CEO Dr. Ingo Seebach will explain to us how the DroneTracker can protect against espionage, smuggling, terrorism and violations of privacy and what Angela Merkel has to do with it.
Drones canalready be found everywhere. Whether for inspection of wind turbines, in agriculture or as a transport object or high-performance men’s toys, the sales figures of drones are steadily increasing. How do you assess this development?
Dr. Ingo Seebach: It is estimated that currently 300,000 drones per month are sold worldwide. Since it is only a statistical probability that drones – like many other technological innovations – are used also for illegal purposes. While prices for drones fall, they are getting more and more powerful at the same time. A drone that is able to transport several kilograms, while flying a few kilometers without pilots, is easy to get. On our website we publish every week reports of incidents with drones that have taken place anywhere in the world . And we are sure that the cases that reach the media represent only a small part, because no one likes to talk about his vulnerabilities.
The press repeatedly reported about flights over nuclear power plants, through prison facilities or other sensitive areas. What dangers arise from this technology?
Dr. Ingo Seebach: The scenarios are various. We know that drones are regularly used as couriers to smuggle drugs, weapons or mobile phones into prisons. You do not want to imagine what happens when a prisoner who has nothing left to lose, picks up a dropped weapon in the yard or an open space inside the facility of a prison.
A small drone will not cause a meltdown in a nuclear power plant. But it would be enough to load them with explosives and to let the media report about the damaged cooling towers in order to mobilize the public and all opponents of nuclear power.
Also well secured buildings like palaces, parliaments or embassies must be aware of drones. High fences, cameras and barbed wire are powerless against the invaders from above. It was on April this year, when a drone with radioactive material has landed on the roof of the Japanese government .
But drones are also the perfect industrial spies?. You can make not only razor-sharp images from a long distance or transport things over the protection measures. You may also unnoticed relay a company’s network, if the drone is equipped with the appropriate technology, for days and tap data from the local network. And they do not even need a pilot: The invader can provide the drone with a timer and a route already programmed . At the specified time the drone takes off and automatically performs its “mission” – during the masterminds to stay somewhere else.
We noted that there is a broad variety of possible risks and criminal purposes that a drone can be used for and the risk grows with each new drone that goes over the counter. Aren’t there clear legal provisions for these cases?
Dr. Ingo Seebach: There are different rules depending on the country, for example, you can not fly above 100 meters in Germany. There are no-fly zones, for example in the vicinity of airports in sight. But this is cooperative systems and, unfortunately, a man who is planning a crime is not interested in them.
In order to counteract the abuse mentioned, you have 2014 founded the Dedrone GmbH and developed the DroneTracker. How did it happen, what exactly is this tracker and what he can do?
Dr. Ingo Seebach: During a CDU campaign event in Dresden in 2013 a small toy drone came down to about 2 feet close to Angela Merkel and then crashed right in front of her on the stage. That was the moment when I realized that drones in the wrong hands can be extremely dangerous. My friend Jörg Lamprecht had founded the drone manufacturers Aibotix in 2011. We have discussed a long time about that topic and decided to develop a system for monitoring the lower airspace or to protect against civilian drones.
The DroneTracker is a system that detects drones through various sensors by their silhouette, its flight performance and its noise and immediately triggers an alarm. We are currently working with microphones and ultrasonic microphones, video and infrared cameras. The sensors are connected with each other by an intelligent software. For example, a bird is not recognized as a drone, but a drone that looks like a bird will be detected. The core is an intelligent pattern recognition software and the so-called DroneDNA. This is a database in which we store the specific characteristics of already detected drones and so we are able to improve the recognition.
Who are your customers and where should the DroneTracker be used in the future?
Dr. Ingo Seebach: Our customers come from the industry, such as the automobile industry and the chemical industry. For others, they originate from the public sector – ministries, governments, embassies, prisons. But all people who like to protect their property belong to our target group.
So the DroneTracker warns in real time against drones. But that alone is not enough, isn’t it? What happens then?
Dr. Ingo Seebach: The DroneTracker gives an important reaction time to take further action to bring, for example, people in safety, to block the view or search the site by dropped objects. In addition, the DroneTracker records every alarm and so provides important evidence that can be very helpful in subsequent investigations.
On April you completed a 2.7 million-euro financing round. Where is Dedrone currently and what are your next steps?
Dr. Ingo Seebach: We have already sold the first system and are in talks with a number of international buyers. Parallel we operate to build our global distribution network. We rely on an indirect distribution of national and international partners. The first contracts are to be signed.
Just take a look into the crystal ball: How will the drone market develop over the next 5, 10 or even 15 years?
Dr. Ingo Seebach: We are convinced that drones will be used for more and more tasks in the future and will move quite naturally in a few years through our airspace. We will need some sort of aerial firewall that ensures that “good” drones will be distinguished from “evil” drones and that those evil drones stay outside from the protected area.
Thank you for the nice conversation. We look forward to see the DroneTracker on UASympEx live!