IPVM published a report on Nightingale Security’s robotic aerial security service. IPVM is the world’s leading resource on security and video surveillance, providing news, reviews and test results on access control, alarm systems, cameras, recorders, VMS and more.
Nightingale was the first drone targeted at security, and now they are the first drone security company to receive 2 key FAA exemptions, allowing them to expand how and when they operate.Founder and CEO Jack Wu provided an update to IPVM on these exemptions, and the progress the company has made since their initial launch ~2 years ago.In this report, we examine the current generation of Nightingale drones, the FAA exemptions they claim are unique to their company, plus share a recording of a live demo and explore how this might impact the market for other drone security companies.
Nightingale offers their drones in a “robot as a service” model, where the company deploys 1 or more drones at a customer site, and provides all maintenance and repair as necessary to keep the units operational. Customers control the drone once it is deployed, either by setting automatic flight schedules, or by manual control.
The company was funded by a seed round of an undisclosed amount.
Exemption 1 – Operation At Night
The FAA prohibits operations of drones at night, which is often when security threats are highest. This regulation falls under section 107.29, and also restricts drone use during ‘civil’ twilight, unless the drone has an anti-collision light visible for 3 miles.
Nightingale received an exemption to the 107.29 requirement, allowing them to operate their drones 24/7, which is key to providing full time coverage of a site using the drone for security
Exemption 2 – Operation Of Multiple Drones
Drones require a human operator to oversee the operation of the unit, even if it is flying in an autonomous mode, a 1:1 ratio of operators to drones is required by the FAA, per requirement 107.35. While this is generally not an issue for hobbyists or commercial applications like aerial photography, it can be a limitation for companies that want to deploy drones as guard alternatives. The drone guarding model often involves multiple drones at a site, or a remote operator overseeing multiple sites. Maintaining the 1:1 operator to drone ratio drives up costs.
Nightingale received an exemption for this requirement , allowing 1 pilot or observer to be in command of multiple units.
Only Security-Oriented Drone Company With These Exemptions
According to the FAA’s waiver database, there are several drone operators with daylight operation exemptions, but only 6 other companies with combined daylight and multi-drone exemptions. Half of these are large companies like X(Google’s R&D subsidiary), Intel, and Disney. Others are professional aerial photography, and a special effects production studio.
Operation In Other Countries
Nightingale says they can assist customers outside of the US in securing similar waivers or clearances as necessary, utilizing their experience with this process in the US. They stated the US, Canada, and many South American countries have similar requirements, which helps facilitate the process.
Nightingale’s drone uses an airframe that they designed specific to their requirements. They stated this allows them more flexibility around areas like battery capacity, sensor options and weight/flight time.
Flight time is 30 minutes, with a 45 minute recharge time, and the drone can reach a top speed of 60MPH. The drone is configured with sensors such as GPS, cameras, or microphones that are tailored to customer requirements. Nightingale drones use photogrammetry or lidar (depending on location/topology) to build a 3D map of the area for obstacle avoidance.
Live Demo Recorded
The drones are programmed for flight and controlled via an application that Nightingale has also built. Customers can enter a flight path, and define parameters like flight speed, altitude, hover over areas, etc. through the interface.
Frequency-hopping encrypted communications are used between the drone and the base station/control software. Nightingale says it is “almost impossible for enemies to jam the entire communication”, making the drones less susceptible to electronic anti-drone devices. Additionally, there is an LTE radio, allowing an alternative communications path if the primary link is lost or interrupted.
The company is selling direct to end users and has customers in California, Florida, and Texas, as well as Brazil. They are also exploring partnerships with security integrators to expand their sales reach.
Outlook For Nightingale
Much of Nightingale’s future likely depends on their ability to raise additional money to grow the business, however the FAA exemptions and relatively deep experience in the emerging market of aerial security should help their efforts. Additionally, the viability of drones in security still needs to be proven beyond niche applications to create a large enough market to make the business viable.
Author: Brian Karas, Published on Mar 10, 2017