NATO orders €9 million worth of robots from German startup

ARX Robotics, a startup founded by former members of the German Armed Forces, has received €9 million ($9.62 million) from NATO to develop unmanned ground vehicles.

The company said that the order will help address the existing gap in NATO’s robot capabilities and “future-proof” European armed forces by preparing them for warfare that may increasingly rely on autonomous systems.

"The armies of Western democracies are not prepared for robotic warfare,” said Marc Wietfeld, chief executive and co-founder of ARX Robotics.

“To significantly enhance the capabilities of our armed forces and serve as a force multiplier, an interconnected critical mass of autonomous unmanned ground systems is required,” he said, adding that ARX is committed to “scaling up the production of these systems.”

The company's flagship product is GEREON, a modular unmanned ground vehicle (UGV) system. The machines come in four sizes to address different needs.

According to ARX, the robot’s modularity enables a wide variety of applications, both military and civilian. These may include live training and simulation, transport and medical evacuation, or reconnaissance missions.

Several European armies, including Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Hungary, and Ukraine, have already tested and deployed the GEREON robots.

The seed investment comes from the NATO Innovation Fund (NIF), a newly established venture capital fund worth more than €1 billion and backed by 24 European members of the alliance.

"As the need to prepare for a future of unmanned warfare continues, ground autonomy remains a difficult problem to solve,” Chris O’Connor from the NIF said.

“Informed by insights from serving in the armed forces, the team at ARX has developed a leading, cost-effective, modular ground system that can be mass-produced and easily deployed in defense, humanitarian crises, and beyond,” he said.

The fund was founded to invest in science and engineering startups in Europe and North America. It announced its first investment last week, a $22.5 million round of financing for iCOMAT, a UK startup.