After Departing CyPhy, Helen Greiner to Help U.S. Army in Robotics

Helen Greiner, the robotics expert and entrepreneur who co-founded iRobot, quietly left her most recent startup, the drone venture CyPhy Works, a few months ago, and she is now working with the U.S. Army on robotics and artificial intelligence initiatives.

Greiner (pictured) left CyPhy in late 2017 and relinquished her board seat, a company spokesperson reportedly told BostInno on Thursday. (We’ve e-mailed the company to confirm and will update this story if we get more details.) In early June, she was sworn in by the Army as a “highly qualified expert” in robotics, A.I., and autonomous systems, according to a blog she posted on LinkedIn. Through this program, the Department of Defense appoints people who have special knowledge or skills, gained primarily by working in academia or the private sector, to work on military projects for up to six years.

Developing robots for military use has been a theme of Greiner’s career. After the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the launch of the war in Afghanistan, “I could be seen walking around iRobot muttering that our robots could really help soldiers if we could just get deployed,” Greiner wrote in the blog post.

IRobot (NASDAQ: IRBT) got that chance: the military has used robots developed by the Bedford, MA-based company to search for Taliban fighters in Afghanistan caves and to dispose of improvised explosive devices, Greiner wrote. “These robots have been credited by the military with saving the lives of [hundreds] of soldiers and thousands of civilians,” she wrote. (IRobot has since divested its defense and security business, now operating as Endeavor Robotics, in order to focus on selling automated vacuum cleaners and other home robots.)

Greiner’s next venture, CyPhy Works, developed tethered drones for applications in defense and public safety, as well as commercial sectors like mining, telecommunications, and oil and gas. Its customers have included the Army and the Air Force.

Greiner founded the Danvers, MA-based company in 2008 and served as its CEO until September 2016, when she shifted to the role of chief technology officer and former Kiva Systems executive Lance Vanden Brook took the helm of the startup.

CyPhy recently raised more than $4.5 million in debt funding, according to a document filed with the SEC this week. The company previously raised at least $34.75 million in equity and debt financing, according to SEC filings. Its backers include Bessemer Venture Partners, Draper Nexus, Lux Capital, and investment arms of UPS and Motorola.

Jeff Engel is a senior editor at Xconomy. Email: jengel@xconomy.com Follow @JeffEngelXcon

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