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Sunday, May 19, 2024

Firestorm Labs Gets $12.5M in Seed Funding

STARTUPS: Drone Maker Enables 3-D Printing in the Field

SAN DIEGO – Defense contracting startup Firestorm Labs cut the ribbon on its own office and production space in Kearny Mesa on April 2, a few weeks after announcing it had received $12.5 million in seed funding.

Ian Muceus
CTO & Co-founder
Firestorm Labs

Lockheed Martin Ventures led the round, announced on March 21.

Firestorm is ramping up production on the Tempest, a small unmanned aircraft able to carry a 10 pound payload. It has built 50 aircraft so far, and the Tempest has flown in Ukraine. The business wants the capability to build 100 aircraft a month, said Ian Muceus, chief technology officer and co-founder of Firestorm.

Tempest is classified as a Group 2 drone, which weigh in a range of 21 to 55 pounds. It has a 6-foot fuselage and a 7-foot wingspan. Much of the aircraft is built on a 3-D printer.

xCell Brings Factory to the Field

Another project is its xCell manufacturing product line, which is essentially a self-contained factory featuring 3-D printers, housed in a pair of 20-foot shipping containers. Firestorm would like to put such factories “on the edge” of the battlefield.

“You want your manufacturing close to your point of need,” said Muceus, who specializes in 3-D printing. The xCell could produce drones or other spare parts needed in the field, he said.

Firestorm has received its first patent, and has more applications pending, Muceus said.

Starting With SBIR Contracts

Firestorm has already gotten defense contracts. Much of its work is funded through Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contracts from the U.S. Air Force.

The company was founded in 2022, about the time that Russia invaded Ukraine. The three founders of Firestorm viewed that event as the “writing on the wall” about the need for autonomous systems and their business, Muceus said.

The other founders are Dan Magy, the company CEO, and Chad McCoy, chief strategy officer. McCoy brings more than 26 years of experience with special forces to the job, and is in tune with what the military customer needs.

Muceus said the founders had the choice of founding their company in the San Francisco Bay Area or San Diego. He said the latter offered a better combination of aerospace, defense and technology talent. The startup was also able to get 14,000 square feet of industrial space at a better price than in the Bay Area.

Firestorm is developing a smaller, 3-D printed drone called El Niño. Early examples of the aircraft were in the large, shared workspace of the new Kearny Mesa facility.

More Than a Dozen Investors

In addition to Lockheed Martin Ventures, other early investors in Firestorm are Decisive Point, Silent Ventures, 645 Ventures, Overmatch VC, BVVC, Marquee Ventures, Cubit Capital, IronGate, Backswing Ventures, The Veteran Fund, Feld Ventures, Beyond Capital and RedCat.

Muceus said the business wants to double its headcount by the end of the year.

Small drones can be useful for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; electronic warfare and signals intelligence; or to deliver explosives.

Muceus said there might even be work for Firestorm Labs outside the world of defense contracting.


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