fortem toshiba DroneHunter

Toshiba makes $15 million investment in anti-drone tech

Japanese tech giant Toshiba has invested in the drone industry. Or, anti-drone industry, if you will.

Toshiba Infrastructure Systems & Solutions today announced that it has invested $15 million in Utah-based, anti-drone tech company Fortem Technologies.

Fortem makes airspace security and defense products designed for detecting drones. Fortem’s premier product is the Fortem SkyDome System, a drone detection solution that uses Fortem TrueView radar as well as Fortem DroneHunter, an AI-enabled autonomous drone designed to capture and remove ‘rogue drones’. The idea is that anti-drone tech would be able to spot unwanted drones at places including high-traffic corridors, large venues, critical infrastructures, borders, etc.

Fortem’s TrueView radar detects and calculates the location and trajectory of airborne objects. Image courtesy of Fortem.

Among the tech in making Fortem’s anti-drone system is a combination of distributed radar, AI at-the-edge, deep sensor integration and autonomous drone capture. The company says its system is easy to install and effective in urban environments and works during both day and night.

Though, while Fortem makes anti-drone tech, it might not be fair to say the company is “anti-drone.” Fortem has helped create technologies that have long been thought to be vital in growing the drone industry, including UTM. In April 2019, Fortem announced a partnership with unmanned traffic management (UTM) provider Unifly.  And shortly before that, Fortem announced a partnership with AirMap to provide C-UAS solutions.

Fortem is also a key player in the Federal Aviation Administration’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration Pilot Program. It’s a partner in the North Carolina test site project related to the coronavirus pandemic response that tracked incoming medical helicopter traffic and provided that information as real-time alerts to Airmap.

Along with that $15 million Toshiba investment comes a strategic business alliance, and the two companies are set to integrate their tech and sales systems worldwide.

However, this is not Toshiba’s first step into anti-drone tech. The company has actually already commercialized a drone detection system that can determine the incoming direction and altitude of a drone by receiving radio waves emitted by the drone in flight.

Note that the company behind this investment, Toshiba Infrastructure Systems & Solutions Corporation, is slightly different from Toshiba Corporation. This company, which was designed to promote Toshiba Group’s business in social infrastructure, split off from Toshiba Corporation in 2017, the company is based in Kawasaki. Though, it’s still huge. Toshiba Group (responsible for this investment) recorded revenue of over $6.7 billion in 2019 and has more than 18,000 employees.

Fortem’s DroneHunter is an ‘anti-drone’ drone itself. It’s a drone interceptor that can capture and tows away other unwanted drones. It’s use is only legal in the U.S. by certain federal authorities (so you can’t go capturing any drones you see over your backyard with it), though it’s legal in many other parts of the world. Image courtesy of Fortem.

Fortem Technologies CEO Timothy Bean said he believes the combination of “disruptive innovation of (Fortem’s) AI-enabled Fortem SkyDome System with the depth of Toshiba’s commercial drone RF detection expertise and advanced radar technology” would be a big step for security providers, especially those who need secure airspace over venues (like sports fields), campuses and dense city centers.

Fortem is privately held and based in Pleasant Grove, Utah. Besides the Toshiba investment, Fortem is backed by funders including Boeing HorizonX Global Ventures, DCVC, Mubadala Investment Company and Signia Venture Partners.

The investment is proof of predictions that the anti-drone market is set to grow. By one measure, the counter-drone market could be worth $6.6 billion by 2024.

Leave a Reply