JERUSALEM — Xtend will develop multi-payload drones for the Pentagon’s irregular warfare office under an $8.9 million deal, the Israeli company announced.
This is the sixth contract between Xtend and the Irregular Warfare Technical Support Directorate, and it follows a deal in May for the supply of hundreds of Wolverine Gen2 drones to the U.S. government.
The company, strengthening its foothold in the United States, recently established its U.S.-based subsidiary Xtend Reality. The company attended the Association of the U.S. Army’s annual conference earlier this month, where it demonstrated a so-called human-guided autonomous drone system with a simulator.
Additionally, the drone on order, expected to carry 0.5 kilograms (1.1 pounds) of payload, will be manufactured in the United States.
The new contract “further strengthens our collaboration with the U.S. Department of Defense,” Robert Peters, who heads Xtend Reality, said in a statement.
The latest deal will see the delivery next year of hundreds of drones that can operate indoors and outdoors, according to Rubi Liani, Xtend’s co-founder and chief technology officer.
“Our core technology is the [operating system]; we are creating an operating system to fill gaps of human and machine [teaming],” Liani added.
Using different machines connected by an operating system as the core of the technology enables users to fly unmanned aerial systems while also operating unmanned ground vehicles and unmanned underwater vehicles, he said. “The idea is for the operator to feel like the drones and robots are tools and part of the team. This is human-machine teaming, and every contract or drone we are developing is connected to the same system approach.”
The company did not specify which units will use the drone ordered in the latest contract, but Liani said commando-type users will probably adopt the system.
The concept “is to give every unit the tools to use, and they can create any configuration they want, starting from ‘mix and match,’ ” Liani added. “They can select the type of drones for the mission. For example, swarm of (1) outdoor drone and (2) indoor, or any configuration they like according to the mission profile.”
Seth J. Frantzman is the Israel correspondent for Defense News. He has covered conflict in the Mideast since 2010 for different publications. He has experience covering the international coalition against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria, and he is a co-founder and executive director of the Middle East Center for Reporting and Analysis.