American drone maker Skydio, which is famous for its follow-me drones, this week announced a massive U.S. Army contract worth potentially up to $99.8 million.
California-based Skydio’s technology was selected by the U.S. Army for what’s called its Short Range Reconnaissance (SRR) Program of Record. With it comes a contract managed by the Program Executive Office for Aviation’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems (PM UAS) Project Management Office with a base year value of $20.2 million. In it, Skydio will supply U.S. Army solders with its autonomous drone tech. More specifically, solders will be equipped with a rapidly deployable small drone solution designed to be used for Reconnaissance and Surveillance (R&S) activities.
The U.S. Army contract was set up as a Firm-Fixed-Price Five Year Production Other Transaction (OT) agreement, which means it could be worth up to $99.8 million across the duration of the period.
For the U.S. Army contract, Skydio was selected from a set of more than 30 other vendor proposals. The initial ~30 proposals were whittled down to five finalists, which were rigorously testing in partnership with the Army’s Defense Innovation Unit. After all that, the U.S. Army chose Skydio based on factors including solder feedback, product performance, quality, and production readiness.
What the U.S. Army contract means for Skydio
Skydio has generally been known for its consumer lineup of drones, starting with the Skydio R1 back in 2018, then launching the Skydio 2 in 2020 which recently evolved into the Skydio 2+ with a newer model released this year.
But in the window between dropping the Skydio 2 and the 2+, Skydio made an interesting leap into the enterprise and defense space. In 2021, Skydio released the Skydio X2, which provided the popular ‘crash-proof’ drone with an enterprise-level upgrade thanks to the addition of dual color/thermal sensors, designed specifically for defense, public sector and enterprise customers. Other improvements included a new foldable, hardened and robust Skydio X2 airframe that provided longer flight time with up to 35 minutes on a single battery and extended wireless range (up to 6 km on commercial 5 GHz band, and up to 10 km on the restricted 1.8 GHz government band). It also pairs with Skydio Autonomy which is — exactly like it sounds — an AI-driven flight autonomy software.
Within the Skydio X2 release, the company also launched a specific version called Skydio X2D, designed for defense and federal agencies and that features dual-color optical thermal sensors, GPS-based night flight and strobe lighting. That enabled the Skydio X2 drone to gain approval by the U.S. government as a trusted solution for the US Department of Defense and is a National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) compliant solution.
“This is an exciting milestone for Skydio, the Army, and most importantly the men and women who serve our country,” said Skydio CEO Adam Bry in a prepared statement about the company’s U.S. Army contact. “For drones under 20 pounds, civilian drone technology has raced ahead of traditional defense systems.”
Separately, outside of this U.S. Army contract, Skydio has another strong military tie. Skydio is one of just 11 companies participating in the U.S. Department of Defense’s pilot program called Blue sUAS 2.0., where the selected companies work with the government to prototype a new process of approving U.S. military-compliant drones.