New tech in residential security: Drones?

Company looks to provide autonomous drones for home awareness
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Wednesday, November 16, 2016

PALO ALTO, Calif.—Sunflower Labs is working on smart lights that have sensors built-in to talk with an autonomous drone that will then fly to take a video of any suspicious activity.

Alex Pachikov, Sunflower Labs’ founder and CEO, told Security Systems News that he believes most home security systems focus solely on intrusion detection and the interior of the home. “We want to build a system that is primarily concerned with outdoors, and the surroundings of your property,” Pachikov said.

Camera systems around the home sometimes need a large number of cameras and intensive wiring, he pointed out. “We wanted to build a system that is preventative—it’s something that can help you understand what’s happening around your property and help you react to it before it’s too late,” he said. “That’s why we thought a flying camera is the future of security in general; you always get the best vantage points when the camera is in the air.”

“A flying camera is a deterrent in itself,” he added.

The smart lights, which feed the drone information, have three different types of sensors: motion sensors, vibration sensors that will be put into the ground, and a microphone. They will also have a speaker “to be able to either give a warning to someone who’s on your property and shouldn’t be, or to be able to scare away animals.”

The company is planning to launch the smart lights independently first by the end of 2017. “That ability to detect what’s happening around your property, identify what’s happening and communicate back to the user is a very useful system,” he said.

Pachikov added that the smart lights can “augment an existing home security system, or any kind of existing camera system. We do expect that we’ll be building integrations with major smart home operating systems.” The smart lights system will have its own app for information and setup, which includes the ability to call law enforcement.

The drones will initially navigate using a three-dimensional model of the user’s house, and a map that covers which areas are safe to fly over, Pachikov said, “We’re assuming that you’re not going to add a story to your house overnight and trees aren’t going to double overnight.” The drones will also have collision detection systems, in case information becomes misinterpreted or a ladder is left against the side of the house, he said.

Parallel with the development of the lights, the company will run a beta program of the drones with hundreds of users across the U.S., Canada and Mexico. The company launched a site for reservations in early November.

The timeframe for release of the drones is to be determined, based on the results of the public beta test, he said.

Pachikov said that the team also wanted to put some fun into the offering; the smart lights have a “party mode,” and are able to change colors and fade from one color to another. “We wanted it to be something you can enjoy throughout the year, not just in the middle of the night,” he continued.

How is the company addressing existing or pending drone regulations? “We are currently in discussion with people on the commission established by the FAA that makes recommendations on drone regulations,” Pachikov said. “We have been impressed with the FAA’s pace on issuing new regulations and being open to supporting innovation in the field. Specifically, we are encouraged by the progress that companies such as Amazon, DJI and GoPro have been making with the regard to autonomous flight.”

The company has its headquarters here as well as an R&D office in Zurich.