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Consumer Drone Senses and Deters Unwanted Visitors

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Consumer Drone Senses and Deters Unwanted Visitors

Almost everyone  is using drones today Farmers monitor crops with drones, real estate agents photograph homes with them and movie makers shoot overhead scenes using drones. Some pests using drones have shut down traffic at major airports, including London’s busy Heathrow and Gatwick. Now, in a novel application a drone might be your next guard dog.

Sunflower Labs, a San Francisco-based start-up has developed a home security system- a combination of motion detectors, a quad copter and a phone app. Expected to go on sale in 2020 according to CEO Alex Pachikov who reassuringly said during a meeting at his Sunflower-protected home in a suburb south of San Francisco, “Our brand is built around dispelling the notion that you need a panic room.”

Sunflower demonstrated its tech at CES this year. Other companies using drones for security are Alarm.com  in 2017, and Drone Guarder which is already taking pre-orders for its products.

Sunflower drones will dot the owner’s property. The lights illuminate the ground and are equipped with motion and vibration detectors.

The computer processes the signals to distinguish footfalls from car traffic and other benign sources of noise. The motion sensors can also tell if something is tall and narrow like a human, or short and wide like a dog. The sunflowers send alerts to a computer in the drone’s base station, known as “the Hive.”

If the base station computer suspects foul play, it sends an alert to an app on the owner’s phone enabling them to deploy a drone, or “the Bee” from the base station. Piloting itself automatically around obstacles and staying about 20 feet in the air as it heads to the trouble spot the bee will relay video live on the user’s phone.

At present there is no direct connection to the police, but Sunflower Labs’ setup can pull together a data package if you need to file a report. Pachikov says the start-up could use others’ computing interfaces to automate reports in the future.

Challenges for Sunflower’s quadcopters would include:

  • A waiver from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for drone flying at night or beyond line of sight. Also tighter regulations for operations in airport proximity.
  • Other concerns could be a mail carrier unhappy with a quad copter swooping by or neighbours objecting to noise or privacy intrusion.
  • Drones are far quieter than gas-powered leaf blowers or lawnmowers.
  • The drone flies only on the perimeter of the owner’s property with cameras pointing towards the user’s house.

Alex Pachikov says, “Sunflower Labs combines Swiss craftsmanship and engineering with Silicon Valley startup culture. We’re leveraging years of experience building consumer products to design an insightful home security solution.” An aspiring astro-physicist Alex has over a decade of experience in managing distribution channels, relationships with major OEMs, retailers, and telecoms.

Chris Eheim Co-founder & CTOis an aerospace engineer with 15 years of experience in avionics software and hardware development. He developed drones, led engineering teams developing FAA-certified products that sold to Embraer, Fokker, and the Swiss and German Air Forces.

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