Sponsored by SPX CommTech (TCI & ECS)
07 Sep 23. Defense startup Anduril acquires UAS-maker Blue Force Technologies. A top Anduril exec told Breaking Defense the company will spend “significant” independent R&D funding to continue developing Blue Force Technologies’ Fury aircraft.
Anduril Industries, the relatively new defense tech firm started in 2017, announced today it is acquiring autonomous aircraft developer Blue Force Technologies, with its eyes on bringing “affordable mass” to the Pentagon.
“This is a campaign and really kind of a vision of ours [and] has been for years to be able to bring a different kind of mass quickly back to the Department of Defense at a time where the traditional industrial base can’t provide it, and we desperately need it,” Christian Brose, chief strategy officer for Anduril, told Breaking Defense in an interview ahead of the announcement. Specific details of the deal were not publicly disclosed.
Blue Force Technologies, based out of North Carolina, is best known for a developmental autonomous aircraft called “Fury,” which the companies say is a group 5 vehicle with “fighter-like performance.” The Pentagon characterizes aircraft into groups based on size: group 1 represents small hand-held quad-copters while group 5 aircraft are similar to full-scale helicopters.
Brose said part of what attracted Anduril to Blue Force was how Fury fits into the fleet of other autonomous vehicles Anduril is already developing, such as the Ghost small unmanned aerial system and the Dive autonomous undersea vehicle. He added that Anduril plans to make “significant” investments into continuing to mature Fury, which is approaching its first flight.
Anduril’s announcement comes just days after Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks revealed her own plans to initiate a new effort, dubbed “Replicator,” which will aim to produce thousands of autonomous drones within two years.
“It’s very much a direction that I think Anduril has been headed in for years now, in terms of seeking to deliver the kinds of objectives that Replicator is talking about,” Brose said, adding that he did not personally know anything about Hicks’ new effort beyond what she said publicly.
“That’s very much where we have been focused as a company and the acquisition of Blue Force Technologies, the further maturation and fielding of the Fury aircraft I hope will very much be a part of that initiative,” he continued.
Brose, who himself is a former top congressional staffer for the Senate Armed Services Committee, said he believes the money, technology and industrial capacity are all available to make Replicator “eminently doable.”
The devil, he said, will be in the details, which Hicks has admitted will remain few and far between for the time being.
In a recent interview with Breaking Defense, Anduril founder Palmer Luckey noted the company’s eventual goal remains to become a prime defense contractor that can “fight and win across multiple areas.”
In that interview, conducted before today’s news, Luckey said, “I think we are positioned super well, and I think that is not apparent from the things that we are publicly talking about across our product line.”
(Source: Defense News Early Bird/Breaking Defense.com)
07 Sep 23. Melrose Industries PLC (“Melrose”, the “Company” or the “Group”), an Aerospace Engines and Structures Group, today announces its interim results for the six months ended 30 June 2023 (“the Period”).
Melrose Group – at constant currency3
Trading ahead of expectations – upgraded guidance
- Upgraded full year guidance: Aerospace 2023 adjusted1 operating profit range increases by over 8% to between £375m and £385m with a higher Engines margin than previously guided
- Net debt leverage1 reducing towards 1x EBITDA1 by the end of 2023 (before share buyback programme)
- This outperformance further underpins the achievement of the 2025 guidance
Half year results
- Aerospace revenue of £1.63bn, growth of 19%3 over last year (15% including businesses being exited)
- Aerospace adjusted1 operating profit of £175m, more than 2.5x the prior year
- Aerospace adjusted1 operating margin of 10.7% an increase of 5.8 percentage points on the prior year and 3.2 percentage points on the second half of 2022
- Adjusted1 diluted earnings per share increased to 7.5p (2022: 0.2p). Statutory loss per share was 3.0p (2022: 16.8p)
- Restructuring and repricing progressing well combined with improved quality and arrears reduction
- Net debt1 of £553m in line with expectations, reducing leverage1 to 1.5x (pro-forma 2022 opening leverage18x)
Earlier shareholder returns
- Higher confidence and strong progress allows Melrose to commence early its share buyback programme, at the beginning of October 2023, starting with a £500m buyback over 12 months and being well placed to continue thereafter keeping leverage1 comfortably within previous guidance
- Continuation of the progressive annual dividend, with an interim dividend of 1.5 pence per share declared
New Investor Event – Engines
- To be held on site in Sweden, the global HQ for the Engines business, during October 2023 to showcase in more detail and colour the full quality of the Engines business, including a new target for Engines operating margins to rise above 30% post 2025
- Melrose is now a long-term aerospace group with exceptional organic growth prospects. In line with this new strategic direction, on 7 March 2024 Simon Peckham and Geoffrey Martin will step down as Melrose Chief Executive and Group Finance Director respectively, to be replaced by Peter Dilnot (currently Melrose Chief Operating Officer) and Matthew Gregory (currently Chief Financial Officer GKN Aerospace) respectively. Thus providing management continuity as Melrose becomes a pureplay aerospace group. Simon Peckham, Geoffrey Martin and Christopher Miller will not stand for re-election as directors at the 2024 AGM
By division – at constant currency3
- Engines revenue growth of 19% in the first half with adjusted1 operating profit nearly doubling and adjusted1 operating margin up to 24.5%
- Engines aftermarket growth of 46% driven by recovering flying hours and the Group entering the lucrative aftermarket ‘sweet spot’ allowing an above market performance
- Structures revenue growth of 18%3 (13% including businesses being exited) and adjusted operating margin reaching 2.5% in the first half versus loss-making in the first half of 2022
- Civil ramp-up delivering 24% growth. Defence repricing and portfolio work accelerated with around 25% of the renegotiations planned by 2025 being successfully concluded in the last few months
Demerger of GKN Automotive, GKN Powder Metallurgy and GKN Hydrogen
- The demerger of the GKN Automotive, GKN Powder Metallurgy and GKN Hydrogen businesses from Melrose into Dowlais Group PLC successfully completed on 20 April 2023 as scheduled
Upgraded guidance for 2023 full year (assuming US $ = 1.25 average exchange rate for the year)
- Revenue of between £3.35bn and £3.45bn
- Aerospace adjusted1 operating profit between £375m and £385m
- Aerospace adjusted1 EBITDA of between £525m and £535m
- PLC costs reducing to £30m
- Net debt leverage1 reducing towards 1x EBITDA1 by the end of 2023 (before share buyback programme)
Simon Peckham, Chief Executive of Melrose Industries PLC, today said:
“We are delighted with these results and the outlook for Melrose. Whilst there is still work to do, the business is very capable of producing over £1 bn of EBITDA and providing excellent returns for shareholders. This is further demonstrated by the confidence to start early the share buyback programme. Chris, Geoff and I are pleased to hand over to Peter and Matthew to continue the great performance achieved by Aerospace, and to guide this handover during the coming months and into 2024. Melrose shareholders own a truly special business, with rapidly increasing profits, exceptionally strong long-term cash flows and a disciplined shareholder focused approach to capital.”
- Described in the glossary to the 2023 Interim Financial Statements
- Results for the period ended 30 June 2022 have been restated for discontinued operations and the one for three share consolidation
- Like-for-like growth is calculated at constant currency against 2022 results and excludes businesses being exited
06 Sep 23. HALO X-ray Secures Investment to Accelerate its Disruptive X-ray Diffraction Technology for Security Screening and Contraband Detection. Investments in HALO X-ray Technologies will support regulatory approval of the first fieldable XRD system in checkpoint security operations and deployments to key airport screening operations.
HALO X-ray Technologies Ltd, a developer of next-generation X-ray diffraction (XRD) technology for aviation and security screening applications, announced today that the Innovation Science & Seed Fund (UKI2S), a venture fund science and technology focused venture capital fund, led a £2m Series A investment funding round alongside Agilent Technologies Inc. and the Midlands Engine Investment Fund (MEIF) through the MEIF West Midlands Equity Fund, managed by venture capital firm Midven to advance HALO’s XRD screening solutions.
“We are thrilled to have the support of market leader Agilent to join with UKI2S and Midven,” said Simon Godber, HALO’s Chief Executive Officer. “This investment will support HALO’s principal goal to substantially reduce false alarm rates for global checkpoint screening systems, leading to faster passenger throughput and significant reductions in airport operational costs. Agilent’s investment along with its product development and manufacturing expertise in global security and field detection markets will help us deliver critical new screening capability to address aviation security and international customs and borders screening challenges. We welcome the support of UKI2S and the continued backing from the MEIF through Midven, to help drive the business through these next important periods of rapid growth”.
“HALO’s innovative XRD platform enables through-barrier identification of chemicals and materials and makes this long-promised capability available, so it can be used in a wide range of security and contraband detection missions,” said Geoff Winkett General Manager & Vice President Molecular Spectroscopy at Agilent Technologies.
Andy Muir, Investment Director for UKI2S and Future Planet Capital Group said: “Investment in innovation is critical to the future of global security, which is why we are delighted to invest in HALO from our Defence and Security portfolio within the UK Innovation & Science Seed Fund. Our part in this raise is not only to invest, but also to identify and amplify co-investment into organisations that have scalable opportunity via dual-use capabilities. Congratulations to the whole team in this vital next stage of HALO’s growth.”
Andy Bard, Portfolio Manager at Midlands-based venture capital firm, Midven, part of the Future Planet Capital Group, said: “We are pleased to continue to invest in HALO’s effective XRD platform and operationalise the advancements the HALO team has achieved that make XRD a high value and deployable solution. Our investment will support key deployments to European airport screening operations and add sales and logistical support for installations in Europe and the US”.
The Midlands Engine Investment Fund project is supported financially by the European Union using funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020 and the European Investment Bank.
31 Aug 23. Saab buys British artificial intelligence specialist BlueBear.
Saab has boosted its footprint in the artificial intelligence sector with the acquisition of British specialists BlueBear Systems. The British company is a leading provider of AI-enabled autonomous swarm systems and command-and-control systems. No financial details of the acquisition have been released.
BlueBear had a turnover of £8m, or $10m, last year and employs 65 people at a site near Bedford in southern England.
Micael Johansson, president and CEO of Saab, said the acquisition is another step towards ensuring the company sustains its competitive position in key international markets.
“BlueBear, as world-leading provider of AI-enabled autonomous swarm systems for complex defense and security applications, is a good fit with our approach of leveraging emerging technologies in the fields of autonomous systems and AI,” Johansson said in a statement announcing the takeover.
As part of Saab’s AI effort, BlueBear will become a center for rapid concept development, providing expertise and scaling-up innovation, according to the Saab statement.
Typical of BlueBear’s work in the fast-moving AI sector is a July 11 announcement that the company, along with SeeByte, a software developer for naval drones, had secured a British Ministry of Defence contract to investigate and build a safe architecture for mixed multi-domain swarms of robotic autonomous systems.
Saab already has some experience with AI-related technology through its 9LV naval combat management system, especially in its Swedish and Australian business units supporting local navies deploying that system on their ships, said Dean Rosenfield, Saab UK group managing director. “This is an important technology area for Saab and we will continue to expand our reach internationally in that regard but also work with others in AI, as partnerships are very much how Saab works.”
The BlueBear acquisition comes as Saab continues a period of organic and non-organic expansion, bringing the company’s U.K. personnel footprint from a bit over 100 in 2022 to 400 now, Rosenfield added.
Saab occupies rank 33 in this year’s Defense News Top 100 tabulation of the world’s biggest defense companies, posting defense-sector revenue of $3.7bn in 2022. (Source: Defense News)
01 Sep 23. Greensea Systems, Inc. Transforms into Greensea IQ: A Unified Vision for Ocean Robotics. Restructuring brings together Greensea Systems, Inc., Bayonet Ocean Vehicles, Inc. and Armach Robotics, Inc., under the new Greensea IQ banner. Ocean robotics pioneer Greensea Systems Inc., is delighted to announce its transformation into Greensea IQ, marking a strategic move that unites its former subsidiaries; Bayonet Ocean Vehicles and Armach Robotics, into a new business entity. This restructuring reinforces Greensea IQ as a leading force in the use of uncrewed and autonomous systems to better help improve human-kind’s interactions with, and understanding of, our oceans.
Greensea IQ CEO, Ben Kinnaman, articulated the driving force behind this transformation, stating, “The three arms of Greensea IQ collectively embody the overarching idea of maximising the capabilities of ocean robotics. This empowers us to explore deeper into the world’s oceans, enhancing both persistence and reach, all while ensuring efficiency, safety, and productivity.” This shared ethos forms the cornerstone of Greensea IQ’s new identity, and serves as the guiding principle that binds its components together in a collaborative pursuit of oceanic advancement.
Greensea IQ’s innovative technologies are poised to revolutionize maritime industries globally. EverClean, for instance, offers autonomous hull cleaning services that enhance ship performance, fuel efficiency, and reduce carbon emissions. With a successful commercialization phase, EverClean has proven the economic viability of its technology, and plans are in place to scale the service to a multitude of ship types in the coming years.
Additionally, Greensea IQ’s advancements in the defense and environmental spheres are gaining traction. The EOD Workspace software platform offers autonomous capabilities for mine detection and classification, reducing the risk to personnel in hazardous environments. Furthermore, the company’s robotics technologies are finding applications in offshore renewables, performing surveys for pre-construction work and beach landings, where traditional solutions struggle.
The restructure also prepares the company to strategically expand its operations to better serve clients across the globe with likely expansion into Europe, South America, and Southeast Asia, allowing the provision of closer service depots for robot deployments, and more effective customer support.
This reorganisation not only underscores Greensea IQ’s commitment to innovation but also highlights its ambition to better align business growth with environmental sustainability.
OPENSEA, Greensea IQ’s hardware-agnostic open framework for the development and deployment of cutting-edge robotics technologies, can be considered the common thread that ties together all of the company’s activities. It encompasses essential interfaces and utilities vital to the robotics and unmanned systems community that Greensea IQ has worked deeply within.
The OPENSEA library’s scope is comprehensive. Evolving from this library, the OPENSEA application suite consists of a multitude of distributed independent applications. These applications synergistically function as fundamental building blocks, seamlessly interacting within the OPENSEA network. Their collective capabilities form a scalable, adaptable, and modular system.
Greensea IQ’s former strategic investments in established subsea hardware technology providers culminated in the launch of Armach Robotics in 2021, and Bayonet Ocean Vehicles in 2022.
Armach Robotics pioneered EverClean, a proactive and autonomous in-water robotic cleaning solution providing always clean hulls for shipowners. Now operating under Greensea IQ the ‘Robot as a Service’ product, EverClean ensures the ship is always operating at peak performance by maintaining an always clean hull. Ben Kinnaman equates the EverClean approach to cleaning our teeth: “We don’t wait until we have dental problems before we start daily cleaning. The small platform EverClean robots allow an approach of regular preventative hull cleaning”. Thanks to OPENSEA, the EverClean robot has many tools at its disposal to plot the most efficient route thus avoiding over working and preserving coatings, plus after each cleaning operation, an accurate georeferenced hull condition survey is provided.
The Bayonet series of Autonomous Underwater Ground Vehicles, or AUGVs, also leverage the power of OPENSEA to navigate, identify objects, and process data most efficiently, and add another unique platform to Greensea IQ’s range of products going forward. The Bayonet AUGVs are engineered to excel in the surf zone. They offer the flexibility to incorporate diverse environmental, oceanographic, hydrographic, benthic, and industry-specific sensors. This adaptability caters to a myriad of commercial and military applications in the surf zone and beyond.
To introduce this transformative shift to the public, Greensea IQ will unveil its new identity and showcase the combined capabilities at the upcoming Defence & Security Equipment International (DSEI) show in London, UK. The event, scheduled from 12-15 September will serve as a platform to highlight Greensea IQ’s vision and the groundbreaking products it offers.
SPX CommTech, part of SPX Technologies Inc, innovates specialised technologies within the Radio Frequency (RF) spectrum to ensure a smarter, more secure future for all. Formed by TCI and ECS, SPX CommTech’s Battlespace portfolio enables defence and security teams to detect, defeat and exploit RF signals to enhance communications intelligence (COMINT) and counter unmanned aerial systems (Counter-UAS). Additionally, its Tactical Data Link portfolio allows intelligence gathering agencies, special forces, emergency response, and security teams to securely and reliably transfer video and data between enabled-aircraft and ground teams over long distances for airborne Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance (ISR). For more information visit www.tcibr.com and www.enterprisecontrol.co.uk