Defense Autonomy Company Primordial Labs Emerges from Stealth Mode, Raises Seed Round Led by Squadra Ventures, Debuts AI Voice Control Technology to Pilot Drones


May 2, 2023

NEW HAVEN, CT & BALTIMORE, MD — Primordial Labs, the AI company transforming the way warfighters interact with complex systems, announced today the closing of a seed round of fundraising. The round was led by Squadra Ventures with participation by Lockheed Martin Ventures and Stony Lonesome Group.

Primordial Labs is emerging from stealth mode with the launch of Anura, the Tactical AI Assistant. Anura combines a natural language interface with a modular autonomy engine to enable warfighters to control unmanned aerial vehicles the same way they coordinate with their human teammates — bringing the human voice to the unmanned systems market. Through conversational voice commands, Anura allows warfighters to stay safe and mission focused while they employ robotic systems. This natural workflow reduces mental burden and ensures unmanned systems are more tightly integrated with existing battlefield processes.

The explosive growth of AI is transforming the U.S. Department of Defense, presenting the need for rapid advances in human-machine collaboration capabilities. As operators manage increasingly larger numbers of complex robotic systems, they will require new tools to command and control these unmanned systems to their full potential. The capability to pilot UAVs with verbal commands centralizes and streamlines operators’ tasking, providing intuitive and effective communication that both humans and machines can understand when it matters most to the success of the mission.

“The DoD has spent years working on the ‘Big Data’ problem. We see an extension of that challenge, a ‘Big Robot’ problem, emerging with individual soldiers interacting with more and more autonomous systems,” said Primordial Labs CEO Lee Ritholtz. “These warfighters need an AI teammate that reduces training requirements, lightens their mental workload, and works with their existing systems. Anura turns individual operators from pilots into tactical battle managers.”

Ritholtz and CTO Adrian Pope recognized the need to center their autonomous system design efforts around the human operator. They founded Primordial Labs in 2021 with the goal of creating a human-focused interface for autonomy. Since then, they have developed enhanced capabilities that extend the interface beyond tactical UAS and into additional mission areas, such as intelligence analysis and battle management.

“We’ve all seen the incredible progress being made in AI technology for the battlefield — and it’s more clear than ever the critical importance of ensuring that tech is designed with human operators in mind,” said Pope.“We have heard a million times — ‘humans are more important than hardware’ and we work very hard to deliver our capability while integrating with the equipment and workflows that already work well for operators.”

“Primordial Labs is solving a huge problem for the Department of Defense,” said Dan Madden, National Security Principal at Squadra Ventures. “It’s illegal for civilians to text on their cell phones while they drive, but we expect warfighters to operate multiple UAVs via separate joysticks while also performing other critical tasks in extraordinarily stressful environments. We believe Primordial’s approach — teaching machines to understand the language of the warfighter — is the best solution to the problem.”

Anura is a platform-agnostic system that brings new capabilities to existing equipment, while allowing users to choose best-in-class platforms and payloads. The system integrates with the Android Tactical Assault Kit (ATAK), the leading smartphone geospatial infrastructure and military situation awareness app, used by warfighters across the globe. The system has been deployed on UAVs such as the Teledyne FLIR Black Hornet and the Teal Drones Golden Eagle. Anura has also been applied to other use cases, such as intelligence systems, providing an interface for analysts to conversationally query databases and control a mapping engine to interact with complex social media, conflict, and geopolitical data.

“Lockheed Martin brings a deep understanding of our customers’ missions to further their goals,” said Chris Moran, vice president and general manager of Lockheed Martin Ventures. “Through this investment in Primordial Labs, we aim to continue delivering integrated solutions that will allow the U.S. and our allies to see the unseen sooner and make smarter, faster decisions.”

The Primordial Labs team will showcase multiple use cases for Anura at SOF Week, the U.S Special Operations Command annual conference, in Tampa, FL, from May 8 to 11. Throughout the summer of 2023, Primordial Labs will demonstrate Anura’s capabilities at numerous high profile technology experimentation events across the joint special operations and maneuver forces communities of interest. Anura will be available on multiple fielded DoD UAS platforms later this year.

“Lee and Adrian are brilliant engineers and great leaders who put people first — both in the technology they’ve built and in the team they’ve created,” said Guy Filippelli, Managing Partner at Squadra Ventures. “We believe they will fundamentally shape the way warfighters interact with cutting edge technology. We’re proud to be on their team.”

With this round of funding, Filippelli will take a seat on the company board. Funds raised will be used to support continued product development, further engage with operators for continuous feedback, and grow business development and government relations initiatives.

The company has established a headquarters in New Haven, CT. Open positions can be found at

About Primordial Labs

Press Contact: Mick Adkins <>
Primordial Labs builds AI systems that simplify, empower, and accelerate human problem-solving in dynamic environments requiring collaboration between people and machines. By focusing on the interaction between human operators and AI technologies, the company ensures that cutting edge defense tech keeps operators safe, focused, and effective. Anura, the Tactical AI Assistant, drastically reduces cognitive burden by empowering users to task unmanned systems the same way they coordinate with their human teammates — via conversational, mission-type orders. Learn more at

About Squadra Ventures

Press Contact: Arianne Price <>
Squadra Ventures is a venture capital firm led by founder-operators that invests in early stage cyber and national security companies. Grounded in the belief that success is a combination of people, product, and planning, the Squadra team provides transformational support to startup leaders in the complex dual-use technology ecosystem. By applying a growth-stage mindset at the seed stage and a commitment to building alongside entrepreneurs, Squadra empowers extraordinary teams to win and leave a lasting positive impact on the world. Learn more at

About Lockheed Martin Ventures

Lockheed Martin Ventures makes strategic investments in companies that are developing cutting-edge technologies in core businesses and new markets important to Lockheed Martin. More than a source of capital, Lockheed Martin Ventures provides portfolio companies with access to our world-class engineering talent, state-of-the-art technologies, and research and access to the company’s international business relationships and supply chain. For more information visit


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