Fortem: How This Innovative Company Is Detecting And Defeating Dangerous Drones

By Amit Chowdhry ● Nov 27, 2023

Fortem Technologies is a leader in airspace awareness, security, and defense for detecting and defeating dangerous drones. Through an advanced and end-to-end system of distributed radar, AI at the Edge, deep sensor integration, and autonomous drone capture, Fortem monitors and defends the world’s venues, infrastructures, cities, and regions. Pulse 2.0 interviewed Fortem’s chief technology officer Adam Robertson, to learn more about the company.

Adam Robertson’s Background

Robertson is passionate about protecting and defending liberty. This passion has driven him to interesting places, including five years of serving as a legislator in Utah and 16 years at startups developing high-performance miniature radars for the defense industry. Robertson also has a master’s degree in electrical engineering and an MBA in strategy and entrepreneurship.

Formation Of Fortem

How did the idea for the company come together? Robertson shared:

“The emerging drone delivery and air taxi market needed small, cost-effective, high-performance radar to detect and avoid other aircraft and safely navigate the national airspace. So, industry partners were asking to make the technology real.”

About a month after Fortem was formed, Adam answered a request for proposal from Air Force Research Labs (AFRL) to put a small radar on a multicopter to detect, pursue, and capture other drones, i.e., Counter-Unmanned Aircraft Systems (C-UAS). AFRL liked the proposal and granted the team $1.5 million to make it happen.

Favorite Memory

What has been your favorite memory working for the company so far? Robertson reflected:

“About a year after the company started, we had the core radar working well, and I was anxious to capture a drone using a net. It was a summer morning, and during an executive staff meeting, I said we could make a net and have a capture that same day. That afternoon, I picked out some tubing and string at Home Depot, gathered a few tools from the office and set up on the lawn, just outside of the engineering team’s windows.”

“As I was making a hoop with the tubing, drilling holes, and threading string to make a net, a curious engineer came out to see what I was doing and started helping me. Shortly after, another engineer couldn’t suppress their curiosity, and then another, and within an hour, we had two people holding up a large net and another person flying a drone into it. In another hour, we suspended the net from a drone and validated it would entangle a target drone. We formed an ad hoc team and tested the basic concepts on the ground and in flight. In the following weeks, we refined our early prototype and completed our first autonomous air-to-air capture of a drone.”

Challenges Faced

What challenges have you faced in building the company? Robertson acknowledged:

“As a startup, Fortem has faced many different challenges. For instance, the technology itself is very complex. But our team thrives on technical challenges. Second, the market is so new that Fortem’s biggest competition is organizations choosing to do nothing to counter UAS threats. Organizations are only starting to pay attention as the threat has become more ubiquitous and the consequences more obvious with the war in Ukraine.”

“The biggest challenge, however, is one that every company faces: getting the right people on the team and getting those people in the right positions. Fortem is blessed with a dedicated team that cares about defending freedom, and that common mission has made all the difference.”

Core Technology

What is the company’s core technology and products? Robertson explained:

“Through an advanced, end-to-end system of distributed active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, AI at the Edge, deep sensor integration, and autonomous drone capture, Fortem monitors and defends the world’s venues, infrastructures, cities, and regions. The same system is accelerating the safety of the world’s airspace for urban air mobility.” 

Evolution Of The Company’s Technology

How has the company’s technology evolved since launching? Robertson noted:

“The initial technology was a detect and avoid radar for autonomous aircraft to navigate the airspace safely. While the compact, high-performance radar is still fundamental, Fortem has taken technological leaps into autonomous flight with DroneHunter and command and control software with SkyDome. Fortem is also currently expanding into software licensing, increased levels of autonomy and AI/ML.”

Significant Milestones

What have been some of the company’s most significant milestones? Robertson cited:

“In the past seven years, Fortem has raised $80 million in capital, most recently completing its Series A with a $17.8 million round in February.”

“Another milestone is our work with Ukraine. Fortem has been supplying its technology to the Ukrainian armed forces since the start of the war in 2022. We are also proud to say that we handled airspace security for the Japan Summer Olympics in 2021.”

Customer Success Stories

After asking Robertson about customer success stories, he highlighted:

“As I mentioned, Fortem is currently helping Ukrainian forces capture drones used by Russia. Our counter-unmanned aerial system – Drone Hunter F700 – was donated to Ukrainian troops at the start of the war. We also provided training videos and documentation in Ukrainian.”

“In 2022, Fortem provided the Qatari Ministry of Interior and Safety and Security Operations Committee (SSOC) with counter-drone solutions to help protect football stadiums during the FIFA World Cup.”

Funding/Revenue

After asking Robertson about the company’s funding and revenue metrics, he pointed out:

“Earlier this year, Fortem closed a funding round of $17.8 million.”

Total Addressable Market

What total addressable market (TAM) size is the company pursuing? Robertson assessed:

“Fortem is closely tracking several markets. C-UAS will be a $10 billion market by 2030. The company also sees an opportunity in the emerging Advanced Air Mobility market, projected to be worth $68 billion by 2032.”

Differentiation From The Competition

What differentiates the company from its competition? Robertson affirmed:

“Fortem’s radar systems are at the core of its technical advantage. No other company has successfully built such a compact Active Electronically Scanned Antenna (AESA) with multiple receive channels and Space-Time Adaptive Processing (STAP). TrueView radar is world-class and core to Fortem’s C-UAS detection capability and the DroneHunter C-UAS platform.”

“While many C-UAS deployments fail because of disparate components from multiple vendors that lack compatibility and integration, Fortem develops fully integrated end-to-end solutions.”

Future Company Goals

What are some of the company’s future goals? Robertson revealed:

“Later this year, Fortem will announce significant software and radar product developments that will further enhance our capabilities in the C-UAS marketplace and position the company at the forefront of the evolving advanced air mobility market.”

Additional Thoughts

Any other topics to discuss? Robertson concluded:

“At Fortem, we partner with organizations that care about protecting freedom, and we work with them to solve hard problems. We are our customers’ trusted partners, and Fortem is fighting to keep up with rapidly evolving threats and tactics to ensure safety and security.”