Israeli defense technology is considered among the best in the world, but Roboteam is one Israeli company focused on developing defense technologies for Maryland and the United States.
“In this state, robotics is huge,” said Matt Scassero, director of the University of Maryland Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Test Site. Maryland is heavily involved in the robotics industry from research, technical, and entrepreneurial perspectives, he said; the research tends to be basic and at the beginning applied research levels, but on the entrepreneurial side, robotics are being integrated into all aspects of life.
“A big part of the portfolio is federal customers, such as the Department of Defense,” he said, “but there is also a lot going on in the civil and commercial fields, and there are a lot of new startups focusing on the civil and commercial markets that are taking advantage of AI [artificial intelligence].”
Roboteam was founded in Tel Aviv nine years ago and expanded to the U.S. six years ago. The Gaithersburg, Maryland, headquarters caters to the American military, while the Tel Aviv office supports the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), and they occasionally work on joint projects. Today, 95 percent of Roboteam’s solutions are made for the U.S. military, including the Air Force, Navy, Army, and special operations forces.
“We have created thousands of systems in a very short time,” said Roboteam CEO Shahar Abuhazira.
Roboteam provides tactical ground robotic systems to support American troops. The company’s projects range in size and scope: from small robotic systems that weigh as little as three pounds, to large robotic carriers that can deliver military equipment to soldiers in the battlefield.
Moving to Maryland made sense for Roboteam because of the state’s proximity to decision-makers in Washington, D.C., as well as the region’s heavy focus on defense, said Abuhazira. The robotics industry in the state is strong, with startups popping up in the field on a regular basis. Local universities cater to the landscape, making it easier to find talented engineers, technicians, and software developers in Maryland to support the company’s ever-growing needs.
Roboteam has directly created 30 jobs in the state and has indirectly created more than 50 in the last five years, Abuhazira said.
Scassero cited several new research projects, such as a focus on self-navigating drones and hyperspectral sensors.
“We are trying to take advantage of AI and machine learning to offload certain processes from human beings,” he said. “That way, we can do more missions or do the missions we are trying to do better.”
All 12 of the University of Maryland campuses are taking part in this robotic revolution, including supporting research and student entrepreneurs who want to commercialize the work they do in school.
The Maryland/Israel Development Center (MIDC) has helped Roboteam and the university advance their efforts. Abuhazira taps into MIDC “all the time, they are always trying to help,” for initial relationships with the government and to help garner support from top-tier officials. MIDC helped orchestrate visits between Roboteam and the governor and state senators.
Scassero said he values MIDC’s mission and efforts because he “loves working with Israeli companies.” He said they are straight shooters, “laser focused, and I can count on them.”
At the same time, he likes that Israeli companies can go with the flow.
“If something comes up, and it makes sense to do something another way or add another market, these companies are very agile and can make the changes that makes sense to everyone and move forward quickly,” Scassero said.
By Maayan Jaffe-Hoffman
Maayan Jaffe-Hoffman is the vice president of marketing and brand strategy for Israel365 and a Jerusalem-based freelance writer. She is the former editor in chief of the Baltimore Jewish Times.