Business

This SLO drone security company just got millions in investment cash. And it’s hiring

Luke Fox, CEO of WhiteFox Defense Technologies.
Luke Fox, CEO of WhiteFox Defense Technologies.

A San Luis Obispo drone airspace security company has raised $12 million in new investment funding.

WhiteFox Defense Technologies, Inc., announced in a press release that the influx of investment funds, bringing its total to $14 million, will be leveraged to launch new products, hire new employees and continue to develop its proprietary technology to advance its mission of “safely ushering in the integration of drones into the airspace.”

The company, started in 2015, is currently hiring for jobs that include engineering, marketing and operations positions.

WhiteFox’s CEO, 24-year-old Cal Poly graduate Luke Fox, said the company’s technology that redirects drones from restricted air spaces — such as prisons, military facilities, nuclear power plants and airports — can detect, identify and intercept drones.

Before founding the company, Fox led a high-performance drone manufacturing company but came to recognize the market need for drone counter-security.

“The drone industry is forecasted to have a $100 billion market opportunity by 2020,” Fox said in a phone interview. “We want to be the linchpin to integrate drones into society, and be the mechanism to manage them safely so that laws can be enforced.”

In recent years, drone laws have been passed that regulate how the unmanned planes can be used. Federal Aviation Administration rules require drones to be within the pilot’s visual line of sight and remain 400 feet or less from the ground.

WhiteFox_HotHouse_Finals-04.jpg
The WhiteFox team convenes for a meeting. Courtesy photo

Founder’s inspiration

Fox has spoken openly about his abusive childhood and wrote a foster-sibling rights bill that’s been passed into law; he also started the county’s Counter Human Trafficking Task Force.

Fox’s tough upbringing gave him insight into the criminal mind and helped inspire the company’s mission to provide defense against those who may use drones for illicit purposes, he said in a Ted Talk at Cal Poly in 2016.

“A real problem that exists is a lack of a critical infrastructure to ensure that drones aren’t used nefariously or cluelessly,” Fox told The Tribune. “Our technology will help the industry reach its full potential. We can safely remove a threat from the airspace and not only steer the plane out of harm’s way, but safely land it.”

Potential illegal drone use includes terrorism, smuggling of contraband into prisons, surveillance over private property and interference with first responders in fires and other emergencies, according to various news reports.

Whitefox’s system requires no training or human intervention and can be integrated fully with existing security systems, the company said in a press release.

WhiteFox currently has 41 employees with over 14,000 square feet of office space. It doesn’t list its business address in SLO for security reasons. Fox was named one of Forbes magazine’s Top 30 under 30 for 2019 and one of the Tribune’s Top 20 under 40 in 2017.

The business chose investors who shares its mission of advancing drone technology to benefit society. They include: JAM Capital, LLC; Taylor Frigon Capital Partners; Stage Venture Partners; Okapi Venture Capital; Serra Ventures; and OCA Ventures.

“Crucially, WhiteFox’s technology also offers customers the ability to protect against reckless drone use, while enabling ‘friendly’ drones to fly freely — all without any human intervention,” said Jeff Bocan, Partner at Okapi Venture Capital in a statement.

Take an aerial tour of the newly renovated Pismo Beach Pier before it opens to the public on Saturday for the Clam Festival. It closed in March 2017 as part of an $8.7 million overhaul of the aging structure.

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Nick Wilson covers the city of San Luis Obispo and has been a reporter at The Tribune in San Luis Obispo since 2004. He also writes regularly about K-12 education, Cal Poly, Morro Bay and Los Osos. He is a graduate of UC Santa Barbara and UC Berkeley and is originally from Ojai.
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