Eric Schmidt starts AI drone startup

Google co founder started a company that makes AI powered drones resistant to EW for Ukraine

Billionaire technologist Eric Schmidt has been quietly building a new drone startup in the U.S. and Ukraine within a nesting doll of LLCs that have helped to conceal its operations and team members. Forbes first reported the project’s existence this month and has since learned that it is called White Stork, a reference to the national bird and sacred totem of Ukraine, where Schmidt has assumed the role of defense tech advisor and financier.

White Stork was formally established last August, according to business incorporation records and two sources with knowledge of the startup. The company has been developing a mass-producible drone that uses artificial intelligence for visual targeting and can function in zero-comms environments created by GPS jamming.

Though it hasn’t emerged from stealth, White Stork has become an open secret in the drone community, six people familiar with its activities told Forbes. In Ukraine, Schmidt has toured factories and testing ranges and has reached out to numerous other startups in his capacity as a prolific military tech investor, three of these individuals said.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/sarahemerson/2024/01/23/eric-schmidts-secret-white-stork-project-aims-to-build-ai-combat-drones/?sh=20f419e86f5a

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  1. 1 month ago
    Anonymous

    Delaware business filings show that White Stork previously operated as an LLC called Swift Beat Holdings, but amended its name to White Stork Group LLC last September. A holding company for Swift Beat called Volya Robotics OÜ identifies the former Google CEO as its sole beneficial owner.

    Meanwhile, business filings show Volya Robotics OÜ was incorporated in Estonia last December and list a legal director at Schmidt’s family office, Hillspire, as a board member; Estonia is a popular incorporation vehicle for Ukrainian companies. Forbes is reporting the names connected to Schmidt’s drone venture here for the first time. Schmidt could not be reached for comment through a spokesperson.

    In January, Swift Beat registered the website aurelianindustries.us, according to internet domain data. The email address affiliated with the site is [email protected]. It lists the phone number of a Hillspire IT manager as its contact information and the street address provided for Swift Beat matches that of the Schmidt Family Foundation, a private grantmaking organization run by Eric and Wendy Schmidt. Forbes was unable to determine the nature of Aurelian Industries, which shares its name with a Delaware LLC incorporated this month, but it appears to be affiliated with the drone project.

    None of these entities have publicly launched. The website for Aurelian Industries remains unpopulated, for example, and the name White Stork is currently used by a seemingly unrelated U.S. charity that delivers first aid to Ukrainian fighters.

    • 1 month ago
      Anonymous

      Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022, Schmidt has been a vocal proponent of drones as a means of combating Kremlin forces, which far outnumber Ukraine’s own. “Perhaps the most important is the kamikaze drone,” he wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed last July. Also known as “suicide drones,” these cheap aircraft can loiter on the battlefield before being dispatched to disable or destroy their targets. “In the hands of a skilled operator with several months of training, these drones fly so fast they are nearly impossible to shoot down,” he added.

      He underscored this argument again in an op-ed for Foreign Affairs on Monday, declaring that “Russia’s superior electronic warfare capabilities allow it to jam and spoof the signals between Ukrainian drones and their pilots. If Ukraine is to neutralize Russian drones, its forces will need the same capabilities.” So far, most weaponry supplied by Western allies, he wrote, has “fared poorly” against such tactics.

      What Schmidt didn’t disclose in these op-eds were his own efforts to address this need with White Stork.

      Schmidt has met with Ukraine’s top leaders several times since Russia first invaded the country. Last summer, he and a cohort attended a meeting in Kyiv with the country’s wartime minister of strategic industries, Oleksandr Kamyshin, and First Deputy Prime Minister Yulia Svyrydenko. Also present were Sebastian Thrun, an advisor to White Stork and Schmidt’s former Google colleague; Mark Stonich, a former Google supply chain vice president; and Damon Vander Lind, a key engineer at Thrun's now-defunct air-taxi startup Kitty Hawk. It's unclear what the meeting was about, or if it pertained to the new project, but Svyrydenko memorialized it on X, the platform once known as Twitter, after it concluded. "Ukraine is committed to developing new technologies and improvements in this field,” she wrote. "We're pleased that our partners are backing our goals."

      • 1 month ago
        Anonymous

        Kamyshin, Svyrydenko, Thrun, Stonich and Vander Lind had not responded to a request for comment at the time of publication.

        Even before leaving his post as Google chairman in 2017, Schmidt had been devoting significant time to U.S. national security efforts. Between 2018 and 2021, he chaired the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence, where he advised Congress on AI for military use. And from 2016 to 2020, he led the Defense Innovation Board, an advisory group aimed at bringing new technology to the Pentagon, including data science and machine learning efforts.

        But when it comes to the military ecosystem in Ukraine, Schmidt is a relative newcomer. Last year, the billionaire seeded millions of dollars to a Ukrainian startup accelerator called D3, or Dare to Defend Democracy, which provides $125,000 in initial funding to defense tech companies there. Will Roper, former U.S. Air Force acquisition chief and founder of Istari Digital, an AI-enabled weapons simulator backed by Schmidt, also attended the meeting with Ukrainian government officials last summer. Roper had not responded to a request for comment at the time of publication.

        One month later, Roper and Schmidt co-authored a Time op-ed with their advice for Kyiv. “To triumph,” they wrote, “Ukraine must win the ‘startup war’ that constantly brings new systems and new software to the battlefield.”

  2. 1 month ago
    Anonymous

    based rich man. If more rich people spent their money on things like this, maybe poorgays would seethe less.

  3. 1 month ago
    Anonymous

    Good, I found it strange how absolutely anemic drone support from the West was for Ukraine. It felt like Russia had superior drone tech than West

  4. 1 month ago
    Anonymous

    Real life Skynet! Very cool!

  5. 1 month ago
    Anonymous

    [...]

    [...]

    that's uncanny

    • 1 month ago
      Anonymous

      They're both in the same discord.

  6. 1 month ago
    Anonymous

    Estii wins again.

    • 1 month ago
      Anonymous

      All it says is that an Estonian registered company was among the many used to obfuscate the project

    • 1 month ago
      Anonymous

      Estii is bestii

  7. 1 month ago
    Anonymous

    my how times have changed

    • 1 month ago
      Anonymous

      Ungrateful bastards.
      I fricking wish we got a weapons development deal at my job.

    • 1 month ago
      Anonymous

      If no ones knows yet, microshaft has been subverted by poos

  8. 1 month ago
    Anonymous

    >Google AI image captchas actually WERE there to train killer robots to identify targets the whole time
    Lmao

  9. 1 month ago
    Anonymous

    I look forward to all violence against humans being done by machines.

  10. 1 month ago
    Anonymous

    How do I support this? I want my tax dollars to murder russians on camera.

  11. 1 month ago
    Anonymous

    I always felt that a
    a.i. powered drones would be a cost effective part of securing the border.
    Of course now things being as they are it's probably impossible to have a conversation about this.

  12. 1 month ago
    Anonymous

    Based as frick.
    Working with that muskovite must have left a bad taste for vatniks in his mouth.

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