AI company Shield AI opens new office, names retired colonel to VP role

By Marjorie Censer / April 23, 2021 at 10:01 AM

Shield AI, a San Diego-based, venture capital-backed defense technology company, has opened a new Washington, DC-area office and named retired Army Col. Johnny Cochran vice president of strategic engagements.

The company specializes in using a self-driving software known as Hivemind to allow unmanned systems to operate in GPS- and communications-denied environments. Shield AI counts the Air Force and U.S. Special Operations Command among its customers and has worked with contractors including Textron Systems and L3Harris Technologies.

The company in late February opened a new office in Arlington, VA for its business development, strategic engagement and government relations teams. The office also includes a demonstration space.

In an interview with Inside Defense, Cochran, who spent more than 25 years in the Army and is a former director of the Pentagon's Close Combat Lethality Task Force, said he first encountered Shield AI while pursuing innovative technology for the Defense Department.

Since joining the company last month, Cochran said he's focused on getting the company's capabilities into the hands of military leaders.

"My responsibilities are to build relationships between governmental agencies, whether it be the Department of Defense, whether it be Homeland Security, but also to help build relationships business to business so that it gives opportunity to not only our company but also to our partners."

Cochran said the company's Washington-area office will help it reach the Pentagon.

"When it comes to artificial intelligence and particularly software-oriented technologies, the Pentagon is so hardwired for hardware, they struggle mightily," he said. "One of the reasons we stood up the office in DC is you have to put the technology in the face of the leaders."

Meanwhile, Shield AI announced in February it raised $90 million in a Series C round led by venture capital firm Point72 Ventures.

"Shield AI will use the funding to help scale and further integrate its self-driving software, Hivemind, into additional platforms across the defense industry," the company said.