Aerospace giant Boeing will collaborate on current and future defense programs with local defense tech firm Shield AI, which builds AI pilots for aircraft. The partnership announcement came after representatives from the companies signed a memorandum of understanding at March’s Air Force Association Warfare Symposium.
“The feedback from the industry and DoD has been overwhelmingly positive,” Shield AI President, Co-founder and Chief Growth Officer Brandon Tseng said. “The Air Force recently signaled they are looking to purchase at least 1,000 next-gen AI piloted Collaborative Combat Aircraft.”
“Shield AI is the world leader in AI pilots and Boeing is the world leader in aerospace technology, thus no two companies are better positioned to move out, productize AI Pilots on jet aircraft and make this capability a reality,” Tseng added.
Boeing Phantom Works will manage the projects, which will focus on exploring autonomous capabilities and artificial intelligence.
“Boeing continues to leverage talent from across the enterprise to make great strides in autonomous capabilities and programs in recent years,” said Steve Nordlund, vice president and general manager for Boeing’s Air Dominance organization. “Collaborating with Shield AI, the leader in AI pilots, will accelerate our ability to deliver these capabilities to the warfighter.”
Tseng added, “Integrating Boeing aircraft with our AI pilot would redefine what large aircraft, crewed or uncrewed, could do…Boeing has been exceptionally easy to engage with, so we are excited to expand our scope of work to co-develop, productize and bring to market the world’s best AI pilot for large aircraft.”
Shield AI is the creator of AI pilot Hivemind, which has flown a fighter jet (F-16), a vertical takeoff and landing drone (V-BAT) and a quadcopter (Nova). Tseng explained that – like a human pilot – Hivemind reads and reacts to the battlefield and does not require GPS, waypoints, or communications to make decisions.
“AI pilots enable teams of aircraft to autonomously maneuver in contested environments that are too dangerous for humans and where GPS and comms-dependent unmanned systems can’t operate,” Tseng said. “From a scalability standpoint, AI Pilots can finally decouple manpower from airpower, enabling crewed and unmanned aircraft teams to transform air combat power. AI Pilots will have strategic implications and may achieve the ultimate goal – deter war.”
Tseng launched Shield AI in San Diego in 2015 with the help of his brother, Co-founder and CEO Ryan Tseng, and Co-founder and Technical Fellow Andrew Reiter.
Brandon Tseng came to live in San Diego after serving in the Navy as a surface warfare officer and SEAL. Brother Ryan sold his company, WiPower, to Qualcomm and then began working for the San Diego tech giant.
“It was fitting to be in a city with such strong military ties, especially since our first customers were located just down the street at Naval Special Warfare Command,” Brandon said, adding that his experience as a SEAL inspired his efforts to help build the aerospace and defense tech firm.
“I experienced firsthand problems where intelligent autonomy could have made life-saving differences,” Tseng said. “I asked myself, ‘What does the military of 2030 look like and what role does autonomy play?’ The answer is AI pilots powering every military asset.’”
To date, Shield AI has raised more than a half billion dollars and sports a total valuation of $2.3 billion while employing about 600 people, a third based out of the San Diego headquarters. The company also maintains offices in Dallas, Washington D.C. and Abu Dhabi.
CEO: Ryan Tseng
HEADQUARTERS: San Diego
BUSINESS: Artificial Intelligence
CONTACT: (619) 719-5740
NOTABLE: Shield AI’s Hivemind is an AI-powered pilot that has flown a variety of aircraft and can enable swarms of drones and aircraft to operate autonomously without GPS, communications or a human pilot in the cockpit.