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Funded By Kevin Durant, Founded By Ex-Google Engineers: Meet The Drone Startup Scoring Millions In Government Surveillance Contracts

Published: June 5, 2020
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Source: forbes

With civil unrest erupting across the U.S., protesters vocalizing their support for the black community are being threatened with military force. America’s streets and skies are being flooded with officers from multiple federal agencies - the Army, FBI, ICE, CBP and DEA to name a few - called in to assist in Trump’s “domination” of dissenting voices.

They come armed with next-generation surveillance technologies, many of them spying from the skies above, hooked up to inconspicuous drones that can autonomously track people. These devices have cost the U.S. government tens of millions of dollars in the last year alone, according to a Forbes review of contract records. 

‘The Selfie Drone’

Skydio, a drone startup backed by basketball player and investor Kevin Durant, is perhaps the most surprising recent addition to the government’s aerial surveillance arsenal. Founded by two ex-Google software engineers and former MIT students - CEO Adam Bry and CTO Abraham Bachrach - it made its name as a fun, artificial intelligence-powered, consumer-focused unmanned aerial system. 

Some dubbed it the “selfie drone” because of its ability to autonomously track and film a subject, as well as its ease of use via an iPhone or Android smartphone. Its first drone - launched in February 2018 - quickly sold out after rave reviews, one calling it “clearly the smartest drone on the planet.” The Skydio 2, costing $999, was released in 2019, promising to “fly itself while intelligently motion tracking a subject.” The subject could either be a person “doing any activity,” or a car.

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