Timothy Bean, Chief Executive Officer, Fortem Technologies, was deeply affected by the “terrorist events” of 9/11. So after 30 years of being in Silicon Valley, Bean, a software engineer, became part of a company that launched signals to catch terrorists. He claims that it ultimately led to the capture of Osama Bin Laden.
After that company was sold, Bean set up Fortem Technologies in 2016 to build drones in Utah.
“Two years after starting Fortem, Boeing had 50 people doing due diligence for eight months and selected us, invested in us and joined the board,” Bean said at the recently concluded Dubai Air Show.
Last year, Toshiba invested in Fortem and is “putting a whole team to sell this in Asia and Europe.”
Bean claims that it is standard for his company’s Drone Hunter to toe away the drone it has captured adding that “we are the only ones in the world who do it.”
Fortem has a number of resellers in India, is selling in India to the Armed Forces and state police, and is open to start manufacturing in the country.
In September this year the Indian Union Cabinet approved a production-linked incentive scheme for drone and drone components which seeks to provide incentives for manufacturers.
Q: Is Fortem Technologies willing to set up a drone manufacturing facility in India?
A: Absolutely. We have a business manager in India and a number of resellers and we have done demonstrations for a number of customers. There is a lot of interest in India. We are working through our programmes in India. They have requested to see whether they can do some manufacturing in India. We are open to that. But we have not selected anybody yet.Q: What kind of manufacturing will you be looking at?
A: Basically to assemble the Drone Hunter from all the various parts.Q: So all the parts will be imported from various parts of the world and assembled in India?
Q: Will that help bring down the cost of the Drone Hunter?
A: It depends on the manufacturer we select and how much they charge. Right now we do the manufacturing ourselves in our Utah facility. We have to compare those costs to what the costs will be in India.
Q: What are the advantages of the Drone Hunter vis-à-vis other drones?
A: The Drone Hunter is the only drone in the market that captures other drones effectively well above the 80 percent capture rate. It is also the only drone in the world which is radar guided, which allows it to operate very well day and night.
You can also launch multiple Drone Hunters at the same time because a lot of drone attacks are multi-vector or there are many hostile drones coming to the site. It is no different than if multiple Russian MIGs are coming in then you need to dispatch multiple F35s.
Q: What about the costs? One of the biggest issues that American companies face is that they are not cost competitive in the Indian market.
A. Drones are being used by criminals, terrorists, and hostile governments to inflict damage to kill people from far, so what is the cost of defence? Each customer has to make his own judgement. Compared to other drone mitigation systems we are very inexpensive. The Drone Hunter is reusable as it is not a one-time missile that blows up. It shoots a net for $35. It can shoot hundreds and hundreds of these nets over and over again. You can use it thousands of times a year for multiple years.
We have customers who have been using Drone Hunters since 2018. The Drone Hunter changes quite rapidly because there are so many technological advances in the industry. But what we build and what you buy is something which is built for reuse.
Q: Can you give an indication of the price range of the Drone Hunter, what it weighs and the capability?
A: A lot of that I cannot disclose because of export rules.
Q: Recently India faced an attack from a drone at an airport. Would the Drone Hunter have been able to prevent that attack?
A: I am not familiar with that exact attack but I am familiar with other airports which have had similar problems. With our detection system we see the drones 24/7 straight up in the sky so we never lose sight. Other systems may see it at a long distance because they see their field of view, they do not see it when it is over their airport.
We will see it when it is right above the airport or when it is long distance and we will track it all the time. Typically what happens is that when a drone is detected the air traffic controller will tell aeroplanes to not land. After which they will launch the Drone Hunter to go remove the drone.
Our radar system will tell the Drone Hunter where to send the cue. The Drone Hunter will autonomously launch towards that area; it will do a sweeping motion to find the drone with its on-board radar and then it will pursue the drone till it is captured and then toe it away.(Ashwini Phadnis was at the Dubai Air Show at the invitation of flydubai)