The virtual border wall construction company has a new iteration of its stealthy fast-flying drones to match — and a fresh deal with Customs and Border Security. Anduril, a young defense-friendly tech firm from Oculus’s founder, this month obtained $36 million from Customs and Border Security for its AI-powered autonomous surveillance towers.
In an ongoing partnership with the contractor worth more than $200 million, the Corporation plans to build 200 towers by 2022.The unusual company is rapidly iterating on its hardware developments, which makes sense for a business founded by Palmer Luckey, the controversial figure who has championed Oculus’ device VR. As he started with his new company, Luckey, a major Trump booster in tech, attracted a lot of talent from the now Facebook-owned VR business. The company has also gathered several former employees from Peter Thiel-founded Palantir, which has established its own federal contract business and is going public.
Although the business remained silent in its early days of operation, over the last year in particular it has been opening up about its drone capabilities. Previously, Anduril had made a press campaign around the launch of a counter-UAS drone called “Anvil,” which can identify a target and knock it out of the sky. (If you don’t call them “assault drones,” the company would prefer) Now, Anduril is releasing the fourth version of his lightweight, ultra-silent “Ghost” drones, adding some main features.Ghost 4 is the new iteration of the Ghost drone, boasting 100 minutes of flight time and a “near-silent acoustic signature” that makes detection difficult. The Ghost 4 drones now carry Anduril’s Lattice AI software on board, enabling them to work and identify possible targets in low-connectivity or “contested” areas. The Ghost drone’s latest version also allows one operator to order a group of Ghost drones to form a swarm, gathering data through several devices.
According to the business, the Ghost 4 is designed for several mission styles, including “aerial intelligence, surveillance and identification, cargo distribution, counter-intrusion, signal intelligence, and electronic warfare.” Anduril continues to cast a large net with the versatile, flexible nature of the system, but mostly perimeter and border surveillance contracts are won for now.
Starting in 2018, the company commenced its work with CBP through pilot projects in Texas and San Diego. By the following year, Anduril had formalized its partnership on the U.S. southern border, with some of its sentry towers operating in CBP’s San Diego area, an order for more in Texas, and a new pilot program testing a cold-weather variant of its hardware at northern border sites in Montana and Vermont.
Throughout its short lifespan in the Trump-era, Anduril has flourished, drawing unprecedented attention from defense agencies given that the business has existed only for three years. In July, CBP awarded $25 million to Anduril for an earlier package of surveillance towers.