Zohar Halachmi of D-Fend Solutions: “Safety ”

D-Fend Solutions focuses on an acute threat, the most dangerous drones, so that organizations around the world can maintain full control of drone incidents in complex environments and be prepared for future threats. EnforceAir, our flagship offering, automatically executes radio frequency (RF) cyber-takeovers of rogue drones for safe landings and safe outcomes. As a part […]

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D-Fend Solutions focuses on an acute threat, the most dangerous drones, so that organizations around the world can maintain full control of drone incidents in complex environments and be prepared for future threats. EnforceAir, our flagship offering, automatically executes radio frequency (RF) cyber-takeovers of rogue drones for safe landings and safe outcomes.

As a part of our series about cutting edge technological breakthroughs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Zohar Halachmi, Chairman & CEO, D-Fend Solutions.

Zohar Halachmi is the Chairman and CEO at D-Fend Solutions, which offers the leading cyber-drone takeover solution to help organizations protect against rogue drones. Before co-founding D-Fend Solutions, he was the founder and CEO of multiple mobile and enterprise application start-up companies. He also held VP and C-level positions at global and public telecommunication enterprises. While managing multi-disciplinary large and small-scale organizations, Zohar created fast-growth and profitable businesses, bringing innovative solutions and services to the market. He graduated cum laude with a B.Sc. from the Technion — Israel Institute of Technology and M.Sc. from Tel Aviv University, and was a lecturer at both institutions.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Like many other people, I have been fascinated to watch how drones are reshaping society in so many ways. Perhaps earlier than some people, I also quickly realized the associated dangers and threats posed by rogue drones, and I understood that a few catastrophic attacks or incidents could undo the progress brought about by authorized drones. I found myself fascinated with becoming a part of this modern new cyber world, which I knew could not be governed by traditional military or societal conventions. They are simply not fitting for powerful technology that is accessible to millions of people around the world.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

There are many exciting stories, but due to the nature of our business and the types of organizations we have worked with, I cannot share “the most interesting” one.

I have been in some intriguing meetings with our clients, including high-level government agencies across departments, such as military, federal law enforcement and homeland security bodies, as well as major international airports.

I also find it exciting to see our system working in real-time during major events, including once at a stadium that contained over 55,000 people.

Can you tell us about the cutting-edge technological breakthroughs that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?

D-Fend Solutions focuses on an acute threat, the most dangerous drones, so that organizations around the world can maintain full control of drone incidents in complex environments and be prepared for future threats. EnforceAir, our flagship offering, automatically executes radio frequency (RF) cyber-takeovers of rogue drones for safe landings and safe outcomes.

Some counter-drone technologies are good at detecting drones, but cannot mitigate them, and vice versa. Only takeover counter-drone technology provides system operators with complete control of the end-to-end process.

One of the most cutting-edge aspects of our technology is its “Identify: Friend or Foe” (IFF) capabilities. D-Fend Solutions’ system passively and continuously scans and detects unique communication signals used by commercial drones. Once detected, our system extracts the drone identifiers for the IFF process and decodes the telemetry signal to extract the drone position with GPS accuracy. This includes the take-off position near the pilot in real-time. Authorized drones can continue to function without interruption while rogue drones are taken over and landed safely. Continuity is preserved as communications, commerce, transportation and everyday life smoothly proceed.

How do you think this might change the world?

The world is already changing quite quickly. Small, unmanned aerial systems (sUASs), also known as drones, are bringing tangible value and benefits to millions of users around the world and are reshaping the way modern societies function. Drones are transforming operations across various fields and industries. But as drones continue to proliferate, there is a small percentage of bad actors, as well as inexperienced operators, who can cause tremendous damage. The drone threat shut down Gatwick airport in the UK for 33 hours and ended up costing over £50m in 2018. Four Major League Baseball (MLB) games were disrupted in August and September of this year due to unauthorized drones and Air Force One had a close call with a drone back in August while the president was aboard.

By mitigating this threat and helping to avert potential tragedies, counter-drone companies like D-Fend Solutions are supporting today’s drone-powered society.

Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?

Traditional counter-drone solutions achieved some success in either drone detection or mitigation, but they were unable to offer an end-to-end solution and they came with some side effects. For instance, jamming-based solutions usually lack detection abilities, and they block all drones, including authorized drones in the area. Kinetic solutions are often missing the detection component and can cause collateral damage, either from the projectile or the plummeting drone.

From a cyber perspective, privacy is an important guiding principle for D-Fend Solutions. In addition to safeguarding human lives and property, preserving citizens’ privacy and complying with applicable regulations is paramount. D-Fend Solutions does not analyze or collect drone video data or collect private digital information.

Privacy is a critical issue in modern, digital societies. Counter-drone detection systems are a form of surveillance technology, so they constitute a privacy risk if misused, or if the data they collect is not handled properly. For instance, wide-area camera systems could inadvertently record individuals, or vehicles on the ground, that are not relevant to the counter-drone operation. Additionally, private digital information can be collected from a drone, either at the point of detection and tracking, or during forensic analysis. This issue can get tricky because different countries have their own privacy regulations relating to drones without a universal standard.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?

Way back in 2014, a soccer match between Serbia and Albania was stopped when a drone carrying an Albanian flag appeared inside the stadium and sparked a major brawl.

I think 2018 was a tipping point in terms of counter-drone awareness. The Gatwick airport incident that I mentioned previously was a tremendous illustration of the damage that drones can cause to a business. That same year, two drones detonated explosives in an attempted assassination on Nicolás Maduro, the president of Venezuela. And in the UK, seven members of a gang used drones to fly more than £500,000 worth of drugs into prisons.

What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?

D-Fend Solutions is currently focused on market education. Some organizations have been misled into thinking that the most important thing in a counter-drone solution is how many different types of drones it can detect and mitigate. This is untrue, as many drones can only fly short distances and cannot carry a heavy payload, so they do not pose much of a threat.

Additionally, many counter-drone solutions excel at either detection or mitigation, but they do not preserve continuity. Jamming-based solutions can affect communication systems in the area and kinetic solutions require stoppages and disruptions to ensure that no one is hurt by the projectile that knocks down the drone, and that collateral damage is minimized.

What have you been doing to publicize this idea? Have you been using any innovative marketing strategies?

Like many companies, our early years were spent really focusing on developing the technology and getting it deployed quickly. Now, as we make plans to scale-up, expand our global footprint and continue growing, we have begun investing more heavily in marketing. We have built a talented team that is currently refreshing and rebranding our website, changing the company’s aesthetic, building the foundation for robust digital campaigns and creating marketing collateral — all with a focus on lead generation.

Our messaging is centered around four core concepts, all of which facilitate continuity for our clients:

  • Control — the best way to control the drone threat and ensure continuity is to take control of the drone
  • Safety — a safe landing or fend off of the rogue drone is the best possible outcome for safe airspace and continuity
  • Focus — counter-drone measures must focus on the real risk, the most dangerous drones
  • Future — the constantly evolving drone threat requires always staying a drone threat ahead

None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I am very grateful for our investors. Without their belief in D-Fend Solutions’ people and technology, we would not be in the strong position we are in today. The same is true of our earliest customers. Most companies are willing to become the 100th customer, but how many people are willing to take a chance on being the first or second customer of a new technology company? I appreciate their courage and willingness to take a risk — which has paid off for them.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I get up every day inspired and filled with energy, because I believe so strongly in the mission of keeping people safe from the drone threat and enabling the new drone society. I truly believe that our technology is already making the world a better place and will have an even more significant impact in the years to come. I am also fulfilled that I am helping to create jobs for intelligent, hardworking and creative people.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. It is OK to show your fun side — especially earlier in one’s career, people think they must be serious all the time. At D-Fend, we deal with life-or-death security issues. But we also have a very bright young software developer who began bringing rubber ducks into his office at our headquarters. It caught on and now yellow rubber ducks have become a visual theme throughout the HQ buildings. It is possible, and even desirable, to achieve great results and have fun along the way.
  2. Different cultures may have different values — D-Fend is headquartered in Israel, where innovation and out-of-the-box thinking are often valued more than conformity. Yet, we have managed to find great success working with squared-away American military personnel and in an Asian country where the leadership prefers to stick with the original plan. As with all relationships, common goals, empathy and good communication go a long way. And diversity makes things interesting and more fun.
  3. Never stop adapting — like everyone else, I obviously did not know that the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic would pose so many problems to businesses worldwide. Suddenly, D-Fend Solutions, like many other businesses, had to transition our entire workforce to work from home (WFH) and support our customers more remotely. By moving strategically and applying various innovations, we have made it work.

Similarly, new drones are constantly being released, which means that the drone threat is always evolving. Adaption is the name of the game.

  1. You are only as good as your people –people are quick to give the CEO credit, but I am fully aware of the importance of every employee in the organization. In fact, I still sit in on all the interviews for positions based out of our headquarters. It is difficult to fix a bad work culture once it sets in. It is better to really invest time and resources in hiring bright, hardworking, collaborative people from the get-go and then empowering them to shine in their roles.
  2. Nothing beats hard work — as I said, new drones are released to the market often and D-Fend Solutions’ engineers have to figure out how to reverse engineer them ASAP. This is a very complex and exhausting process that requires multidisciplinary expertise and long nights. But our teams work long and hard, until they succeed, because they are passionate about the mission.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

My movement is clear. I want to take the lead on keeping people safe from a potentially dangerous threat while helping to enable the transformative drone wave that is reshaping so many enterprises, and really society.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson” quote? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

There are two quotes I always use in business talks or presentations: “Success breeds complacency. Complacency breeds failure. Only the paranoid survive.” — Andy Grove, former CEO, Intel

“It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” — Charles Darwin, geologist and biologist

Both quotes hammer home the same critical message: never stop striving and adapting. That philosophy has been a guiding light for me.

Some very well-known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

Fortunately, D-Fend Solutions has been successful at raising funds and we are often approached by investors. We seek out long-term relationships, because our goal is to build up D-Fend into a large company. The process has been relatively straight-forward: we explain the drone proliferation, detail some of the recent drone incidents that seem to be continually making news, explain the potential ramifications of a major drone incident, highlight our unique technology and then outline the many different business verticals we are targeting.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

I would be pleased if people would follow D-Fend Solutions on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. I will try to post more on LinkedIn in the coming months.

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.

Thank you for interviewing me and giving me a chance to talk about things I am passionate about!

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