Overwatch Imaging’s real-time fire perimeter mapping increases safety. (Overwatch Image) , an Oregon venture that specializes in airborne imaging systems, says it has won a multimillion-dollar investment from , which focuses on aviation solutions that are specialized to suit the needs of its clients in government and the commercial sector. The Series A funding deal, announced today, builds on an existing partnership between Overwatch and Tenax, a privately held company that’s based in Mississippi. It marks the first outside investment taken in by Overwatch, which was founded in 2016. Overwatch CEO and co-founder Greg Davis said the size of the investment amounts to millions of dollars, but he declined to be more precise. The money will go toward expanding Overwatch’s production operations into a larger facility in Hood River, Ore., and accelerating development of the company’s AI software for autonomous imagery collection and analysis. In a news release, Tenax Aerospace’s president, Taran Bakker, called Overwatch “an emerging leader in artificial intelligence and autonomy in airborne imaging.” “Overwatch Imaging has developed an exciting new technology that will be very valuable to customers with special missions involving surveillance, mapping or threat detection,” Bakker said. Tenax Aerospace provides special mission aircraft and related services to customers including the Federal Aviation Administration and the departments of Defense, Justice; Agriculture and Homeland Security. The company focuses on applications that are critical to national security and the public interest, including aerial fire suppression, aerial intelligence gathering and airborne data acquisition. Tenax and Overwatch are already working together on a U.S. Forest Service project related to monitoring and fighting forest fires. That project involves the use of Overwatch’s imaging system on Tenax’s aircraft. Future projects could focus on applications such as border surveillance and maritime traffic monitoring. Davis said Tenax Aerospace emerged as the ideal partner for Overwatch Imaging’s expansion campaign during a six-month process to assess potential investors. As a result of that process, Tenax will be contributing more than money: Bakker will be joining Davis and co-founder Nick Anderson on Overwatch’s board. “We immediately shared a common vision for the future,” said Davis, who’s a veteran of . “I am excited to have Taran’s expertise and enthusiasm on our board as we grow.”
wants robots to do the dirty part of farming: weeding. With that thought, the San Francisco-based startup enlisted the help of Michigan-based manufacturing and automotive company Roush to build prototypes of the self-driving robots. An early prototype is pictured above. Financial details of the collaboration were not released. The idea is these autonomous weeders will replace herbicides and save the grower on labor. By using high-precision weeding, the robotic farm hands can increase the yield of the crops by working day and night to remove unwanted plants and weeds. After all, herbicides are in part because weeding is a terrible job. With Roush, FarmWise will build a dozen prototypes win 2019 with the intention of scaling to additional units in 2020. But why Michigan? “Michigan is well-known throughout the world for its manufacturing and automotive industries, the advanced technology expertise and state-of-the-art manufacturing practices,” Thomas Palomares, FarmWise co-founder and CTO said. “These are many of the key ingredients we need to manufacture and test our machines. We were connected to Roush through support from PlanetM, and as a technology startup, joining forces with a large and well-respected legacy automaker is critical to support the scale of our manufacturing plan.”Roush has a long history in Michigan as a leading manufacturing of high performance auto parts. More recently, the company has expanded its focus to using its manufacturing expertise elsewhere including robotics and alternative fuel system design. “This collaboration showcases the opportunities that result from connecting startups like FarmWise with Michigan-based companies like Roush that bring their manufacturing know-how to making these concepts a reality,” said Trevor Pawl, group vice president of PlanetM, Pure Michigan Business Connect and International Trade at the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. “We are excited to see this collaboration come to fruition. It is a great example of how Michigan can bring together emerging companies globally seeking prototype and production support with our qualified manufacturing base in the state.” FarmWise was founded in 2016 and has raised $5.7 million through a seed-stage investment. TechCrunch first saw FarmWise .
Gaia co-founders Mehtap Ozkan, David Vaskevitch and Hal Berenson. (Gaia Photo) As a former longtime Microsoft chief technology officer, has seen most of the major computer revolutions. He’s ready for the next wave, autonomous machines, and is building a platform to get in on the ground floor. Vaskevitch is one of three co-founders behind Gaia, a new Seattle-area startup aims to be a kind of app store for robots. “Autonomous apps are not going to be like any kind of preceding apps,” Vaskevitch said. “We’re going to build a platform that makes it easier and even practical to write them.” Gaia, which has raised $10 million, is looking for partners who are building autonomous machines. The startup does not yet have a website. Vaskevitch said that solving the autonomous software problem will spread the adoption of these independent robots. “Imagine if Steve Jobs had introduced iPhone but not Xcode or the App Store,” Vaskevitch said. “Apple would be a much smaller platform.” Gaia plans to build a kind of app store for autonomous machines, such as delivery drones and robotic chefs. Above, a test model from Amazon’s delivery drone program. (Amazon Photo) In recent years, Vaskevitch has been working on Mylio, which is known for a photo management app that . Two years ago, Mylio from Chinese investors to build a private cloud. The Gaia team has borrowed Mylio’s hybrid mesh network to make its vision possible. “Gaia is designed from the ground up for tomorrow’s yin and yang distributed world,” Gaia co-founder wrote in a in 2017. “Applications can be written just once and still run on a phone, a tablet, in a car or robotic surgeon, in a server or in the cloud.” Ozkan comes from a venture capital background as the founder of Istanbul-based Golden Horn Ventures. The third member of Gaia’s founding team, , first met Vaskevitch at Microsoft and also worked on relational databases at Amazon. One problem the team foresees is that today’s infrastructure — billions of devices connected through the cloud — won’t work with tomorrow’s autonomous machines. Instead, much of the computing power will have to be done locally. “Nobody’s really worked in that problem for the last 20 years,” Vaskevitch said. In his blog post, Ozkan added: “The good news is that hardware to create the new world is either here or clearly on the way. The challenge is that the software to enable a world like this is almost entirely missing in action.” At least for now, the startup isn’t diving into the rat race for self-driving cars, focusing instead on an application platform for everything else. Among your future companions: autonomous chefs, security robots and delivery drones. “Ten or 15 years from now, we’re going to see autonomous machines in our homes, at work, everywhere we go,” Vaskevitch said.