Meet the company that is building drones to stop gun violence

There have been 1,624 mass shootings in  the U.S. in the past 1,870 days.  Just this month, more than a dozen people died in a shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida.

That’s according to data from the Gun Violence Archive, which found that there is a mass shooting – defined as four or more people shot in one incident, not including the shooter – nine out of every 10 days on average.

But drones could change that.

Astral AR CEO & Co-Founder Leah La Salla

Leah La Salla, cofounder of Astral AR, sees a future where drones will be used to detect guns and prevent them from being used.

Astral AR is a drone company that is working on building a drone called Edna, which is equipped with sensors that can detect guns and bombs, even if they’re located behind walls.  The drone uses X-Ray Vision, Object Identification and Anomaly Detection to spot the gun.

If a gun is shot at a drone, the drone has the ability to pulverize the bullet on impact, using a laser array to superheat the air in front of bullets. And, the drone is smart enough to move in front of the gun if it is shot.

“Once the hand starts moving toward the gun, the drone starts to respond,” La Salla said. “It will try to get close to the individual that has the gun in play. The whole point of the drone is to take the bullet for you.”

While other drone companies are focusing on burrito deliveries, La Salla has her sights set on saving the world from gun violence.

“It’s amazing to attack the wicked problems with a business model that actually works,” she said. “The world needs this drone.”

Astral AR had been running on just $600,000 over the past few years, La Salla said.

“It shouldn’t even have been possible, but we did it,” she said.

But investors are taking Astral AR seriously.

The defense dronemaker is a finalist in the Women Startup Challenge, a pitch competition cohosted by Google andw U.S.-based non-profit Women Who Tech that will give winning female entrepreneurs $50,000 toward their startups.

“I’ve seen the other companies and it’s not often Astral encounters other companies that can compete with what we’re doing,” La Salla said. “But now it looks like we’re up against stiff competition.”

La Salla said that whether or not she wins the startup challenge, she knows her product will be successful, given the need for more means of stopping gun violence in the wake of more mass shootings.

“You think about Las Vegas,” she said. “They needed our drones in Vegas that night. You think of Pulse nightclub. They needed these drones.”



  • CantYouSee says:

    Great, and who decides who gets the drones? The tech works both ways, no, so the ‘mass shooter’ could be prevented from being taken down? Additionally, if a ‘mass shooter’ has one and I don’t (cause believe me, the miniaturization and incorporation of this tech will not be cheap) this would prevent me from my right of self-preservation or protection of my family. Here’s a plausible scenario. ‘Suspect’ has a knife to the neck of someone I know and neck already bleeding a bit. I draw my legally owned firearm to stop the attack and likely murder. Bullet stopping drone shows up…

    Uses ‘x-ray’ vision? So are we talking about real x-rays being zapped around? Does that mean she intends to have a radioisotope source incorporated, flying around, ready to take a bullet? Or is this using back-scatter (still requires a source) or are we talking terahertz radiation which is untested for effects on biological matter?

    Once again, someone trying to treat the symptom, rather than address the real cause of gun violence. The super wealthy will have these, schools will have to divert funds (i.e. taxpayer dollars) to adhere to some mandate, and the threat of ignored mental illness shall continue to result in violence. Might as well live in China where they aren’t allowed guns…oh yeah, people just go into schools and kill people with machetes there.

    What comes next for drone use? Well, TX has already used a UAS platform for delivery of an IED to neutralize a suspect. FBI is undoubtedly looking to utilize drones to circumvent 4th Amendment (already do with “Stingrays” and next logical step will be to incorporate that tech onto a drone platform). Considering the R&D going into brain mapping and potential for ‘reading’ at least basic thoughts, will we soon have to worry about the thought police and pre-emptive controls in the not-so-distant future?

    The irony about this whole ‘mass shooting’ thing of late, is that doctors kill and have killed more people with a prescription pad and on the operating table in the past decade than all the mass shootings combined. In 2016, more than 60,000 people OD’d and died from misuse of opiods, due to addictions caused in large part from being prescribed powerful medications. Last I looked, there’s no Constitutional Right extended to practicing medicine.
    Then there are alcohol and tobacco (again, not protected by Constitution) related deaths. The US CDC attributes about 480,000 deaths related to smoking annually, and about 80,000 deaths to alcohol annually. That’s not even accounting for the toll these take on society and tax dollars relative to medical care for them, family left behind, or things like fetal alcohol syndrome.

    Then there’s always high fat/calorie foods from fast foods allowing people to kill themselves slowly with heart disease, obesity, etc. and the medical and societal weight it incurs.

    How about the almost 600,000 deaths attributed to cancer each year in the US not to mention the medical cost and the number of people that beat it. How much of that cancer is caused by pollution due to manufacturing and byproducts released into the environment? How many of those chemicals are related to the production of the materials used in manufacturing drones?

    As an aside, firearms don’t even make the top ten for cause of death in this country, yet are by far the most vilified. Moreover, it’s estimated that police killings with firearms make up about 8% of the total.

    Last point to make is, many of these problems can be mitigated, quite effectively, if people just take a minute to look after other people. Lend a helping hand or some understanding. Not everyone has shared the same experiences, whether as a result of upbringing, social class, welfare class, etc. Some people haven’t been equipped to handle certain stresses or may be limited in cognitive function. Often there are warning signs that if they aren’t ignored, can result in a positive outcome. The latest situation in Florida, was ignored at various levels, and resulted in tragedy. This is was a systemic people problem, and trying to squash the rights of the majority to deal with the few, who fall out of the norm, is misguided and shortsighted.

  • Jason says:

    Good luck breaking the laws of physics!

  • Zach says:

    There are thousands of cases each year where guns are used for self defense. Low end estimates are 50,000 per year in the US. High estimates are over 1 million. How would this drone determine motive? How many people will die because the drone stopped them from defending themselves?

  • Terri Lynn Sullivan says:

    seeing that America’s needless drone war droning on for 18 years IS the number one cause of heartbreaking mass shootings (especially sad are those in our children’s schools) to begin with, kind of ironic to use a drone to “stop violence.” Of course, in order for anyone to understand what I am saying, they need to realize war is for profit, not protection. Stop using technology as a weapon.

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