Vancouver-based SkyCope bills itself as having “the world’s smallest and most powerful AI supercomputer UAV detection system”. And there’s no doubt – what he does is quite impressive.
With the proliferation of drones, an increasing number of people have legitimate reasons for wanting to detect and track devices that might be useless. Drones have been used, for example, to smuggle drugs and other contraband into prisons. There are also secure facilities like nuclear power plants and other critical infrastructure where drone detection is essential. In addition, of course, there are airports.
At the CANSEC conference in Ottawa – Canada’s largest security and defense trade show – a Canadian company by the name of SkyCope is generating interest with its drone detection system. We caught up with co-CEO Hamid Boostanimehr to learn more about the company and its key product.
The heart of the system is the SkyEye. You can set it up quickly and it starts analyzing the countless radio signals that pass through the air: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, commercial radio signals, etc. If there’s a drone in range (and the system has detected up to 23 kilometers away), the platform’s built-in AI starts looking for a match. A drone library of unique RF signatures from over 220 different drone models is built into SkyEye. And if it finds a match, the person monitoring SkyEye’s output gets a hit.
“We detect the radio links between the drone and the controller. From there we get information about the drone. We can detect over 220 different drone models in our library,” Boostanimehr explained.
And that’s not all. The company has worked to ensure that its system will still pick up even unknown drones.
“Over time, we realized that our library had limits: there are older drones, brand new drones… For this, we developed AI machine learning to detect drones that are outside our library. We see ourselves as pioneers in the combination of AI and radio frequencies and their introduction into the anti-drone industry. »
For example, the SkyCope system can even detect a custom-built machine like this.
The question arises: what makes this system better than some others on the market? According to Boostanimehr, it’s all about AI. The company’s SkyCore computer (which lives inside that SkyEye dome) is really good at sorting through the maze of signals and focusing on the ones that matter, while discarding those that don’t.
“The difference between this type of AI and traditional technologies is that these technologies have a lot of false alarms,” he says. “And when the environment is polluted with signals, they can’t separate the drone signals from the background signals. Our AI and detection system is not just detecting drones, it’s detecting the Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Smart City sensors or transmitters, IoT devices We detect this and also classify them in the background, so that we can separate the signals from the drones.
SkyCope has many customers spread across multiple industries. But, more generally, there are customers on the civilian and defense side. Police departments, prisons, military, border protection – Hamid said the list goes on. Interestingly, SkyCope has also sold its system to end users who already own DJI’s Aeroscope system. This system, which does a great job of detecting DJI products, does not do a great job with drones outside of its own ecosystem. Additionally, DJI drones can be spoofed to show an incorrect location. Boostanimehr said SkyCope was not fooled by this.
Additionally, word is spread among those who use drones for illicit purposes that DJI products can be detected quite easily with the Aeroscope system. As a result, criminals have moved away from DJI and used other brands or even homemade drones in an attempt to evade standard drone detection systems.
“We have dozens of our systems deployed alongside Aeroscope and also to confirm DJI detections if spoofed.”
There are a growing number of drone detection companies. And, to be honest, we can’t follow them all. But we are impressed with what SkyCope has achieved and the thought that went into engineering this solution. Boostanimehr is focused on keeping the SkyEye ahead of the pack with continuous adjustments to its AI and machine learning capabilities.
SkyCope has not disclosed the cost of its systems, in part because the price varies depending on the number of SkyEyes deployed and networked. But he said the system had the lowest cost-performance ratio on the market.