Home Tech Anduril is building the Pentagon’s dream of deadly drone swarms

Anduril is building the Pentagon’s dream of deadly drone swarms

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Anduril is building the Pentagon's dream of deadly drone swarms

When Palmer Luckey co-founded defense startup Anduril in 2017, three years after selling his virtual reality startup Oculus to Facebook, the idea of ​​a 20-something in the tech industry challenging the giant contractors that build fighter jets, tanks, and warships for the US military. something crazy. Seven years later, Luckey is proving that Anduril can not only compete with those contractors, but it can win.

Last month, Anduril was one of two companies, along with established defense contractor General Atomics, chosen to prototype a new type of autonomous combat aircraft called Collaborative Combat Aircraft, or CCA, for the Air Force and the United States Navy. Anduril was chosen ahead of a group of what Beltway parlance calls “defense majors”: Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Northrup Grummond.

“Anduril is proving that with the right team and business model, a seven-year-old company can go toe-to-toe with players that have been around for more than 70 years,” Luckey he wrote on the social media platform shortly after the contract was announced. The company declined to make anyone available for this article.

That business model has made Anduril focus on proving it can quickly deliver drones, submarines and other hardware with advanced software at a relatively low cost. It also reflects a shift in America’s warfighting outlook toward more rapid development of less expensive systems that feature more software and autonomy.

Investors seem to think it’s working. Anduril has raised a total of $2.3 billion in funding, according to Pitchbook, which tracks initial investment and, according to the informationseeks 1.5 billion more dollars.

Courtesy of the US Department of Defense

Anduril’s CCA prototype airplane, called Rage, is still in an early stage of development. Another test aircraft will be developed by General Atomics, a 68-year-old defense company with a history of manufacturing remotely operated systems including the MQ-9 Mowerwhich played a key role in the US expansion of drone warfare in the 2000s.

The US Air Force wants the new CCA drones to be more capable and more independent than existing unmanned craft, which still rely heavily on ground personnel. They are expected to perform a wide range of missions, including reconnaissance, airstrikes and electronic warfare, either alone or in collaboration with human-piloted aircraft or autonomously. A central part of the program is the development of new artificial intelligence software to control the aircraft that can operate autonomously in a wider range of situations than existing military systems, which are typically autonomous only in limited circumstances.

“This is a big change,” he says. Stacie Pettyjohn, senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security, a Washington, DC think tank. She says that until now the US military has mainly used AI for reconnaissance and target planning rather than controlling systems. The CCA project is “a big step forward for unmanned systems and for the Air Force and Navy,” she says.

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