Eric Schmidt, the former CEO of Google, has been actively involved in developing a new drone startup named White Stork, as reported by Forbes. The name references Ukraine’s national bird and sacred totem, and the project has strong connections to Estonia.
White Stork was formally established last August, and its European presence is run through an Estonian company. Volya Robotics OÜ was incorporated in Estonia last December and listed a legal director at Schmidt’s family office, Hillspire, as a board member. Estonia is a popular location for running a business, writes Forbes.
Estonia has a world-class business infrastructure, including online company establishment in less than 15 minutes. The country has the best tax code in the OECD for over a decade, with 0% corporate income tax on retained and reinvested profits. This allows startups of any kind to grow faster, slashing both administrative costs and tax burdens. Unsurprisingly, the Estonian e-Residency programme, which allows anyone to start doing business in Estonian jurisdiction, has been a big hit, with over 100,000 participants to date.
Drones in the focus
Now, what’s Schmidt interested in? Since Russia invaded Ukraine in 2022, Schmidt has been to Ukraine several times and emphasised the importance of kamikaze drones, also known as “suicide drones”, in an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal last July. These affordable drones can remain on the battlefield and be deployed to disable or destroy targets.
Schmidt stated that in the hands of a well-trained operator, these drones are highly difficult to shoot down due to their high speed. Schmidt has repeatedly met with top leaders in Ukraine and brought high-level attendees. That included Sebastian Thrun, an advisor to White Stork and Schmidt’s former colleague at Google, Mark Stonich, a former vice president of Google’s supply chain, and Damon Vander Lind, a key engineer from Thrun’s previous air-taxi startup Kitty Hawk.
MilTech, including the drone niche Schmidt is now pursuing, is a fast-growing sector in Estonia, too. Last year, the country saw its largest defence investment in its history by Milrem Robotics. It has hosted Estonian DefenceTech, a flagship event dedicated to promising technologies in the defence and security sector.
Drones were well represented there. For example, Estonian company Marduk is developing a world-class electro-optical anti-drone platform. Their product, Marduk Shark, uses patent-pending artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms to detect, recognise, and target a variety of drones.
And there’s more. TrackDeep, founded in 2021 and led by a team with drone surveillance, IT, and military backgrounds, uses AI-powered tracking to monitor designated areas for security breaches. It can significantly decrease the number of friendly-fire accidents for drones on the battlefield, among other things.
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