For those who don’t know who is Kevin Finisterre @KF, here is a quick introduction:
Kevin Finisterre is a self-taught hacker security researcher, Systems Analyst Digital Munitions, who likes to pride himself on successfully hacking into everything from police car DVR systems to casino electronic cash boxes and money counters. But the latest victim of his “work” is UAV industry.
In the past year Kevin has been trying hard to attack DJI, the biggest drone manufacturer in the world, blaming them for selling drones through the dealers in the Middle East, hacking into DJI’s software and now trashing their bounty program which offers up to $30 000 for the report on cyber vulnerabilities. Kevin has a long story to tell about the the Bounty Program and the $30K that he refused because he didn’t want to sign NDA. It is a touching story (especially the Tesla Model 3 order cancel), but let’s take a look at the things from another angle and take our own guess on the reason behind the refusal of the reward.
One thing that cannot be ignored or turned a blind eye to is the fact that Finisterre is working for Department 13, a company that focuses on the development and production of the anti-drone systems. Considering the exponential growth growth of the drone market, demand on the anti-UAV systems is naturally going up as well. Officials of the sensitive spots, such as the airports, prisons and military bases would like to be able to protect their objects from espionage, smuggling and other kinds of illegal flights. But shooting the drone down with a rifle might not be the smartest and safest solution of this issue because it is impossible to identify the pilot and a 1-2 kg drone falling from few hundred meters can be very dangerous. That is why the anti-drone equipment like the Mesmer becomes handy.
Understanding the situation, DJI has made an AeroScope, their own solution that allows official parties to track DJI drones and identify the pilot, take off/RTH point and GPS coordinates. Thus, now DJI is not only making drones but also anti-drone systems, which puts other counter-UAS companies like Department 13 in an awkward situation. To see how awkward the situation is you can take a look at the stock price of Department 13 before and after AeroScope release.
20% drop is certainly not a pleasant experience for D13. But what does it have to do with the KF? Finisterre being a part of the Department 13 most likely has a chance to make way more money than $30 000 bounty. According to the SUAS News , one piece of D13 equipment costs about $340 000 and client should add $44 000 of yearly service fee on top of it. Meanwhile, DJI didn’t set up a price for an AeroScope, but it is expected to cost no more than $5000, which is 80 times less than D13 Mesmer anti-drone.
We don’t know the margin percentage of this product, but selling 1000 pieces of the D13 equipment can bring about $340MM USD (Brutto). Imagine getting 1-2% of this income. Having a chance to make few hundred thousand dollars, would you just take $30 000 and walk away? -Me neither. Understanding the position and looking at the things from @KF’s and D13’s point of view, it is more beneficial to keep running anti-DJI campaign and promote Department 13 Mesmer.