SkySafe, a six-month-old, San Diego, Ca.-based company whose technology can disable drones that are flying where they shouldn’t, has raised $3 million in seed funding. Andreessen Horowitz led the round, with participation from Founder Collective, SV Angel, and BoxGroup.
No doubt the company is serving a fast-growing need, particularly given the number of drones poised to wreak havoc on public spaces from sports arenas to airports. Consider the British Airways flight that was hit by a commercial drone as it approached Heathrow Airport on Sunday, or the World Cup skier nearly done in by a falling drone in December. The FAA estimates there will be 2.5 million drones sold in the U.S. alone just this year.
“We’re very excited about a future where drones are used by consumers and businesses for all sorts of purposes, but to get there, drones need to be made extremely reliable and safe,” says venture capitalist Chris Dixon, who led the deal for Andreessen Horowitz.
Dixon suggests SkySafe can ensure that drones don’t go rogue, largely via radio waves, which it uses to override a drone’s remote and take control of the aircraft. Perhaps so. What SkySafe is building certainly sounds less menacing than some of the other options to emerge recently, including an anti-drone laser and an anti-drone rifle. Unfortunately, for competitive reasons, the six-person company isn’t willing to dive much more deeply into how its tech works, as we learned when we talked yesterday with cofounder and CEO Grant Jordan. Our chat has been edited for length.
SkySafe has four founders. What’s your background, and how did you come together?
I graduated from MIT, then spent four years as an officer in the Air Force Research Lab testing anti-drone tech, where I got a lot of exposure to various ways that different groups have come up with for taking down small drones. After I finished my time there, I went to grad school at USCD for computer security, and I [connected with my cofounders] for a security company consulting firm that we founded called Somerset Recon. Between that security work and [my] drone work, we saw a growing threat in the drone space.
What types of customers will you be trying to persuade to use SkySafe?
Pretty much the entire space of public safety. Airports, prisons, stadiums, other event venues, border protection, critical infrastructure. The number of places that have seen incidents in the past year has grown tremendously.
Would you characterize most of those incidents as accidents or otherwise?
In the aviation industry, at airports, those look like accidents. But in prisons, there are no accidents. Those are drones that are trying to smuggle in weapons, drugs and other contraband. I wouldn’t classify what we’ve seen in stadiums as accidents, either. [Drone operators] might not mean any harm, but they’re going out of their way to fly into an area they aren’t supposed to be, and right now, there’s nothing an event venue can do about it.