Can you brief us about Ondas Holdings and its Ondas Autonomous Systems (OAS) business unit and subsidiaries?
Ondas Holdings (Nasdaq: ONDS), is a listed company focused on next-generation wireless and autonomous drone technologies targeting government and critical infrastructure markets. Our drone businesses are organized under our Ondas Autonomous Systems (OAS) business unit and include wholly owned subsidiaries American Robotics and Airobotics. Our OAS business unit designs, develops, and markets commercial drone solutions which include the Optimus System, the world’s first FAA certified small UAS (sUAS) developed for aerial security and data capture and the Iron Drone Raider, a counter-UAS system. The Optimus and Raider platforms are highly automated, AI-powered drone systems capable of continuous, remote operation and are marketed as “drone-in-a-box” turnkey data solution services. They are deployed for critical industrial and government applications where data and information collection and processing are required.
American Robotics and Airobotics have industry leading regulatory successes which include a first of its kind FAA Type Certification for the Optimus System and having the first drone system approved by the FAA for automated operation beyond-visual-line-of-sight (BVLOS) without a human operator on-site.
Recently Airobotics Optimus 1-EX Drone received U.S. FAA Type Certification, can you brief its specifications & targeted customers/Industries you are primarily focusing?
The Airobotics Optimus System is comprised of a versatile multirotor UAV known as the Optimus, which is housed in a docking station with integrated robotic systems enabling both battery swapping and payload swapping, as well as data processing and cloud transfer. We also have a secure web portal called Insightful, which allows our customers to access data and analytics collected by the Optimus during automated missions. Automated battery swapping allows for persistent availability and 24/7 operation of the Optimus as the Optimus drone can immediately be redeployed after returning to the dock for a battery swap. Similarly, the ability to autonomously swap sensors and advanced payloads without human intervention allows the Optimus System to provide multiple applications and use cases from a single location.
This is a truly autonomous system that, we believe, has unmatched and proven reliability and safety which is evidenced by our success in deploying fleets of Optimus in urban environments and our recently FAA-awarded Type Certificate for the system. We target customers for critical industrial and government applications where data and information collection and processing are required. These use cases include public safety, security and smart city deployments where routine, high-resolution automated emergency response, mapping, surveying, and inspection services are highly valued, in addition to industrial markets such as oil & gas, rail and ports which emphasize security and inspection solutions.
What are the reasons behind choosing a multirotor over fixed wing UAV?
We chose multirotor over fixed-wing drones primarily because of its advantage to land and take off quickly. The Optimus System features a robotic arm service and functions as a network, with each base equipped with various sensors supporting shorter range coverage. Multirotors offer greater flexibility in terms of flight control, making them well-suited for tasks that require precision, such as inspections, monitoring, and surveillance. In addition, for an autonomous drone-in-a-box platform, the ability of a multirotor to both launch and land vertically has significant advantages in automating repeated missions for persistent security and inspection applications. While fixed-wing drones have their advantages, our choice of multirotors aligns with our target industries and the specific needs.
How do you see drones as an upcoming market? Which market according to you is the best; Defence or Civilian?
The addressable market for drone technology and services is huge, and growing rapidly. In fact, most market participants, both corporate executives and investors underestimate how rapidly the demand for drones is growing today. We believe this growth, off a low base, is poised to accelerate along the S-curve which is typical in complex, technology driven markets. The defense sector is large, and booming today and we expect that to continue, though over time, the commercial or civilian market is likely to be much larger and highly lucrative for dominant technology platforms delivered at scale.
The versatility and reliability of our autonomous platforms allows us to target a wide cross section of the drone market ranging for government and critical industries, as well as defense. Within government, we see demand for homeland security, public safety and smart city applications, and in commercial markets we see oil & gas, utilities and other critical infrastructure operators increasing spending markedly due to the ROI automated drone solutions. All of these markets value the functionality of our system which ranges from video driven solutions for security and safety use cases, to the various payloads such as high-resolution optical sensors, thermal sensors and LIDAR which are used for mapping, surveying and inspection.
While both the defense and civilian markets have their merits, our primary focus is on the civilian market. This market offers numerous opportunities for drone applications, such as infrastructure inspections, emergency response, environmental monitoring, and more. We believe that by addressing the needs of the civilian market, we can make a positive impact and position ourselves as leaders in this space. With all that said, I believe you could see us active in defense markets soon.
How Airobotics is different from competitors? What is your biggest USP?
Airobotics distinguishes itself from competitors in several crucial ways, and our most significant unique selling proposition, or USP, lies in our innovative approach to autonomous drone technology. Airobotics specializes in fully and truly autonomous drone solutions. What sets us apart is our drones’ ability to operate seamlessly without human intervention, from takeoff to landing and throughout complex missions. This level of autonomy not only reduces operational costs but also minimizes the potential for human error, significantly boosting operational efficiency. The Optimus System is the only drone-in-a-box with a robotic arm that can swap batteries and payloads and not only recharge them, making it a true 24/7 operation capability.
Furthermore, our drones are engineered for industrial-grade reliability. They’re purpose-built to withstand the rigors of challenging industrial environments. We incorporate redundant systems to enhance both reliability and safety, making them particularly well-suited for critical applications such as infrastructure inspections and public safety missions.
We have hardened this technology for the real world and believe our Optimus System has unmatched safety and reliability, which is the minimum bar to scale fleets of automated drones with customers. Of course, the reliability is the most vexing challenge to overcome for the vast majority of UAS developers. On top of the automation, reliability and safety, the functionality of multiple sophisticated payloads and data analytics integrated into the turnkey solution allows to really define the high-end of the “drone-in-a-box” category. We intend to push this first mover advantage to drive growth in this high-value category, which will allow us to drive important scale as we go to market.
Can you elaborate on the technologies that you are working on and industries you serve?
We are continually working on developing and integrating cutting-edge technologies into our drone solutions. This includes advancements in AI, machine learning, computer vision, and sensor technologies. Our focus industries include smart city applications, public safety, critical infrastructure, and government services, where our technology can provide value by improving efficiency, reducing risks, and increasing overall effectiveness.
In addition, I would highlight our Iron Drone Raider platform we referred to at the outset. The Raider is positioned as a best-in-class, fully automated counter-UAS system. The Raider System is deployed at sensitive locations, to protect from threats of hostile drones. The platform is typically deployed with one or more “pods” housing 3 – 5 small, high-speed drones that can autonomously respond to threats and, while operating at extremely high speeds, track a hostile drone with the ability to capture that drone with a net with an integrated parachute to safely control the drone after capture. The Raider can be deployed alongside the Optimus, or as a stand-alone solution.
What are the challenges and opportunities you see in Drone industry?
In the drone industry, there are both challenges and opportunities. Challenges include regulatory hurdles, safety concerns, and public acceptance. The industry is further tasked with integrating a host of technologies ranging from communications networks, payloads, edge compute and safety technologies such as detect and avoid systems. In addition, to truly scale the industry, we need to automate as much of the activity as possible to remove costly and cumbersome labor, which will also improve quality of operations. Lastly, even with automation, field support for technology and specialized services must be scaled and we have a massive amount of data analytics capabilities to develop with AI/ ML technologies to harness the vast trove of data that will be collected on a daily basis All of this technology and ecosystem development needs to take place inside a regulatory framework that ensures safety.
However, it is well worth investing to attack and conquer these challenges as the rewards for the winners will be substantial. The market opportunity is measured in the tens of billions of dollars, no matter what industry research reports you reference. The potential rewards to investors in terms of returns market capitalization that can be created are even more substantial.
Where do you see OAS in the next five or ten years?
We see exceptional growth in the drone sector over the next 5 – 10 years and we intend to be one of the leading technology and services providers defining these aerial data solutions for customers. Defining these solutions means continuing to drive reliable autonomy, while extending our capabilities with continuously improving data analytics.
Given the complexity of providing the complete, turnkey technical solutions, supported by field support and regulatory expertise, we believe market share will naturally accrue to a relatively small group of players who can realistically reach sufficient scale to be a reliable provider to large, sophisticated government and industrial customers. Today, there are no big drone companies, but rather we see thousands of sub-scale players, many solving just a piece of the puzzle of a complex solution. This fragmentation is not unusual, we have seen this in formerly nascent industries ranging from the personal computer and the cell phone to the automobile sector, which ultimately saw significant consolidation.
Customers and investors both need to see leaders emerge and consolidation that will be required to create scaled aerial solutions providers in the Drone Economy. We believe Ondas can play an important role in the inevitable consolidation of the drone sector over the next decade.
We envision further advancements in our drone technology, expanding our offerings to meet evolving industry needs. OAS aims to be at the forefront of innovation, providing comprehensive drone solutions that deliver value across various sectors. Our goal is to be recognized as a trusted partner for industries seeking reliable, efficient, and autonomous drone solutions.