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DoD Transport Tech Applied to Big Rigs And Work Parties

VEHICLES: Kratos Defense Sees ‘Tremendous’ Potential

The self-driving truck market – worth north of $1 billion now and expected to grow to $5.36 billion by 2032 – beckons defense contractor Kratos Defense & Security Solutions Inc. (NASDAQ: KTOS).

The technology specialist based in Scripps Ranch first adapted its U.S. Department of Defense driverless truck technology to commercial markets in 2014.

Today Kratos’ push into the commercial arena may be more relevant than ever, with the trucking industry short of 80,000 qualified drivers. That deficit is expected to grow to 160,000 by 2030, according to the American Trucking Association.

Kratos’ solution might be described as a 2-for-1 deal. It is leveraging technology that allows an unmanned truck to follow the lead of an occupied vehicle. The technology was first put to use on military trucks. The leading vehicle transmits navigation information to the unoccupied vehicle behind it.

Several state transportation departments now use Kratos technology to protect crews working on the side of the highway. In this case, an unmanned vehicle with an attenuator (crash barrier) follows a manned vehicle. The unoccupied “shadow vehicle” can take the hit of any wayward highway traffic headed toward the work zone.

Kratos did not disclose its revenue from, or investment in, such technology. In a review of its unmanned vehicle business issued in May, the business said it has deployed a dozen Autonomous Truck Mounted Attenuator (ATMA) vehicles in the United States as well as one in England.

The Kratos system converts any existing vehicle to driverless operation. In going after the business, Kratos said is concentrating on short-haul routes, “avoiding the need to navigate the often complex multi-state legislative environments of long-haul operations,” according to a statement.

The corporation is now exploring other ways to adapt its follow-the-leader technology. For example, in North Dakota, leader-follower trucks are hauling sugar beets on a 30-mile route. Both trailers were loaded to 90,000 pounds, Kratos said, adding that the moves were successful during extreme winter weather. In northern Minnesota, Kratos said it has an unmanned tractor trailer rig hauling non-HAZMAT biodiesel following a similar rig with a human in the cab, carrying the cargo between refining points.

“Our market potential is tremendous and existing today,” said Steve Fendley, vice president of Kratos Unmanned Systems Division.

Precedence Research, estimates the autonomous truck market was worth $1.07 in 2022, grew to $1.26 billion in 2023 and will grow further to $5.36 billion by 2032.

Kratos Defense & Security Solutions Inc.

FOUNDED: 1994 as Wireless Facilities
CEO: Eric DeMarco
BUSINESS: Defense contractor
REVENUE: $898.3 million in 2022
EMPLOYEES: Approximately 3,600
WEBSITE: www.kratosdefense.com
CONTACT: 858-812-7300
NOTABLE: Kratos Defense is developing affordable unmanned aircraft for the military


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