Shield AI Demonstrates AI-piloted, Teaming V-BATs with AFWERX

Three V-BAT UAS at the Shield AI-AFWERX autonomous teaming demonstration. Photo courtesy of Shield AI.

SAN DIEGO—Shield AI today announced the successful completion of an autonomous teaming demonstration featuring three V-BAT unmanned aircraft systems. This accomplishment was the final milestone of an AFWERX autonomy effort under its Strategic Funding Increase (STRATFI) program and in collaboration with the AFRL Sensors Directorate. This transformational capability is to Be fielded in 2024.

Shield AI showcased its Hivemind AI pilot by launching a team of three V-BATs to monitor and surveil simulated wildfires. The multi-agent, coordinated team conducted detect, identify, locate and report (DILR) missions in a contingency scenario with dual-use applications. This work with AFWERX sets Shield AI on a path to deploy V-BAT teaming capabilities in GPS- and- communications-denied environments in the next year.

“Intelligent, affordable mass that can see everything on the battlefield, execute the mission even when GPS and comms are denied or degraded, and put all our adversaries’ military assets at risk at all times is the holy grail of deterrence. This milestone brings us closer to achieving that reality,” said Brandon Tseng, Shield AI’s president, cofounder and former U.S. Navy SEAL. “We had many customers from across the DOD enterprise attend the event and my favorite customer quote was ‘Wait, you’re flying those three aircraft, doing the recon and at the same time briefing us?’ The customers genuinely appreciated that this isn’t merely talk, or just computer simulations, or a science project leading nowhere. This represents real autonomy on actual aircraft that, most importantly, will be deployed imminently.”

Hivemind can be trained for a variety of missions and its modular open systems architecture enables portability to other aircraft. It has flown quadcopters, V-BATs and jet aircraft. Hivemind can be trained to undertake a broad range of missions, including integrated air defense breach, SCUD missile hunting, zone reconnaissance, counter-air, beyond-visual-range strike, maritime domain awareness and communications-contested operations.

“Autonomy on V-BAT directly supports our autonomy efforts on uncrewed jet aircraft. Beyond our autonomy stack being leveraged across different aircraft, what sets this autonomy effort apart from others is that it was deployed on a program-of-record aircraft and will be a fielded capability next year. Many DOD-funded efforts, unfortunately, never reach the hands of a warfighter. However, Shield AI and AFWERX decided from the start that we would field this capability within the DOD. The great thing is all our DOD customers—the Army, the Navy, the Marines, SOCOM and the Air Force—will benefit from this AFWERX effort. Autonomy is a joint capability,” said Ryan Tseng, CEO and cofounder of Shield AI.

“What’s exciting to us is not just the capability that teaming V-BATs can bring to the table or how it’s on a great path for fielding with DOD partners, but how autonomy stacks can be leveraged across different aircraft and programs. The continual application of autonomy from small systems, now V-BAT, and onto larger platforms provides paths for industry progression and autonomy maturation. The criticality of autonomous capabilities for future programs of record within the DOD was the driver for this Shield AI – AFWERX effort,” said Col. Tom Meagher, AFWERX Prime Division chief.