ParaZero’s innovation comes at an opportune time
Over the past two years, drones have been filling the skies, adding their buzz and new questions of safety for their use. The saying goes that what goes up must come down and the problem comes when a malfunction affects the drone, endangering those below it.
One Israeli company has introduced a new smart parachute that they say will bring drones to the ground in one piece, and has the potential to make the widespread introduction of drones just a bit safer for the public.
Founded in 2012 by CSO Amir Tzaliach, ParaZero is located in the southern city of Be’er Sheva. CEO Eden Attias joined later as a partner in the company. Attias comes from a long history with aviation, having achieved the rank of brigadier general in the Israeli Air Force before retiring.
As CMO Oren Aviram tells Geektime, the idea for the parachute concept came up during a previous drone related venture when the founders were out testing one of their UAVs. Suddenly an error occurred and the drone fell out of the sky, almost killing one of them. Out of this near miss, the founders decided to build ParaZero with the focus of improving drone safety.
ParaZero provides technology to the larger manufacturers and operators, giving their clients custom designs according to the type of drone with which they are working. Due to the specificity needed to adapt their solutions to the drones in use, the company plans on staying out of the consumer market for the time being, situating themselves solidly as a B2B provider.
ParaZero’s SafeAir solution works through an integration with the drones, monitoring for trouble. If their system senses that there is a danger, it can shut off the engines and activate the parachute.
One of the factors that differentiates ParaZero from others in this field is the system that activates the parachute. Whereas others may rely on airflow and speed passing through the device or springs to fire off the parachute, ParaZero’s patented technology utilizes physics, using gas to shoot out metal weights that are attached to the edges of the parachute to ensure a safe landing.
When working with other systems, Aviram says that the drone would have to fall roughly 15 meters for the parachute to open effectively. However with their system, they are able to have a full canopy opened even when the device is sitting on the ground
ParaZero’s innovation comes at an opportune time, as regulators are starting to look at drone safety, seeking solutions for protecting people and property on the ground.
While redundancies are built into drones to avoid collision situations, Airam says that there can always be other malfunctions.
Aviram believes that regulators are still playing a bit of catch up, noting that the industry has simply grown too fast for them to have a real handle on. He believes that changes are coming, pointing to the demand by the FAA for drone owners to register their machines with the government.
One interesting aspect that he mentions about their system is the ability to shut off and land safely a drone that wanders into forbidden territory. This can include airspaces like an airport or the White House, both of which present dangerous scenarios.
As regulators begin to get into the game, especially for the corporate owners of drones, they will likely start asking more intensively about what kinds of precautions are being taken to protect the public, looking for safety features like ParaZero’s.
Up to this point, ParaZero has received angel funding, getting them through the seed stage and development of their product. Still before their Series A, the company is likely to look for new capital in the coming months.
They currently have a list of five clients, comprised of China’s DJI, 3D Robotics, Martin Jetpack, and two which remain unnamed, although Aviram hints that one is a well known multinational online retailer. Interestingly in the case of Martin Jetpack, ParaZero is moving into the field of manned aircraft, a challenge that requires development for significantly heavier and mission critical solutions.
While they have been approached for military and security purposes, the company is focused on the premium commercial market.
ParaZero’s ability to provide a parachute solution that is capable of opening at very low altitude places them at a very critical juncture for the drone industry. As companies like Google, Amazon, and others are turning to drones to carry out deliveries, they will be flying their devices at low heights over populated areas, should the regulators allow them to progress.
With good reason, the public has concerns regarding the idea of drones buzzing above their heads. A drone of even a few pounds falling from the height of 10-15 meters could cause serious injury, a fact of which the companies looking to introduce them into their employ are well aware.
In the next few years, we should expect to see more drones in our lives. Respected investor Ben Horowitz told Geektime back in November that drones are going to be extremely important. ParaZero brings an innovative approach to increasing safety in this space, providing some much needed peace of mind and a good example that the industry should be looking to adopt.
Whether it be for security purposes, monitoring traffic, delivering our packages, or uses that have yet to occur to us, having a solid solution like ParaZero for when they malfunction will play a critical role in making this scenario a reality.