Drones hovering around high-rise buildings, data centers and businesses may be up to no good and Cisco Executive Chairman John Chambers just personally helped raise money for a company that aims to stop them.
Chambers and Felicis Ventures led a $15 million Series B deal for Dedrone, a company that moved its headquarters to San Francisco from Germany last August. Menlo Ventures, which led the company’s Series A funding, also participated. The company has now raised more than $25 million in total.
“We met Chambers when we won a Cisco Innovation Award (NASDAQ:CSCO) late last year at a conference in Portugal,” Dedrone CEO and co-founder Joerg Lamprecht told me. “Part of the prize was a lunch with him and he was so interested in what we were doing that he personally invested and led our Series B funding.”
“Drones have given people the ability to go places where they have never been before and at times, circumnavigate traditional physical and cyber security installations,” Chambers said in the announcement of the funding at an RSA security tech conference in San Francisco on Monday. “Dedrone’s unique approach to use existing sensors and a powerful machine learning platform empowers enterprise and federal customers to re-gain control of their airspace.”
Dedrone’s software leverages security hardware at data centers, prisons, airports and other facilities to detect aerial intrusions. Security measures can then be deployed to repel drones that may be bent on corporate espionage, smuggling, terrorism and hacking.
It was used to protect two of last year’s presidential debates, at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, and in Las Vegas. “We’re not responsible for the outcome of the election but we secured those sites for the debates,” Lamprecht joked.
Other locations that have been protected by Dedrone include the Suffolk County prison in New York, the Royal Family of Qatar and the World Economic Forum in Davos.
In the U.S. it is illegal for private entities to take counter-measures against drones, so Dedrone doesn’t get involved in that here. But elsewhere in the world its technology is being used to launch frequency jamming and take other measures to defend against drones.
The company today employs 60 people: 45 in Germany, where Dedrone started, and 15 in San Francisco. Lamprecht said he expects to hire another 25 this year in the Bay Area and 10 elsewhere around the world.
“We’re from a really tiny city in Germany called Kassel and what we were doing was too big for Kassel,” Lamprecht said. “It was very obvious to us that the only place for big new companies like ours to be created in the world is Silicon Valley. We came for the networking and money and talent. You can’t find all of that in Europe.”
Analysts at Markets and Markets estimate that the global drone market will grow to more than $21 billion by 2022, with anti-drone defense technology making up slightly more than $1 billion of that.
“We expect to grow by between 300 percent and 400 percent this year as awareness is raised about malicious drones and what drones can do,” Lamprecht said.
Aydin Senkut, managing director of Felicis Ventures, said in the funding announcement, “We were really impressed by the technology, team, customers and potential market for Dedrone; it’s normal for us to get excited about just one or two of those factors but much rarer to find all in one company.”
I hope I’m wrong, but it’s very likely for a drone enabled attack in a public place in the next 12-24 mons. We need to get ahead of this now https://t.co/tU58ocWHKc
— John T. Chambers (@JohnTChambers) October 27, 2017
Mexican police discovered four men carting a kamikaze drone equipped with an IED and a remote detonator last week, in what analysts say is an example of cartels figuring out how to weaponizing UAVs.
The disturbing development is a manifestation of something top American security chiefs warned Congress about earlier this year, when they said they feared terrorists would begin to use drones to attack targets within the U.S.
Drug cartels had already been turning to drones to smuggle their product into the U.S., and had begun using IEDs in their turf struggles — but now at least cartel appears to have put the two technologies together, according to Mexican reports analyzed by Small Wars Journal.
“A weaponized drone/unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV)/unmanned aerial system (UAS) with a remotely detonated IED allows for a precision strike to take place against an intended target,” Robert Bunker and John P. Sullivan, the authors of the new analysis, wrote.
The drone-IED combination was found in central Mexico, by federal police who did a traffic stop on a stolen pickup truck with four men in it.
Police found an AK-47, ammunition, phones and what the Small Wars Journal authors said appears to be a 3DR Solo Quadcopter, which retails for about $250 online. Taped to the drone was an IED, which could be trigger by remote detonator.