The age of drones has arrived, and the military is no longer the primary user. From delivering mail to pizzas, medicines and whatnot, drones are taking on a variety of tasks.
With an estimated 10 million consumer drones in circulation today, the market is expected to rise to over 50 million by 2025. More than just a toy, these off-the-shelf UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) are now being used for more sinister actions.
At the same time, stories about dangerous drone use and threats are quickly becoming part of the daily news. From the smuggling of contraband into a High-Security Prison, a drone obstructing the flight path of an aeroplane carrying 150 passengers or even an ISIS attack in Syria. The message is clear: Be prepared for the negative effects of these flying objects.
To meet these increasing hurdles, a French startup, CerbAir came into existence in 2015. The defence and security company was launched after the increasing number of drone incidents. The anti-drone protection company claims to offer the most cost-effective solutions on the market.
Recently, CerbAir was also awarded the first prize in the “Digital Cities” category at the EIT Digital Challenge, the competition organised by Europe’s leading accelerator, EIT Digital, to identify innovative ‘deep tech’ scaleups of the continent.
Lucas Le Bell, co-founder and CEO of CerbAir, received the prize from Thomas Herlin, the expert business developer at EIT Digital Accelerator. More than 279 scaleups were competing for the most prestigious competition of the European deep tech. At the end of a competition gathering candidates from 33 different countries, CerbAir won the first prize in the “Digital Cities” category. An award also accompanied by a grant and a support in development.
Silicon Canals was also present at the conference and our founder Remco Janssen sat down with the company’s co-founder and CEO Lucas La Bell for a quick chat to know more about the company’s future plans.
On winning the award, Le Bell says, “I am deeply proud for CerbAir and our team. This award also recognises the support of our investors such as MBDA (European missile represented by Denis Gardin), Jean-Michel Aulas through his family office and Technofounders, the French studio startup who helped launch CerbAir.”
“We founded CerbAir in 2015 but the production of our radiofrequency (RF) anti-drone solutions was only initiated in 2017. In two years, what a long way!”, recalls Lucas Le Bell, graduated from Management School of Lyon. “The prize awarded by the EIT Digital will allow us to access new markets in Europe. Our solutions are already implemented with the army and the police operational teams. The support of EIT Digital will allow us to strengthen our position in the institutional and civil sectors,” he comments.
Cutting edge technology to counter drones
“Drones are a formidable innovation, but they can also cause harm to society. Our objective is to anticipate the malicious and dangerous use of these devices. CerbAir aims to become the go-to anti-drone solution in this ever-evolving industry. Our tailor-made toolbox approach means that we can deliver cost-effective solutions that adapt to all client needs. One of our main selling points is our capacity to detect and pin down a drone before it even takes-off, even from several miles away,” explains Le Bell.
With its state-of-the-art radiofrequency and optical technology embedded in mobile or fixed anti-drone solutions, civilian drone threats can be detected from far away (up to 5km/3 miles). Once detected and characterised, counter-measures can immediately neutralise the drone by forcing it to land through a mix of advanced jamming and hacking technology.
Further, the company plans to switch from a mono-centric approach to an integrated solution. This approach is said to aggregate some third-party technologies such as radar and electro-optics to cover blind spots of radiofrequency. It will help in detecting a drone, no matter what the scenario.
Tip for startups: Constant focus on the product
CerbAir might claim to be the best provider of anti-drone technologies but this was made possible by the company’s constant efforts. Le Bell says, “While we founded the company in 2015, for the first two and a half years we were just concentrating on product development. I think one of the best decisions we made was to actually iterate the product within a short loop. This was like developing a proof of concept and demonstrating it to the army and nuclear facilities.”
With feedback from their potential consumers, the startup would iterate and develop new features quickly for retesting. Le Bell adds, “I think the anti-drone fight is not about having the perfect technology, but it’s about the right performance at the right price for the right level of threat. In this regard, we have one of the most cost-efficient solutions in the market.”
Next funding round very soon..
CerbAir has already been through three funding rounds till now with the first one netting the company a hefty €3.3 million. The €1.5 million Series A was led by MBDA, a global leader in the production of missile and airspace defence systems, Le Bell says, “we’re expecting a next -round soon, maybe next year,” where the company is bound to raise a notable amount.
Talking about additional goals, Le Bell concludes, “We aim to consolidate a stronghold on European soil within the next 4 years and become the European leader in anti-drone solutions.”