A new drone home security system keeps a watchful eye over your property while you sleep. The Sunflower Home Awareness System, designed by a Swiss startup company based in Palo Alto, California, includes smart lights and flying cameras. Its solar-powered lights, which can detect motion, sounds and vibrations, communicate with you– via push notifications – whenever they sense unusual activity. On your request, the unmanned aerial vehicle flies into action to livestream what it’s seeing to your mobile phone. Alex Pachikov, founder and CEO of Sunflower Labs, explains why you’ll sleep safe and sound with this eye in the sky.

What is the The Sunflower Home Awareness System?

The Sunflower Home Awareness System is a new type of home security system. It is built to provide you with an insight into what is happening around your home. We use a set of very advanced sensors that we call Sunflower Smart Lights to detect motion, vibration and sound. If we detect something unusual, we will notify the owner and let them send out our Sunflower Flying Camera, an autonomous quadcopter that will fly out to take a look and send the user a live video stream.

Why did you decided to develop a security system like this?

My co-founder and I wanted to build a system for our own homes. We found that unexplained outside activity is what causes us and our family some anxiety. We wanted to build a system to help us investigate such events, without requiring us to install dozens of cameras. We were both huge drone enthusiasts and wanted to build a unique and modern solution to this very common problem.

How does The Sunflower Home Awareness System work?

The Sunflower Smart Lights are the front line of defense. When placed around the property, particularly near doors, passageways or other areas where you could use some additional security and light, they add another layer of security. The smart lights are beautiful garden lights, but they are also very advanced sensors. Each unit contains several dozen sensors that can detect motion in 360º, the direction and speed of motion, as well as an estimated height of the object. Each unit also has a microphone that detects unusual or unexpected sounds and noise, and a very sensitive vibration sensor (called a geophone), which is capable of detecting vibrations and identifying footsteps. All the sensors work together to detect, triangulate and identify activity on your property. Once they detect something, they can react on their own. They do this by either turning up the light, flashing or emitting sounds to scare away animals. If they detect something significant, a user will get a push notification and an option to deploy the flying camera to investigate what is going on.

How do the smart lights learn what is normal and unusual activity?

Our smart lights measure all normal activity, such as people coming and going, cars driving by and parking, and animals running around. Initially the user confirms that these are normal events and our systems build a dynamic baseline of normal activity. After that, when we detect something unusual, we will ping the user to ask if this is something worth investigating. After the first week or so, we should get a good idea of normal foot and car traffic, as well as if the owner has a pet. Following that we will continue to learn and improve our system, not just based on a single user’s interactions, but also on the interactions of all the users of our product.

What does this camera do when it detects a stranger?

The Sunflower Flying Camera is a small quadcopter. It is about 12 inches (30 cm) on each side and seven inches (18 cm) tall. It uses wide, soft, tri-blade propellers to reduce the noise to a low hum. It has two cameras: one to look forward and to stream video, and one to look down for stability and landing assistance. The main flight controller is based on Pixhawk PX4 autopilot – the best, most advanced, open-source flight controller on the market. For exceptional precision, we use a cutting-edge RTK-GPS receiver combined with a ground station that is located in our housing.

How does the flying camera maintain user privacy?

We take privacy very seriously. The flying camera only captures video when it is flying. The camera is geo-fenced to your property. And it goes to great lengths to only point the camera at your property as it flies. It actually turns in flight to look away from your neighbors, and to maximize the amount of time the camera is pointing at the event that was detected.

What does the near future hold for this system?

Some of the ideas we are currently developing include letting the smart lights set the mood for your house with holiday themes and colors. We call this ‘party mode’ and we think it will be a great way to let homeowners enjoy their homes that much more.