Ondas completes $15.2m acquisition of Israeli drone company Airobotics


US private cellular Ondas Holdings has completed the acquisition of Israeli drone system and platform developer Airobotics through a merger acquisition, in a deal worth $15.2 million. The new drone unit is to be combined with American Robotics, acquired by Ondas Holdings for $70.6 million last year. A combined solution for unmanned autonomous vehicles (UAV) will be offered to utility and industrial markets via its wide-area private LTE and industrial IoT networking division, Ondas Networks.

The new merger-acquisition deal sees Airobotics shares converted and exchanged for 0.16806 shares of Ondas common stock, as reported previously in Enterprise IoT Insights, now incorporated into RCR Wireless. Ondas has issued 2.8 million shares to the firm’s shareholders, excluding around 1.7 million shares in Ondas that retain distinct “options and warrants”. The company will be dual listed on the Nasdaq and the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, starting January 26.

Ondas Holdings, via its networks and drone units, is targeting mission-critical users that require reliable and secure cellular, often across challenging geographic and radio terrains. These include the railway, aviation, energy, and oil and gas sectors, as well as various government entities. Ondas Networks offers proprietary cellular solutions for ‘mission-critical IoT’ (MC-IoT) applications, including with its own 700 MHz spectrum holdings in certain US regions. Its FullMAX radio platform overcomes the limitations of “legacy private licensed wireless networks”, it reckons. 

The firm’s existing Scout System is billed as the “first” drone system to receive FAA approval for autonomous flight beyond-visual-line-of-sight (BVLOS); it comprises an autonomous drone (Scout) equipped with camera sensors, a ruggedized base station (ScoutBase) for housing, charging, and cloud transfers, plus an analytics and front-end software package (ScoutView). Airobotics brings a whole drone (UAS) system, under the brand Optimus System, including “automated data analysis and visualization platforms”, into the mix, it said.

A statement said: “The combined company is uniquely positioned to provide a broad set of commercial drone solutions ranging from smart cities, construction management and public safety, to industrial markets such as oil and gas, mining and rail. The Optimus System is the first autonomous drone platform to launch commercial fleet deployments in urban environments, and the maturity and real-world reliability and functionality of the Optimus System creates the opportunity for significant commercial customer adoption and revenue growth.”

Its private cellular unit, meanwhile, offers proprietary cellular for branded ‘mission critical IoT’ (MC-IoT), including in its own 700 MHz spectrum in certain US regions. The system supports the IEEE 802.16s standard for private industrial networks, pushed through by electric utilities and telco manufacturers as a modified frequency-agnostic version of the old IEEE 802.16 WiMAX standard for narrower channel sizes, from 100 kHz up to 1.25 MHz. 

The IEEE 802.16s version, published in 2017, also claims reduced network overheads for max throughputs in narrower channels, compared with WiMAX, and also LTE. WiMAX and LTE both require channel sizes greater than 1.25 MHz — “which aren’t readily available to industrial users or are too costly”, according to Ondas Networks. 

Eric Brock, chairman and chief executive at Ondas, said: “The combination… positions our drone segment to tackle a broader set of customer verticals, leveraging Airobotics’ technology, expertise and one-of-a-kind drone platform to enhance our current product offering and strengthen our customer solutions. As we begin to see further customer adoption at scale for our autonomous drone platforms, we believe we are in a strong position to capitalize on these revenue growth opportunities and outline a path to profitability for our drone segment.”

Meir Kliner, chief executive co-founder of Airobotics, said: “This acquisition is a validation of the hard work and dedication of the Airobotics team. I am proud to see our technology being adopted by customers for commercial fleet deployments which we believe will drive significant revenue growth in the coming years. We are excited to join with Ondas and American Robotics, as we collectively define the end-to-end autonomous solutions required to scale the drone industry for the benefit of our customers and investors.”