Paladin Drones picks up $1.3M to give first responders a live feed of emergencies

In emergency situations, minutes can mean the difference between life and death. Paladin Drones, a company launching out of Y Combinator, wants to use technology to minimize the amount of time between a 911 call and a response through autonomous drones.

The company today announced the close of a $1.3 million seed round with participation from Khosla Ventures and Paul Buchheit.

Paladin’s software allows a drone — right now the software works with DJI drones — to deploy to the location of an incident and let first responders scope out the area beforehand. For example, a Paladin Drone might be deployed to the site of the fire, where it will arrive before first responders in an attempt to map out any dangers and locate hot spots of the fire inside the building.

The hope is to do as much data gathering and analysis as possible before any first responder gets on site. This allows them to jump straight into the process of saving lives and preventing further damage as soon as they arrive, as opposed to taking the time to map out the situation.

According to Paladin, one of the big issues in emergency situations is lack of information. Usually, the only information that first responders have when they get on site is what was gleaned from a 911 call. Because people placing 911 calls are usually in a state of panic, that information can be unreliable.

In fact, that’s how Paladin came to be. Co-founder and CEO Divyaditya Shrivastava had a conversation with firefighters after his friend’s house had burned down while the family was on vacation. The 911 call was placed by a neighbor walking by. The firefighters told Shrivastava that they originally didn’t have the right location of the emergency due to an unreliable 911 call.

“They said that this actually happens about 70% of the time because whenever there is an emergency, generally, the person calling 911 is panicking and can only give so much information,” he said. “That’s when I realized this is a huge problem. These are firefighters trying to save lives and they don’t have good information.”

As a recreational drone pilot, Shrivastava realized there was an opportunity to give firefighters and other first responders a real-time view of the scene to close the information gap. And so Paladin was born.

Shrivastava and his co-founder Trevor Pennypacker recently graduated out of Y Combinator and are running a pilot program with Memorial Village police department just outside of Houston, Texas.

The Paladin Drone technology offers clear benefits to first responders — the average response time for an emergency ranges from 8 to 15 minutes, whereas a Paladin-powered drone can get there in 30 to 90 seconds. That said, there are looming concerns about the invasiveness of this type of surveillance technology.

But Paladin has thought ahead. Not only does the company plan to work with local, state and federal government to ensure that its platform is compliant, but it has also built software to ensure that Paladin Drones record the sky when they’re en route to an emergency, only panning down to the ground when they’re on site.