The future of public safety via rapid drone response with Aerodome's Rahul Sidhu | E1900

The future of public safety via rapid drone response with Aerodome's Rahul Sidhu | E1900

Rahul Sidhu from Aerodome joins Jason (00:00:00)

  • Rahul Sidhu, CEO and co-founder of Aerodome, joins Jason.
  • Aerodome recently closed a seed round and is in the process of closing a large Series A.
  • There has been a shift towards investing in defense and public safety, with companies like Flock Safety and Mark 43 achieving venture scale.
  • In the past, many tech companies in Silicon Valley were hesitant to participate in anything related to safety or defense.
  • Google famously canceled a cloud contract with the US Department of Defense in 2019 due to pressure from employees.
  • This sentiment has changed, and investing in defense and public safety is now seen as a big opportunity for startups.
  • Aerodome is a startup that provides rapid drone response for public safety.
  • Rahul Sidhu gives a brief overview of Aerodome's technology and its potential applications.
  • Aerodome's drones can be deployed quickly to provide real-time video and data to first responders.
  • This can help improve situational awareness, reduce response times, and save lives.

How the Aerodome drone system works to respond to 911 calls (00:03:44)

  • Aerodome's system enables police and fire departments to rapidly deploy drones to 911 calls, providing air support within an average of 98 seconds.
  • Drones are launched from central drone stations where their batteries are swapped automatically and can fly to the call location autonomously.
  • A "chair Force officer" at the station remotely pilots the drone using a computer interface, providing real-time coverage of the scene.
  • Authorized personnel, such as police officers or firefighters, initiate the deployment of drones after assessing the need for air support.
  • Concerns about privacy and potential abuse of the technology have been raised, similar to those about safety cameras.
  • Rahul Sidhu, the CEO of Aerodome, discusses the future of public safety using rapid drone response systems.
  • Drones offer advantages over traditional helicopters, including cost-effectiveness, safety, and environmental friendliness.
  • To address concerns about privacy, misuse, and accountability, drone programs were implemented with measures such as recording video data subject to the Freedom of Information Act and automatically uploading flight logs to a public-facing dashboard.
  • This dashboard allows the public to access information about drone flights, ensuring accountability and transparency.

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Privacy concerns and abuse potential with police drone usage (00:14:41)

  • Aerodome's drone response system has been deployed in Redondo Beach, California, with plans to expand to six to seven more cities in the coming months.
  • The goal is to provide affordable air support to public safety agencies, especially those that cannot afford traditional helicopter-based programs.
  • Aerodome's drones are equipped with advanced safety features such as parachutes, multiple levels of redundancy, and geofencing to avoid collisions.
  • The drones can fly at speeds of up to 52 miles per hour and travel in a straight line, allowing them to reach locations within a 10-mile radius in approximately 10 minutes.
  • Aerodome's drones are typically the first responders to emergency calls, with a 94% success rate in arriving before the police.

FAA regulations, geofencing, and obstacle avoidance for drones (00:19:43)

  • The FAA is taking a cautious approach to drone usage, implementing rules such as a 400-foot altitude limit and restrictions on flying beyond visual line of sight.
  • Drones typically fly at altitudes higher than most buildings in their operating areas, and geofencing is used to prevent them from entering restricted areas or colliding with static objects.
  • Dynamic geofencing, which involves preventing collisions with aircraft, is a more complex challenge.
  • Companies like Skydio are advancing drone hardware, particularly in autonomy and onboard computing for inspections.
  • Static and dynamic geofencing can eliminate the need for onboard sensors, reducing drone weight and simplifying manufacturing.
  • As cloud processing improves and latency decreases, more drone functions can be performed off the drone, resulting in lighter drones and longer flight times.

Pricing and business model (00:25:16)

  • Aerodome's drones are more cost-effective than helicopters, with an average cost of $622,000.
  • Aerodome offers a complete solution that includes software, hardware, and services, all under one contract with a subscription fee.
  • The cheapest package for one station costs around $300,000 per year.
  • The pricing can be layered over time based on the number of radars, drones, and drone stations needed.

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Object tracking and combining technologies (00:29:00)

  • Rahul Sidhu, from Aerodome, discusses the potential of rapid drone response for improving public safety.
  • Key drone components being developed include predictive object tracking, object classification, and autonomous agency.
  • Privacy concerns, especially facial recognition, are recognized and taken into account.
  • Integrating existing technologies like automated license plate reading with drone response can enhance public safety.
  • Rapid drone response is crucial for deterring crimes and preventing further offenses, as stolen vehicles are often linked to additional criminal activities.
  • Drones can proactively monitor areas, identify suspicious activities and individuals, and assist law enforcement in apprehending criminals and collecting evidence.
  • By responding to dangerous situations first, drones can reduce the risk to human officers.
  • Rahul Sidhu's previous company, which sold to public safety, faced fundraising challenges due to the nature of the industry.
  • Despite the challenges, Sidhu's current company, Aerodome, has received significant venture interest and support from firms like Andreessen Horowitz and 2048 Ventures.
  • The shift towards investing in defense and public safety has made it easier for companies like Aerodome to secure funding.

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Starting Aerodome during the pandemic and protests in 2020. Finding a moderate voice through the All-In podcast (00:38:46)

  • Rahul Sidhu, a brown police officer and CEO of Aerodome, faced challenges in 2020, including a failed business acquisition, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the George Floyd protests.
  • Sidhu experienced an identity crisis due to racial tensions and misunderstandings during that time.
  • He found solace in the All-In podcast's reasonable and problem-solving content, emphasizing the importance of intellectual honesty and challenging ideas for fair discussions.
  • Sidhu discusses the future of public safety using rapid drone response systems, highlighting the importance of nuance in discussions, particularly regarding the war in Ukraine and policing.
  • He emphasizes the challenges faced by police officers and the need for cameras to ensure accountability and protection.
  • Sidhu criticizes the mainstream media for promoting bias and preventing balanced discussions.
  • Drones can increase patrol officers' efficiency, potentially reducing the number of police officers needed and the budget required for public safety.

The importance of intellectual honesty, steel-manning arguments, and not being married to a single solution as a leader (00:45:57)

  • Intellectual honesty is crucial for leaders.
  • Steel-manning arguments involves considering opposing viewpoints and being open to being wrong.
  • Leaders should focus on solving problems rather than being attached to specific solutions.
  • The market can determine which solution is most viable, even if it's not the leader's preferred choice.

Potential future capabilities and focus on de-escalation (00:47:46)

  • Drones could potentially be used to drop nets on emotionally disturbed individuals to prevent harm to themselves or others.
  • The company does not plan to get involved in any intervention coming from drones, as it could be a slippery slope.
  • There is a need for increased opportunities for non-lethal intervention and de-escalation in policing.
  • Verbal Judo, the art of de-escalation through communication, can be an effective tool for police officers.
  • Non-lethal options such as tasers, pepper spray, bean bag guns, and rubber bullets have varying degrees of effectiveness and none are 100% reliable.

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