2019 is the year in which Blade Runner takes place. We don’t have hyper-realistic Replicants that try to kill hard-boiled detectives yet. But admit it: when you read the words “flying robot guard dog,” it feels like the future.
Drone company Sunflower Labs was showing off just such a gadget at the massive CES trade show. The Bee is a drone that will deploy from your backyard and investigate anyone who gets too close to your literal safe space. The system relies on “sunflowers,” staves that go into your yard like the popular solar-powered nightlights, to detect motion around the house. When something’s amiss, the lights activate and the Bee pops up. It starts a reconnaissance mission, recording—and hopefully scaring away—potential intruders.
Sunflower’s floral theme is awfully friendly for a security product, but there’s no denying that the waterproof “Hive” base station for the drone looks like a dog house. For most of the time, it’s sitting inside, the charging contacts automatically connected thanks to the Bee’s rounded bottom. (It’s held upside down in the image at the top of the article.) When intruders are detected, the roof opens up and the drone deploys. It can return and land, once again charging, after the threat is gone.
The app-controlled system can be expanded with more sunflowers for bigger properties, and it includes detection of authorized people, vehicles, and even pets. Estimated time for deployment is 15 minutes, with another 30 to fully recharge. And anyone who actually wants to do harm might not be deterred by a bit of buzzing plastic, so integration with existing smarthome tech to give live video feeds and security alters will be a major part of the final product.
The Bee doesn’t have a stinger or any other kind of offensive ordinance—it’s for recording only. Even so, it’s hard not to see the dystopian elements in the concept, if not the application. Maybe it’s just as well that Sunflower Labs doesn’t have a price (probably very high) or a ship date (probably not anytime soon) for the system. We could use another year or two to get our android hunting outfits ready.