Date posted: 30/10/2017 5 min read

Gunning for drones

How can we protect our privacy against badly-behaved drones? Claire Newey CA, CFO of DroneShield in Sydney works with business and government to detect, block and repel invasive drones.

In Brief

  • DroneGun blocks drone signals, causing the drone to land safely on the spot or return to an operator.
  • In what is forecast to be a huge industry, DroneShield works with airports, prisons, military, VIPs and data centres.
  • DroneGuns have been deployed at the Boston Marathon and Davos World Economic Forum.

What career path that took a CA into a security and technology start-up?

One of the things that attracted me to a career in finance was the variety, and the fact that you can develop a skill set which is relevant across industries. Within my career, the constant has been a focus on finance, but I have applied this across a broad range of industries including agriculture, chemicals, resources, retail, not-for-profit and, now, the security industry.

After a number of years working for large companies, I was looking for something completely different… and I’ve certainly found that at DroneShield! 

I was attracted by the change in pace – an agile start-up with a handful of employees (contrasting with my previous role within a century-old business with a workforce of thousands) and DroneShield’s innovative products and potential as a first mover in what is poised to be a huge industry. 

What is the story behind developing your product?

DroneShield provides protection against drones threatening safety, security and privacy – providing a solution for anyone who’s impacted by badly-behaved drones. Accordingly, we work with a wide range of customers, from airports and prisons, through to military, VIPs and data centres.

DroneShield began life around four years ago as a detection business – developing proprietary acoustic technology to “hear” drones at a distance, alerting the user when a drone is detected. We found that once we could detect, our customers were asking ‘what’s next?’,which led to developing and launching the DroneGun in late 2016.

The DroneGun blocks the signal from the controller to the drone, causing the drone to either land safely on the spot or return to its operator. 

The promotional video for DroneGun went viral, receiving more than one million hits in the first month, highlighting the interest in this product. In July 2017, DroneShield launched two new products: DroneSentry (an integrated detection system) and DroneSentinel (integrated detection plus countermeasure).

Where are you in commercialising your product?

Our products are available for sale today. We have installations of acoustic detection devices around the world and have a number of DroneGuns in deployment addressing the threat of drones within the VIP and military space. 

In addition to trials by military in the Middle East, examples of deployments this year include exclusive drone protection at the 2017 Boston Marathon, trialling of units by military and deployment of the DroneGun by the Swiss police at the 2017 Davos World Economic Forum.

This would seem to be very sensitive technology. Do you have a policy about controlling who you sell to? What is the marketing plan?

Absolutely. The legislation surrounding the disruption of the signal between the drone and its controller is complex. As a result, our main global market at the moment is governments. Within Australia, the DroneGun is only available for sale to government agencies. For our detection devices, such as passive devices, the market is more straightforward and essentially anyone can buy these products.

You have worked for a global accountancy firm, a major listed agribusiness company and in the chemical industry. How does working for a start-up in the security technology space differ from your previous experience?

Over my career, I’ve become adept at diving into diverse businesses and understanding their processes. I’ve found that no matter what the size of the business, there are always a number of similarities: internal control, reporting and contribution to team culture. 

The biggest contrast between DroneShield and my previous roles is the broad range of day-to-day tasks that I’m responsible for. For example, rather than having separate teams for investor relations, treasury, payroll and finance, I am all of those teams.

Related: How accountants can harness the new data power of drones

Drones are a major source of Big Data and are changing accounting and audit in a seismic shift, writes CA ANZ Data Scientist Suresh Sood.