Controversial drone company Xtend defends itself with new $40 million round

Nearly ten years ago, brothers Aviv and Matteo Shapira co-founded Replay, a company that created a video format for 360-degree replays—the kind of replays that have become an integral part of major sports broadcasts.

Replay caught the attention of Intel, which acquired the company in 2016 for a reported $175 million and led Aviva and Matteo to a chance meeting with Rubi Liani, the founder of Israel’s Official Drone Racing League (FRIL).

Liani got the brothers involved in drone racing and planted the seed of an idea for their next startup, Xtendwhich he helped found.

«As founders, we saw an opportunity to bridge the gap between our experiences,» Aviv told TechCrunch. «We recognized the exceptional skills required to operate advanced robots, especially drones. Our vision was to develop technology that would make controlling these robots intuitive and accessible, like the way users interact with smartphones without the need for detailed technical knowledge.”

Xtend provides a platform that enables operators to control drones and robots developed by Xtend itself and by third-party vendors. With Xtend’s platform, operators can directly control drones and robots — optionally with a VR headset — or train AI models to be deployed on drones that identify objects and help navigate indoor/outdoor environments. Today, the company announced a $40 million funding round led by Chartered Group at a post-money valuation of approximately $110 million.

«Our platform enables drones and robots to perform certain tasks autonomously, such as entering buildings and scanning floors,» said Aviv. «Crucially, it allows ‘common sense’ decisions — such as judging situations or adapting to unforeseen circumstances — to remain in the hands of human supervisors.»

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Xtend allows operators to orchestrate teams of drones and robots — not just individual machines — and enable them to autonomously perform certain tasks, such as moving from waypoint to waypoint. All the while, Xtend analyzes data from past deployments to recommend actions the operator can take.


Xtend’s Wolverine drone.

«Xos allows a single supervisor to supervise a team of robots simultaneously performing tasks in different locations,» said Aviv. «We believe that full autonomy is not the end goal, but a subset of possibilities.»

Xtend pitches its technology as general purpose, targeting customers in industries from public safety to logistics. But the company relies heavily on military, defense and law enforcement applications.

Xtend has contracts with the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and the US Department of Defense for the «development and delivery of its systems», including drone interceptor systemsfor «operational assessment» — including a $9 million contract with the Pentagon’s Office of Irregular Warfare. And Aviv is not shy about the company’s ambitions to move into what he calls «new opportunities for the civilian market,» such as private and public security.

«Imagine a police officer coordinating drones to search a large area for a suspect,» Aviv said. «Xos can empower these professionals to take advantage of robotic assistance.»

This could be problematic, given that regulations are still largely lacking for the purposes of law enforcement, and drones were used to monitor legal demonstrations. For example, in 2020, Democrats in Congress raised the alarm that then-President Donald Trump’s administration was using drones and spy planes to watch demonstrations in Las Vegas, Minneapolis and Washington, DC, according to Al Jazeera.

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In addition, Xtend has recently found itself in the crosshairs of international monitors.

Statewatch and Informationsstelle Militarisierung (IMI) found in an analysis that Xtend, among other Israeli military companies and institutions involved in the deployment of unmanned aerial vehicles, received research and development support from the EU’s Horizon Europe fund despite the ban on EU funding for military and defense projects.

Aviv has taken a strong pro-Israel stance in the country’s ongoing war with Hamas, saying Ctech that Xtend «redirected energy to 100% support of the IDF.» On its website, which features testimonials from Israeli troops in Gaza, Xtend says it enables “soldiers to perform precise maneuvers in complex combat scenarios”.

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Aviv said that Xtend has been working with the IDF for some time — initially to shoot down incendiary balloons originating in the Gaza Strip. Since then, its drones have been used to map and scout underground tunnels dug by Hamas in Gaza – and, more alarmingly, have been sent on reconnaissance missions equipped with explosive charges such as grenades.

As controversial as it may be, the strategy seems to be working for Xtend’s business. The company says it has so far won $50 million in contracts through its customer base from “over 50” organizations, including government defense agencies.

«We are unlocking the true potential of robotics in complex scenarios, including first response, search and rescue, and critical infrastructure inspection,» said Aviv. «Hundreds of Xtend’s drones and robotic systems are already operationally deployed around the world, and we are continuously developing Xos and these platforms to deliver the future of human-machine collaboration.»

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With the new funding, which brings Xtend’s total value to $65 million, Xtend plans to grow its workforce of 110 people by 50% in the US, Israel and Singapore by the end of the year as it moves to a combination of platform-as-sales models a- service and software-as-a-service. International expansion is planned, with a special focus on Japan.

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