Most of us recall when drones first entered our reality. They were novel, if not slightly futuristic, pieces of kit and, much like most technologies, most only saw the positives. However, as time progressed and drones became more sophisticated and accessible, the founders of DroneShield knew that there may be risks associated with this rapid rise in use of commercial drones and other unmanned aerial systems (UAS). In response to this, they created world-leading technology to combat these risks - thus this innovative and multi-award-winning company was born.
Founded in the US in 2014 by two scientists, from Johns Hopkins and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) respectively, DroneShield may have started in the states but is now a wholly Australian owned and run company.
“We transitioned to an Australian owned business when DroneShield was listed on the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) in 2016 to raise capital to scale the business,” said DroneShield CEO, Oleg Vornik.
‘ASX has a great history in listing, and enabling investment in small fast-growing companies,’ Vornik states.
After the company was listed, DroneShield officially moved its operations to Australia, where the current 40-strong team, with the substantial majority of them engineers, are based.
“All of our engineers, with backgrounds ranging across hardware/FPGA, waveform design, software (front and back end), product and industrial design, are based in Australia and they really are some of the best and brightest minds, working on agile and complex technology solutions.”
It’s this agile and responsive technology development which has led them to adopt the moniker of ‘skunkworks’; one they use with pride (and in pitches).
“We do think of ourselves as skunkworks of complex engineering problems. We’re a relatively small, but high capability experimental business, that’s able to take cutting edge technology and deliver it to products that meet the needs of our customers in a short amount of time,” Vornik says.
In addition to their team, what sets DroneShield apart from other similar organisations are their end to end solutions. Not only does DroneShield detect UASs, they also identify them, track them and ultimately, if required, defeat them.
“The broad scope of our solutions is why I hesitate in calling our business ‘counter drone’ because, while we may have started with that component, we have expanded and grown to so much more than just UAS detection. I think the skunkworks term is probably more accurate, in that we offer capability as opposed to a specific narrow set of solutions. For example, some of our customers are interested in applying our skillsets completely outside of the UAS space, in detection of rogue RF emitters, or using our optical AI for detection and ID or other complex threats” Vornik states.
While the end to end offering is a major differentiator, another is the ability to take individual elements of their capabilities and provide tailor made solutions to their customers. This is a critical service, as while some customers may require detection and identification, they may not require tracking and defeat.
DroneShield’s customer base exists in both the civil market, providing solutions for areas such as large events, airports and power stations and the military environment including the work they’re doing with Thales.
This relationship with Thales started around three years ago when DroneShield began to investigate selling into Defence and Civilian airspace. This coincided with Thales Australia actively looking for innovative Australian SMEs that would be a good fit with Thales’ Group product portfolio, as part of the Australian Governments Global Supply Chain Program.
“When we connected with Thales Australia, they welcomed us with open arms, embraced their GSC program and promoted us tirelessly across their international network,” Vornik said.
While Thales Spain was the first to utilise DroneShield’s technology by integrating their detection and mitigation solutions into its broader suite of defence capabilities, there are multiple opportunities across Thales globally that DroneShield are linking into.
“We work with many outstanding Australian SMEs and DroneShield are a brilliant example of an Australian company providing innovative and competitive solutions that the international markets Thales is working across demands. It’s a pleasure to work with Oleg and the Droneshield team and we are really excited to see this partnership develop and grow for our collective future benefit,” Anne Munro, Thales Australia global supply chain manager, said.
Given the technology behind DroneShield moves at an increasingly fast pace, it’s tough to predict what’s next for the company, however Vornik says the next five years will be focused on strengthening relationships like the one they have with Thales.
“Working with Primes like Thales brings a global network of opportunities, engineers and experience to our work and is an important way to become part of the Defence ecosystem; something we value enormously.”
For more information on the Thales Australia supply chain, please click here.