, up to 360 degrees. Consuming less power than an LED street light, the unit weighs approximately 1.5 pounds. This feature allows the radar to be used with (manned or unmanned) aircrafts that require intrinsically safe components.

In application, TrueView supports non-intrusive removal of intruder drones lurking around secure or private locations. The system can be found in the company's DroneHunter UAV, which is a comprehensive UAS Airspace Defense Solution (ADS). The quadcopter is deployed around perimeters for patrolling missions. Upon encountering a threat, the unit detects, identifies and classifies the object in real-time. TrueView is also used in SkyDome, the startup's intrusion-monitoring and airspace platform.

"Radar technology is a necessary and trusted element as we continue to strengthen autonomy capabilities for a variety of commercial and urban mobility applications," said Steve Nordlund, vice president of Boeing HorizonX.

"Safety is paramount in our approach to the responsible introduction of future air vehicles. Fortem's radar systems will help as we pave the path to emerging markets of autonomous flight."

Boeing's investment in Fortem will help the company move forward with developing drones and aircrafts for BVLOS operations. At the moment, the FAA is in the process of regulating BVLOS in the US. So far, the agency issued a Certificate of Authorization (COA) for the Northern Plains UAS Test Site in North Dakota. BVLOS operations are legal in various countries, such as France (as of 2012).  

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