BlackBerry, a company known for its failing smartphone business, is now getting into the drone industry. The anti-drone industry, at that.
The Canadian company that rose to fame in the 1990s and 2000s for its smartphones, in June announced a partnership with Dedrone, a counter-drone tech company based in San Francisco, Calif.
The partnership will merge BlackBerry’s AtHoc software into Dedrone products to enable real-time secure alerts when a malicious or unauthorized drone is detected in an airspace.
“Drones are one of the many IoT endpoints that add to the growing chaos that security leaders must navigate,” “said Christoph Erdmann, Senior Vice President of Secure Communications, BlackBerry. “We’re excited to partner with Dedrone to offer a critical solution.”
How Blackberry found itself in the (anti) drone industry
As its smartphone business began waning — largely in light of the iPhone’s success — BlackBerry pivoted to become an enterprise software and services company. As part of that transition, BlackBerry acquired a number of software and services companies including the 2015 acquisition of AtHoc.
AtHoc is a crisis communications software platform that enables people, devices and organizations to exchange critical information in real time during business continuity and life safety operations through mobile devices, desktops, digital displays, radios, IP phones, sirens, fire panels and speakers to facilitate collaboration and enhance situational awareness.
And now, AtHoc will be able to provide alerts when drones are in the area.
“When an unauthorized drone enters restricted airspace…BlackBerry AtHoc’s advanced alerting capabilities combined with Dedrone’s drone detection technology, enable our customers to react precisely and in time to control the situation,” said Aaditya Devarakonda, Dedrone’s President and Chief Business Officer.
The alerts will display information gathered by Dedrone’s technology, which uses machine-learning software plus hardware sensors and electronic attack methods like smart jamming, and defeat weapons to detect (presumably unwanted) drones in the area.
What is Dedrone?
Dedrone, which was founded in 2014, works with customers including the U.S. military, allied and coalition forces, correctional facilities and airports. They also work with operators of major events like the PGA tour team to prevent rogue drones flying over the golf course. Late last year, Dedrone launched DroneTracker 4.1, a software platform that can detect drones by way of sensor fusion technology that enables PTZ cameras to automatically verify radar detection data. It’s capable of recognizing and classifying RF, WiFi, and non-WiFi drones so security providers can detect drones in their area and then independently decide a course of action for how to confront the rogue drone or its operator.
Dedrone also creates a product called Dedrone Defense, which provides anti-drone services for U.S. federal agencies, including the Department of Defense. The U.S. government also uses Dedrone hardware called DroneDefender, which uses radio control frequency disruption and is a lightweight, point-and-shoot system with a demonstrated range of 400 meters.
What the BlackBerry partnership means
By partnering with BlackBerry’s AtHoc technology, Dedrone customers now have access to more granular alerting functionality, such as the ability to created automate, highly targeted alerts based on a range of criteria, including flight zones, drone behavior, and user groups. Dedrone says that can allow customers to have “a more efficient, focused response to the presence of an unauthorized drone.”
BlackBerry, which is based in Waterloo, Ontario, is increasingly pivoting to software, as indicated by the Dedrone news. Software and services revenue accounted for 99% of its top line last quarter, up from 96% a year earlier.
Still, BlackBerry has had a rough go. BlackBerry shares are down 15% year-to-date and are down 31% over the past 12 months at a time when the broader market is on a hot streak. The S&P 500 — while down slightly at just 1% year-to-date — is up 11% over the past 12 months.