LAS VEGAS (FOX5) — After witnessing tragedy at a young age, one Las Vegas man’s dreams are taking flight.
Fueled by a mission to save lives, the drone technology he engineered is currently assisting first responders across the world.
Imagine a device that could break through windows and start a dialogue with armed suspects so that police don’t have to send a person inside to do it: that is one of the many visions behind Brinc Drones, a growing startup based in Nevada, with 21-year-old Las Vegas native Blake Resnick at the helm.
“Putting eyes and ears in places that are too dangerous to send a person,” said Resnick, founder and CEO of Brinc Drones.
The 10-month-old company just raised a $25 million series in A-round funding.
Resnick said Brinc’s state-of-the-art drone technology was inspired by 1 October, the deadliest mass shooting in modern history at the Route 91 Harvest musical festival in Las Vegas in 2017.
“In an event like that, time really matters,” said Resnick. “So the whole thought was like, man, if you could build a technology that could give like great situational awareness, and knowledge about what’s actually going on in seconds rather than an hour, that could save a lot of lives.”
Resnick grew up in Summerlin in Las Vegas, and was a teen when he watched nearly 60 people die at the hands of a lone shooter. “I, unfortunately, knew a lot of people who were there, friends and family,” he said.
That’s when his partnership with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department was born.
“I cold-called the SWAT team,” he said. “I went online and looked up their number, literally cold-called them. I was probably 17 or 18 at the time. I’m surprised they took me seriously, but they did, and we ended up just grabbing lunch and just kind of had a conversation.”
That conversation reviewed the challenges first responders faced that tragic night and set flight to what ultimately became Brinc’s first drone.
“Vegas Metro has an area command quite close to the Mandalay Bay,” said Resnick. “So shot spotter systems, basically this big microphone array around the valley, would have heard the gunshots, and given like a rough GPS coordinate to where this was all happening. Already super helpful. From there, on top of that police station, the doors on one of these nests would open up. The drone would launch, and fly to that exact location, I mean, if it’s that close, potentially literally in 45 seconds,” he said.
He added, “It would be able to look around and identify the nature of the incident. So in that case, someone in a casino shooting down on a crowd of people, and it would have been able to give that information to first responders, so they would be able to coordinate a response a lot better, and direct assets to the right places at the right times.”
To this day, Las Vegas police use the drone Resnick made specially for them.
Since then, Brinc has sold drones to close to a hundred other agencies and governments all over the world. The drone is most commonly used in barricade and hostage situations, said Resnick.
The camera mounted on their Lemur S Drone has night vision, which allows them to see inside dark spaces. Additionally, Resnick said this is the only drone in the world with a fully functional two-way audio system. The responder can dial in with their cell phone.
“This is a speaker on the bottom of the drone,” said Resnick, pointing to his creation. “And these two things are microphones … If you’re able to establish communications between a crisis negotiator and the suspect, the overwhelming majority of the time, it ends peacefully.”
Separately, most drones rely on GPS to determine their location. But Resnick recognized a flaw with that technology.
“The problem is you fly underground, or frankly, even under a roof, you lose your GPS signal,” he said. “Our answer to that has largely been lidar systems.”
It’s these lidar systems that appealed to officials in Florida, who last June responded to the condominium collapse in Surfside and asked for Resnick’s help.
“I got a call from the SWAT commander in Miami,” he said.
Within hours, he and the Brinc team were on a plane to Florida to execute building inspection missions in the rubble.
“Really it was about determining, like, is this 14-story building going to fall on 100 first responders looking for survivors,” said Resnick.
The drone is designed for durability in disaster situations like Surfside’s condo collapse.
“If it’s on its back, tools spin up in the opposite direction of what they normally do, and that provides enough thrust to literally flip us over,” said Resnick.
He said he was proud to provide some value in Surfside’s recovery, and hopes his latest prototype will someday replace the need for first responders’ helicopters in various scenarios.
“Find … every car with an abducted child in it from an Amber Alert, and find every lost hiker, and bring global emergency response times down to seconds,” said Resnick.
His broader vision, he said, is to put drones in nests on top of every police and fire station in the world; and build a giant interconnected grid of them, integrated with 911 dispatch systems.
But with great power comes great responsibility.
“There are countries that we would not sell this technology to,” said Resnick.
It’s something Resnick thinks about often. “It’s kind of up to us to develop the technology in the right way, and with the right safeguards, and sell to the right customers, so that this technology ends up benefiting the world.”
He said drones likely will not replace the need for real, human responders.
“We think that this is a part of the future of public safety, it’s not the whole thing. Our goal isn’t to build ‘Robocop,’ it’s to build technology that saves people’s lives,” said Resnick.
He said he does not believe his technology should be equipped with weapons, either. “All of our current efforts started with October 1. The purpose of Brinc is to save lives with technology, not take them,” he said.
The UNLV alum worked briefly at McLaren, Tesla and DJI, all experiences he calls highly educational. He also worked with the Department of Homeland Security. Still, he considers himself largely self-taught.
“I’d say, in many ways, YouTube was my greatest teacher,” said Resnick.
His advice for future STEM visionaries? Don’t give up.
“None of it’s easy, it’s excruciatingly difficult actually. But it is amazing how much you can accomplish if you just don’t give up and continue pushing towards a goal for multiple years,” he said.
He aims to keep his focus set on that long-term mission of saving lives.
“Why can’t these types of aircraft like also carry Narcan? You know, life-saving drug for overdoses. So if you do get a 911 call in for an OD, you deliver the drug that will save that person’s life in 45 seconds? I think that’s the promise of this technology. I think it’s going to change public safety, period: police, fire, emergency, medical, all of it.”
Resnick is working on getting aerospace regulation adjusted to allow more flight paths for the technology.
In the next six months, he hopes to more than double his staff size to 120 people.
They’re currently in the process of opening an additional 20,000 square foot office in Seattle, but still plan to keep their office in Las Vegas, off the 215 and Decatur Boulevard, where all the drones are made.