Grant Jordan was a student in the CSE Master's program because he wanted to focus on computer security and its potential, after earning his undergraduate degree in computer science at MIT and testing anti-drone technology at the Air Force Research Lab. While at UC San Diego, he and fellow student Paul Wicks (M.S. '14), both working in the security group of CSE Prof. Stefan Savage, co-founded an IT-security consulting firm called Somerset Recon. Then in 2015, Jordan and Wicks co-created a second, security-related startup: SkySafe. As CEO of SkySafe, Jordan made headlines on April 19 when one of the top venture-capital firms in Silicon Valley, Andreessen Horowitz, agreed to lead a $3 million investment in the fledgling company.
"I think security is one of the most exciting and diverse areas of computer science," said Jordan in the wake of the announcement. "It cuts across all other research areas and every project is new. What other area lets you work on such diverse subjects as spam, underground economies, Bitcoin, Internet of Things devices, and drones, all in the course of just a few years?"
In a nutshell, SkySafe has developed technology that will allow institutional users to disable drones flying in areas that are off-limits, or in areas that may be accessible but which are threatened by drones flying dangerously. The technology leverages radio waves to override the instructions from a drone owner's remote control unit, thus taking control of the airborne device.
In an article posted on LinkedIn April 20, Jordan (at left) noted that there have been no effective tools to control airspace and protect people and places from drone threats. "Our goal is to help drones be a positive change in society by improving safety, management and coordination," said Jordan. "We're building the tools to let facilities properly control and protect their airspace. Our system detects, identifies, tracks and takes action when needed... to secure the area, allowing the safe operation of authorized drones and stopping dangerous ones."
In an interview with TechCrunch, Jordan also noted that, "Between that security work and [my] drone work, we saw a growing threat in the drone space." He added that SkySafe is initially targeting organizations such as "airports, prisons, stadiums, other event venues, border proection, critical infrastructure."
Added the SkySafe CEO: "The number of places that have seen incidents in the past year has grown tremendously."
According to Jordan, being part of Stefan Savage's security research group was an important stepping stone to SkySafe. "Stefan Savage made an incredible impact on my interest in cyber security," he noted. "He's such an incredibly engaging, insightful, and creative thinker. I was incredibly lucky that he took an interest in me and invited me to work on his team; I couldn't have found a more awesome research group."
SkySafe is currently inviting partnerships or test deployments of the drone security system, and the company has plans to launch SkySafe in the second half of 2016, initially to qualified public-safety customers.
Visit the SkySafe website.