Controversial drone company Xtend leans into defense with new $40M round

Xtend raises $40M for drone tech focused on defense and law enforcement applications.

: Xtend, co-founded by Aviv and Matteo Shapira, has announced a $40 million funding round to expand its drone and robot control technology, which is geared towards military, defense, and public security markets. The company offers a platform allowing operators to manage drones for tasks like surveillance and navigation, autonomously or under human supervision. Despite its success, including contracts with the Israel Defense Forces and the U.S. Department of Defense, Xtend's focus on military applications has stirred controversy.

Nearly a decade after selling their first startup to Intel, brothers Aviv and Matteo Shapira founded Xtend, leveraging their experience with 360-degree video replay technology. Xtend, which was established with the help of Rubi Liani, founder of Israel's official drone racing league, provides a platform for controlling drones and robots for various applications, including military and public security. The technology allows for both direct control and AI-assisted autonomous operation, enabling tasks like indoor/outdoor navigation and object identification. The company's recent $40M funding round, led by Chartered Group, is aimed at expanding its workforce and extending its platform's capabilities for human-machine teaming across different markets, including the U.S., Israel, and Singapore.

Xtend’s business model and technology have primarily been adopted by defense agencies and law enforcement, with the company already winning $50 million in contracts from over 50 organizations worldwide. The use of Xtend's drones, especially in controversial areas like reconnaissance and surveillance equipped with explosive payloads, has drawn scrutiny. Despite the surrounding ethical concerns and regulatory challenges, the company has expressed its commitment to supporting Israel's defense efforts against Hamas, aligning strongly with pro-Israel stances. These activities have raised concerns among international monitors about the use of EU funds for defense projects in violation of existing prohibitions.

The controversy surrounding Xtend highlights the broader issues of drone usage in military and law enforcement contexts, particularly concerning surveillance and privacy. The company’s ambition to expand into civil market opportunities, including private security and public safety, underscores the evolving landscape of robotic assistance in sensitive and potentially contentious areas. While Xtend's advancements in drone technology promise to unlock new potentials in scenarios like first response and critical infrastructure inspection, the ethical implications and regulatory considerations present ongoing challenges.