Photo: Andreas Smith
Northwest Florida Roundup
DeTect adapts its bird-tracking radar to follow drones
Panama City-based DeTect got its start in 2003 designing and manufacturing bird detection radar systems for the U.S. Air Force. Recently, the company has evolved to track airborne drones. DeTect CEO Gary Andrews spoke to Florida Trend about the company’s technologies and growth prospects.
Q: What was the inspiration for DeTect?
A: The U.S. Air Force alone sustains more than a half-billion dollars a year in damage from bird strikes. (Bird strikes cost the civilian aviation industry more than $1.2 billion a year). And it’s long been known that radar can detect birds up to a certain range. So we asked ourselves: What if you built a radar to specifically look for birds, where we could provide better warnings, see them farther away, day or night in 360 degrees, be reliable and determine the actual level of the hazard?
Q: How effective is DeTect’s bird detection radar?
A: Our radar system can see and track a medium- sized bird three or four miles away.
Q: How broad is your market?
A: We’ve built and delivered over 250 radar systems worldwide since 2008. About 55% of our projects are systems we’ve delivered outside the U.S. Q: What prompted your move into the drone detection business?
A: We discovered our bird detection radar was really good at tracking small aircraft, ultra-lights and drones. Initially, we started doing work with the U.S. Border Patrol and the Department of Homeland Security to help them detect ultra-lights being used to smuggle drugs into the country. And then, a couple of years ago, the whole small drone industry explosion started, which created a variety of concerns by airports and private companies, as well as by individuals worried about drones hovering over their houses.
Q: How bad is the problem of civilianoperated drones flying over private property, spying on businesses and violating borders?
A: With drones it’s the Wild West, and, frankly, it’s an arms race. You build a better detection network, and they build a better mousetrap.
Q: So there’s a market out there for drone detection?
A: We’re looking for our niche in the radar security sector, and we’re convinced drone detection is that niche.
Innovation Med Alert
Jellyfish Health is a Panama City-based medical software company started by local entrepreneur Dave Dyell in October 2014. The company has developed easy-to-use software applications that give patients advance notice if their doctor appointment is delayed. The app also can alert users to the wait times at local urgent care centers. Dyell recently announced the company is expanding into Panama City and will add up to 100 jobs over the next few years.