User blog: Bruce McPherson

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Demonstrators, some using laser pointers toward police lines during a protest in Hong Kong, Sunday, Aug. 25, 2019. KIN CHEUNG/AP

Video of Chilean protesters using beams of green light to ground a police drone made the rounds on social media Wednesday. But those aren’t tractor beams or Green Lantern rings—the protesters appear to be using run-of-the-mill laser pointers to take down law enforcement-grade technology. How does that work?

Chilean protesters took to the streets last month to speak out against a proposed increase in public transit fares, though the demonstrations have now turned into a countrywide expression of anger over low wages and inequality.

Video posted to Reddit late Tuesday appears to show training laser pointer pens on a police drone in an attempt to bring it to the ground. As more light beams make contact with the unmanned aerial system, or UAS, it falters, then almost escapes before a coordinated effort brings it slowly to Earth.

The laser pointers could have taken down the drone in the video in one of two ways, according to Christopher Williams, CEO of Citadel Defense Company, which is working with Customs and Border Protection to deploy anti-drone “bubbles” along the border.

If the drone was being flown manually by an operator watching through a first-person video, the bright lights might have blinded the camera, causing the operator to lose control. Alternatively, “low powered lasers have the ability to interfere with [infrared] landing sensors,” as well as the downward-facing cameras that detect obstacles below, “forcing a landing or uncontrolled drone behavior,” Williams said.

Commentators on Reddit offered a third possibility: that the combined heat from all those laser pointers was enough to melt internal wiring or cause the battery to give out.

Beyond drones, laser pointers are fast becoming the tool of choice for protesters around the world. In Hong Kong, people in the streets are using laser pointers to mess with facial recognition and other surveillance technologies.

While effective for grassroots purposes, Williams said he does not believe low-powered lasers like these will become widely adopted as counter-drone measures.

“Use of these types of lasers is more hazardous and disruptive to humans than it will be for drones,” he said. “There are many other technologies that are less disruptive that provide a superior, more scalable, more reliable and more cost-effective countermeasure.”

That said, high-powered lasers are certainly being developed to destroy or otherwise knock drones out of the air. Just last month, the Raytheon delivered the Air Force a high-powered laser to down drones. Rather than scrambling sensors or blinding operators, the high-powered versions turn up the heat, melting a drone’s components or internal wiring or causing batteries to explode.

Raytheon declined to comment for this story.

The Air Force isn’t the only military branch looking at lasers for counter-drone technology. The Army Fires Battle Lab has been developing an experimental program called the Mobile High-Energy Laser, or MEHEL, since 2017.

“The industry as a whole is focused on creating a menu of CUAS sensor options that can be adapted to different use cases and price points,” Williams said. “As the threat outpaces government responsiveness and legislative decision making, drone threats and less conventional countermeasures will continue to be an issue.”

By Aaron Boyd,

Senior Editor, Nextgov

[ Modified: Saturday, 16 November 2019, 7:42 AM ]
Anyone in the world

ZANZIBAR, Tanzania

For the first time drones are being tested to help fight malaria on the island of Zanzibar, off the coast of Tanzania.

The drones will spray a silicone-based liquid on rice paddies, where there are large expanses of stagnant water where malaria-carrying mosquitoes lay their eggs. The substance will spread across the water and prevent the eggs from hatching. It is hoped this will significantly reduce the numbers of the malaria-carrying anopheles mosquitoes in the area.

The spraying by drones is a test to see if it will help the government of Zanzibar reach its goal of eliminating malaria on the archipelago by 2023, according to the strategic plan adopted by Zanzibar Malaria Elimination Program.

The drone spraying is a relatively inexpensive way to stop the mosquitoes from reproducing, said Bart Knols, a medical entomologist and lead researcher of the program.

"We are getting to the bottom of it as we will spray the breeding grounds of mosquitoes," said Knols, who is with the Dutch Malaria Foundation.

The drone will spray Aquatain, a liquid gel that will spread over a section of water and kill mosquitoes' larvae, said Knols. The substance has been tested internationally and has been found to be harmless to non-target organisms, non-toxic and biodegradable.

In the initial test, in the Cheju area of southern Zanzibar, the drone flew over and sprayed the shallow, sunlit water bodies in the rice paddies teeming with mosquito larvae, which were trapped as the gel spread across the water. Without the gel, the larvae would have emerged as adult mosquitoes in search of a blood meal. When those mosquitoes bite humans infected with malaria, they become vectors for the disease and continue its deadly transmission cycle.

Along the Indian Ocean coast of East Africa, Zanzibar and mainland Tanzania have had a long, well-documented battle with malaria.

In the last 10 years, Zanzibar, with a population of 1.2 million people, has embarked on different methods of fighting malaria. Thousands of mosquito nets have been distributed to put over beds and insecticide was supplied to spray in homes.

The campaigns have succeeded in decreasing the disease's prevalence. Some areas of Zanzibar have seen the prevalence of malaria drop from 40% of the population to less than 10%, according to the malaria elimination program.

The spraying by drones is a new part of the strategy. The use of drones will be essential to efficiently spraying the large rice fields, which have been identified as malaria hot spots on Zanzibar. The drone is efficient because spraying by hand is very time consuming and using a helicopter is too expensive, said Eduardo Rodriguez of DJI, a Chinese drone manufacturer.

With the help of drone pilots from the State University of Zanzibar, the DJI Agras drone is being tested to spray the rice paddies.

"The ultimate vision of our fight against malaria is to bring malaria down to zero in year 2023 as our target,"said Abdullah Suleiman Ali, manager of the Zanzibar Malaria Elimination Program.


[ Modified: Friday, 15 November 2019, 11:37 AM ]
Anyone in the world

Simple, Low-Cost Solution Meets Government Expectations To Identify Airborne Drones

DJI, the world’s leader in civilian drones and aerial imaging technology, today demonstrated a direct drone-to-phone, Wi-Fi based solution to remotely identify airborne drones, pioneering an easy way for anyone with a smartphone to monitor nearby drones for enhanced safety, security and peace of mind.

DJI’s remote identification solution, developed in collaboration with industry stakeholders and regulators, broadcasts information from drones directly to off-the-shelf mobile phones using existing Wi-Fi protocols. Using a simple app, anyone within radio range of the drone can receive that signal and learn the location, altitude, speed and direction of the drone, as well as an identification number for the drone and the location of the pilot.

“Remote ID functions as an electronic license plate for drones, allowing anyone who is curious about a drone in the sky to learn more about what it’s doing,” said Brendan Schulman, DJI Vice President of Policy & Legal Affairs. “Around the world, aviation authorities have said remote ID is the key to allowing more complex drone use, and to solving concerns about safety and security. DJI’s direct drone-to-phone remote ID shows we’re committed to providing a solution in a way that is instantly usable worldwide without any additional infrastructure.”

DJI demonstrated the direct drone-to-phone remote ID system at a park in Montreal, Canada, during the International Civil Aviation Organization’s third annual Drone Enable conference. Participants used standard phones from Samsung, Google and Xiaomi to receive Wi-Fi Aware signals from a DJI Mavic Air drone and a DJI Mavic 2 Enterprise drone. 

“Our direct drone-to-phone solution is an easy and elegant solution for drone pilots. They will be able to comply with Remote ID expectations simply by updating the software on many drones already in widespread use, without any extra cost or equipment,” said Javier Caina, DJI Director of Technical Standards. “In contrast, remote ID solutions that require pilots to add telecommunications equipment, subscribe to an ID service provider, connect to a cell tower or buy a data plan for their drone will create new costs and barriers for beneficial drone operations. DJI’s direct drone-to-phone solution uses the latest technological advances to make remote ID compliance as easy and inexpensive as possible.”

Aviation regulators in many countries are moving to require remote ID systems for drones as a solution to concerns about drone safety and security. The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has said it will release a mandatory remote ID proposal by the end of this year. The rulemaking process will take more than a year to complete, but an FAA industry committee has urged manufacturers to develop voluntary remote ID systems in the interim. The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) will impose remote ID requirements in July 2020. The app and the associated drone firmware updates used for DJI’s demonstration this week are not yet available for public use, pending further direction from aviation regulators and final publication of the ASTM International standard.

“As more drones take to the skies every day, remote ID addresses the public’s interest in understanding what’s happening in the airspace,” said Christian Struwe, DJI Policy Director, Europe. “DJI’s drone-to-phone implementation helps accomplish that by allowing drone pilots to broadcast a simple description of their flights, so anyone viewing the smartphone app can understand that they are inspecting a roof, surveying a construction site, or performing another beneficial task with a drone.”

DJI’s system was built to conform to the forthcoming ASTM International standard for broadcast drone remote ID, developed over a period of 18 months by a broad group of industry and government stakeholders. The solution uses the Wi-Fi Aware protocol for mobile phones, which allows the phones to receive and use the Wi-Fi signals directly from the drones without having to complete a two-way connection. Because it does not need to connect to a Wi-Fi base station, a cellular network or any other external system, it works in rural areas with no telecom service. In DJI’s preliminary testing, the Wi-Fi Aware signals can be received from more than one kilometer away.

“Wi-Fi is the premiere way to connect devices in the modern era, and we are pleased that Wi-Fi Aware from Wi-Fi Alliance® provides a reliable, virtually cost-free solution for drone Remote ID that can be implemented in many drones with just a software update,” said Wi-Fi Alliance, a worldwide network of more than 850 companies. “Wi-Fi Alliance will help facilitate broad industry collaboration on implementation of Wi-Fi Aware as this solution is adopted by manufacturers and policymakers.”

The new direct drone-to-phone solution is an evolution of the broadcast methodology pioneered by DJI AeroScope, the professional remote ID system first introduced in 2017 for airports, prisons, stadiums and other critical locations protected by police departments and other government agencies. AeroScope broadcasts a drone’s location, altitude, speed, direction and identification number, as well as the location of the pilot, using different radio protocols that can be received from miles away by special receivers developed for safety and security authorities who most need it. 

By Press
[ Modified: Thursday, 14 November 2019, 10:20 AM ]
Anyone in the world

U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper. Credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images

U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark T. Esper called working with China on A.I. ‘a short and narrow-sighted focus on economic opportunity’

U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark T. Esper spoke out against China’s sale of highly autonomous drones on the international market for the first time today, calling into question China’s previous position that autonomous robots were dangerous and posed a “humanitarian concern.”

“As we speak, the Chinese government is already exporting some of its most advanced military aerial drones to the Middle East, as it prepares to export its next generation stealth UAVs [unmanned aerial vehicles] when those come on line,” Esper said today during a conference organized by the National Security Commission of Artificial Intelligence. “In addition, Chinese weapons manufacturers are selling drones advertised as capable of full autonomy, including the ability to conduct lethal targeted strikes.”

This is the first time a top U.S. official has spoken about China’s sale of lethal autonomous drones, even though it is suspected that the machines have been sold to countries in the Middle East since at least late 2018. Chinese state media has publicized the availability of autonomous lethal drones for months.

The rhetoric highlights concern from within the administration about China’s military A.I. ambitions, and highlights the DoD’s sense of immediacy in grappling with how China is spreading its autonomous technology across the world.

Two Chinese companies backed by government funds have been widely identified as vendors of lethal drones. Ziyan, which partnered with the Chinese ministry of public security last year, sells drones that can be outfitted with guns or bombs. State-owned Chinese Aerospace Science and Tech Corporation has also shown off its autonomous aerial weaponry.

The Chinese government has not publicly endorsed the use of autonomously lethal robots and state officials partially endorsed the Stop Killer Robots campaign, a worldwide organizing effort to ban such machines. That said, China has not condemned the research and development of autonomously lethal drones, and never indicated it would ban the technology from use on the battlefield.

The U.S. military has used human-controlled and semi-autonomous drone strikes in seven countries to date, sparking international outcry. The Department of Defense spent $7 billion of its 2018 budget developing the technology. It has also sold unarmed surveillance drones to allied countries in the South China Sea.

Esper also cast China’s use of artificial intelligence as a tool to impose authoritarian rule over its population, especially Muslim Uyghurs.

“All signs point to the construction of a 21st century surveillance state designed to censor speech and deny basic human rights on an unprecedented scale,” he said, urging the A.I. community to stop enabling Chinese firms’ unethical use of the technology.

“Equally troubling are the outside firms or multinational corporations that are inadvertently or tacitly providing the technology or research behind China’s unethical use of A.I.,” he said. “Our collective security must not be diminished by a short and narrow-sighted focus on economic opportunity.”

By Dave Gershgorn  OneZero
[ Modified: Sunday, 10 November 2019, 8:27 AM ]
Anyone in the world

Encouraging responsible use ‘desperately needed to ensure a collision between an aircraft and a drone is avoided’, says head of flight safety at airline pilots’ union

Drone users in the UK must now pass an online theory test and register as an operator for £9 a year, or face a £1,000 fine.

Children or adults wanting to fly a drone or unmanned aircraft such as a model plane weighing at least 250g will have to take the test to show they can do so “safely and legally”.

Those who fail the test or do not register by 30 November will face a fine of up to £1,000 under new regulations from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

Dr Rob Hunter, head of flight safety at airline pilots’ union Balpa, said encouraging responsible drone use is “desperately needed to ensure a collision between an aircraft and a drone is avoided”.

He said: “We have been calling for drone registration for some time now as we believe that in the same way that other vehicles – be it those in the air or on the ground – are registered, so should drones.”

Registrants will be given a unique ID which must be displayed on their devices in a process costing £9 which must be renewed each year.

The theory test will have 20 multiple choice questions, with applicants needing 16 correct answers to pass. It can be taken as many times as required.

Drone sightings at Gatwick in December last year caused around 1,000 flights to be cancelled or diverted over 36 hours, affecting more than 140,000 passengers in the run-up to Christmas.

A number of other airports have been forced to suspend flights for several hours due to drone activity this year, including Heathrow.

UK Airprox Board figures show there were 125 near-misses between drones and aircraft reported in 2018, up by more than a third from 93 the previous year.

In March, the drone no-fly zone around airports was extended from 1km (0.6 miles) to 5km (3.1 miles).

The platform will also be used to help return lost drones to their owners.

Anyone losing a drone is advised to post their details on the Drones Reunited platform, while anyone who finds one is encouraged to check if it has a registration number and enter the details online.

Jonathan Nicholson, CAA assistant director of communications, said: “The service is about giving something back to the community, helping responsible drone owners and operators to be reunited with lost drones and continue flying.

“Our aim is for the Drones Reunited platform to become an essential service for the drone community – the first port of call for anyone who has lost or found a drone.”

By Samuel Osborne  Independant
[ Modified: Saturday, 9 November 2019, 9:30 AM ]
Anyone in the world

The U.S. Department of Interior announced Wednesday that it would ground it’s fleet of DJI drones.  The decision, which is the result of congressional pressure, is the latest move in the argument over banning government use of  technology based solely upon “country of origin”: a direct blow to Chinese manufacturers.

The Ban on Chinese Manufactured

The proposed ban on Chinese-manufactured drones stems from legislation currently under discussion in Congress.  As the U.S. trade war with China heats up, legislation has appeared proposing that no drones manufactured in countries deemed “non-cooperative” may be purchased by the U.S. government, citing data security concerns.  The two pieces of legislation proposed are the American Drone Security Act in the Senate, and the Drone Origin Security Enhancement Act in the House.  The Senate version would limit all government agencies from purchasing Chinese drone technology, the House version refers only to the Department of Homeland Security.

Chinese-founded DJI, the largest global drone manufacturer, denies strenuously that data gathered by DJI drones is at risk: and has struggled to respond to security concerns which do not refer to any technical standards or specific technology gaps.  The legislation represents a move by the U.S. government that the U.S. press largely refers to as “getting the Huwei treatment,” a reference to the blacklisted Chinese telecom company: recent months have seen legislators proposing closer examination or bans on Chinese video app TikTok and others. In a statement concerning the American Drone Security Act, DJI officials said “banning or restricting the use of drone technology based on where it is made is fear-driven policy not grounded in facts or reality.”

DJI and the Department of the Interior

The U.S. Department of Interior move to down its fleet of about 800 drones is significant.  The Department of the Interior (DOI) is tasked with maintaining public lands, and has adopted drone technology widely to help monitor land and deal with firefighting efforts, flood management, dam inspections, and tracking of endangered species.  Fortune reports that the entirety of DOI’s fleet have Chinese manufactured parts, and at least 15% are manufactured by DJI: downing the fleet means halting critical programs.

DJI has long partnered with the Department and collaborated on finding a solution to the problem. DJI worked with the DOI on a 15-month long study to determine if security gaps existed, and how they might be addressed.  The result of that study was DJI’s “Government Edition” offering and a decision by DJI to do some manufacturing in the U.S.  Satisfied with the results of the study, DOI has previously resisted halting the use of Chinese-manufactured drones.

What Changed? 

Senator Rick Scott (R-FL), a sponsor of the American Drone Security Act and a staunch opponent to Chinese manufacturing, along with other congress members, have brought pressure to bear on the department pending the passage of the proposed Drone Security legislation.

Wednesday, DOI spokesperson Melissa Brown delivered the following statement to The Verge: “Secretary Bernhardt is reviewing the Department of the Interior’s drone program. Until this review is completed, the Secretary has directed that drones manufactured in China or made from Chinese components be grounded unless they are currently being utilized for emergency purposes, such as fighting wildfires, search and rescue, and dealing with natural disasters that may threaten life or property.”

“Following many conversations between my office and the Interior Department, I’m glad to see the Department has seen the light and reversed course,” said Scott in a statement. “We should not, under any circumstances, put American national security at risk by using taxpayer dollars to purchase Chinese tech.”

“We are aware the Department of Interior has decided to ground its entire drone program and are disappointed to learn of this development,” a DJI spokesperson told The Verge in a statement. “As the leader in commercial drone technology, we have worked with the Department of Interior to create a safe and secure drone solution that meets their rigorous requirements, which was developed over the course of 15 months with DOI officials, independent cybersecurity professionals, and experts at NASA. We will continue to support the Department of Interior and provide assistance as it reviews its drone fleet so the agency can quickly resume the use of drones to help federal workers conduct vital operations.”

Posted By: Miriam McNabb

[ Modified: Saturday, 9 November 2019, 9:22 AM ]
Anyone in the world

Software tested and validated by AIRT in the Bahamas under austere, real-world disaster conditions during the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian

DENVER, CO – Pix4Dreact, the eagerly awaited 2D fast-mapping software for public safety and emergency response professionals operating drones for good, was officially launched last month by Pix4D, the world’s premier source of drone mapping and photogrammetry software tools. 

Pix4Dreact allows users to create 2D maps from aerial imagery in a fraction of the time needed by other mapping programs.  This provides first responders and disaster response professionals with a much-needed edge when lives are on the line and time is of the essence. 

Pix4Dreact has been field-tested and validated by emergency teams operating drones for disaster response.  The Miami-based Airborne International Response Team (AIRT) recently used Pix4Dreact for aerial mapping with drones in Marsh Harbour, the Bahamas to help assess the devastation from major Category 5 Hurricane Dorian.

“We needed a solution that would allow us to rapidly process imagery on-scene under severe conditions with no available power source or mobile Internet connection,” says Christopher Todd who serves as the executive director of AIRT as well as a command staff member of the South Florida Region 7 All-Hazards Incident Management Team (FL-7 AHIMT).  “Pix4Dreact worked perfectly.  This software will help transform the workflow for disaster response teams around the world who are operating drones during emergencies.”

Unlike traditional mapping programs which typically require Internet access and can take several hours to render a map, Pix4D can rapidly and accurately process drone imagery directly on-scene without mobile connectivity.  Todd believes this will be a game-changer for first responders and emergency services professionals who are operating drones.

“With the old workflow we needed to take the data off the drone, transport it back to a command post or emergency operations center, process the data – which might take several hours, and then push the end product back out to the field for use by response teams,” says Todd.  “Pix4Dreact allows responders to quickly process the data while still on-scene so it can be used much more quickly to help assess the damage, protect property, and save lives.”

With a workflow that is intuitive and simple to use, Pix4Dreact’s fast-stitching technology creates accurate 2D orthomosaic maps by combining a large number of aerial nadir images from UAS.  Users can quickly measure, analyze, and mark these files, which are light enough to be easily sent via email as needed.

“We are excited that Pix4Dreact is now available for use by public safety and emergency services professionals around the world,” said Lorenzo Martelletti, Sales & Marketing Director, Pix4D.  “We will continue to work with first responders and disaster professionals to help make the product even stronger.”

A webinar highlighting Pix4Dreact and AIRT’s use of the software in their response to the Bahamas is scheduled for early December.  Pre-registration for the webinar is now open at

For more information, to purchase or get a trial of Pix4Dreact, please visit:

By Press
Anyone in the world

As a part of the joint project between UAVOS and Stratodynamics, UAVOS is excited to announce their latest successful record-setting stratospheric flight. The stratospheric glider named the HiDRON was released from a Canadian Space Agency scientific gondola at an altitude of 111,434 feet (33.9 km) and performed a four hour controlled flight and landed at Iroquois Falls Airport about 80 km from the Timmins, Ontario launch site.  The flight once again confirmed the HiDRON’s capability to perform high-altitude missions and beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) operations and set a new operational best for the flight in a challenging stratospheric environment.

Watch the HiDRON in action:

The night flight demonstrated the HiDRON’s beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) capabilities and was supported by the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) and the French Space Agency (CNES) as part of the 2019 Strato-Science Balloon campaign at the balloon base in Timmins, Ontario.

The record setting flight achieved many firsts in Canadian Aviation:

  • Highest altitude flight of a UAV or Remotely Piloted Aerial Systems (RPAS). RPAS is the name used by Transport Canada to encompass UAVs.
  • First UAV above 29,000 feet in Class A airspace.
  • First release of a UAV from a scientific gondola in Canada.

The HiDRON release from the CSA gondola is another first for the companies, as previous launches have been carried out by weather balloons, and added new layers of complexity. Prior to the launch, the Stratodynamics and UAVOS teams advanced aspects of the HiDRON including the transponder, stratospheric flight controls, data links, and safety protocols. The HiDRON features UAVOS’ autopilot AP 10.3 Micro.

The HiDRON was launched from the Timmins Victor M. Power Airport via the CSA scientific gondola at 10 pm on Saturday, August 31st. The mission plan was to release the HiDRON from the gondola sometime between an altitude of 30 km altitude and the target ceiling altitude of 37 km (121,000 feet). Once released the HiDRON would follow a pre-set flight plan and land at Iroquois Falls Airport. This meant the team was onsite at the Timmins airport until the gondola’s lift-off from the CSA Balloon Base.

As the gondola rose to its float altitude, the HiDRON was released at around 12:30 am on September 1st at an altitude of 111,400 feet. The HiDRON performed well in difficult headwinds and -60° C stratospheric conditions with its AMON detector recording single pixel data in a near-moonless night sky.

The record setting flight is the culmination of 12 months of international collaboration and planning with colleagues in Canada, Belarus and Slovakia and was the second of two flights commissioned to test AMON Airglow detector from Stratodynamics’ client, the Institute of Experimental Physics at the Slovak Academy of Science. The Slovakian team was searching for a cost-effective method for the AMON detector to have a clear view upwards unencumbered by a weather balloon blocking the view. The AMON detector is planned to participate in EUSO-SPB2 mission that will fly on a long duration NASA balloon in 2022.

Aliaksei Stratsilatau, CEO, UAVOS:

“HiDRON is a real solution that advances the important research around climate change and other atmospheric chemistry problems. The HiDRON provides solutions for tough problems that affect all of humankind, which is why it is such a necessary platform for researchers.”

Gary Pundsack, CEO Stratodynamics Aviation Inc.:

“We are extremely pleased with the outcome of this pioneering flight in Canadian Aviation, and the spirit of collaboration that enabled this successful campaign. Special thanks goes to our colleagues at Transport Canada and NAV Canada who provided considerable efforts to enable these firsts in Canadian Aviation. The Canadian Space Agency and the Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales also provided great support and assistance. And thanks to the Iroquois Falls Cadet Flying site who graciously provided use of their facilities. The September 1st flight once again confirmed the STRATODYNAMICS’ capability to perform high-altitude missions and beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) operations and set a new operational best for the HiDRON’s flight in challenging stratospheric environment.”

[ Modified: Wednesday, 16 October 2019, 9:28 AM ]
Anyone in the world

FOR MANY YEARS, Gökhan Çelik held roles in his native Turkey in large companies such as Siemens. While occupying mainly managerial positions, Çelik is a software engineer at heart and was feeling the itch to work on technical projects of his own.

“I wanted to get into a business where I can use my technical skills more and I wanted it to be something that can last for my son, for generations.”

This was around 2013, just as drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), were on the cusp of exploding in popularity while companies such as Amazon were revealing ambitious plans for drone deliveries.

Çelik and the company first started working on an autopilot product, a piece of software for others’ aircraft that guides it through the skies.

These were the origins of A-TechSYN, initially in Turkey, until the founders were wooed by IDA officials into moving the company’s headquarters to Shannon.

The company had already been plotting a move to the UK in order to gain access to the European market.

Çelik said he wanted to base the startup somewhere that was English-speaking and with a strong pool of software skills to draw from.

“We were looking to expand into Europe, and the world, but the US is too far away and too expensive,” he said. “I wanted somewhere that I can be closer to the Turkish market but also be a European market product.

“(Ireland) is at the cross-section of Europe, UK and the US. It just seemed to make sense.”


At this time, the startup began looking at ways to expand its remit beyond drone software. The time had come to build its own drone.

“We started building and designing our own aircraft and we went out to our customers with them and they advised us to build something unique and then we came up with the idea that we could do a vertical take off and landing drone.”

A-TechSYN went on to build this aircraft that looks strikingly different from the quadcopter design that is usually associated with drones.


Rather, it resembles more of a mini-airplane with its five metre wing span. It weighs 55kg, carries a payload of 5kg and can fly for up to six hours.

“This is like a cross between small drones and big military drones,” Çelik said.

By building its own drone – hardware and software – Çelik said the company has greater control over development and how the technology can be used.

“We don’t need to go out and ask other companies to partner up.”

The company is working with the University of Limerick, which is using the drones at its robotics department for research and development.

Back home in Turkey, it has deals in place with law enforcement agencies who are using the drones.

Çelik said some of the primary use cases for its drones are inspections of oil and gas lines and offshore wind turbines as well as search and rescue missions, providing a cheaper alternative to helicopters.

“Ireland is an island so it has a lot of sea around it and our planes are especially good for inspection, geographical inspections or security or any type of patrolling and imaging, especially on the sea because of the high flight time (of our drone).”


Those big ideas are well and good but the regulation of drones remains a major barrier to execution.

As it stands, UAVs must remain within line of sight of the owner or operator, which presents a significant challenge to Çelik’s plans.

He said the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) is generally open to discussions with stakeholders and is confident that permits for out-of-sight use will be granted.

atechsyn-1Gökhan Çelik
Source: A-TechSYN

“Basically it’s more about showing (the IAA) what we can do and then building up some trust and then getting to the next level of flight.”

Another Irish company, Manna, is hoping for a similar good relationship with Irish authorities as it tries to launch drone food deliveries.

A-TechSYN remains bootstrapped but Çelik said the time has come for the company to raise outside investment.

“In total we have done more than $10 million of revenue in the last six years but we never raised money,” he said.

“At this stage we need investment in the company so we can stay ahead of competition. We used to be around 24 months ahead of the competition, now we are like 12 or 13 months ahead.”

Founder: Gökhan Çelik

Elevator pitch: 
drones for asset inspections and law enforcement
Status: generating revenue from clients in Turkey and Ireland
bootstrapped but now on the hunt for VCs

[ Modified: Tuesday, 8 October 2019, 7:18 AM ]
Picture of Bruce McPherson
by Bruce McPherson - Saturday, 5 October 2019, 8:03 AM
Anyone in the world

By Gary Mortimer  suasnews

Not a good look for a unit preparing to roll out a national registration scheme. Spotted early this morning by Drone Stuff This Week regular and gardening guru Ian Hudson the CAA has just released advice.

Let us hope the 4.1 million pound registration database has better security.

I shamelessly lifted the image from Twitter, created by @EmeraldSkyMedia

Unfortunately the CAA has been the victim of a sophisticated phishing attack resulting in a small number of emails being sent to external parties. We have taken steps to prevent this issue continuing including notification to the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) and our Email Infrastructure Protection Services.

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