- Brinc unveiled its new Lemur 2 drone and in-house manufacturing capabilities at a media event in Seattle.
- In an interview with Startup, founder and CEO Blake Resnick said geopolitical forces — including the U.S. blacklisting leading Chinese drone giant DJI — has been a tailwind for the company.
- Brinc has hired about 15 former Prime Air employees from Amazon. It faces competition from well-funded startups like Skydio.
Wearing the safety glasses provided under my seat, I watched a small drone equipped with a spinning blade hurtle toward a test window, shattering the glass on impact.
That’s part of the pitch from Brinc, a Seattle startup that manufactures tactical unmanned aerial vehicles and equipment for public safety missions. The company’s drones can flip around after a crash, see in the dark, communicate through a microphone — and break through glass.
Brinc recently hosted a media event at its Seattle headquarters to unveil the Lemur 2, its latest drone equipped with new features like an onboard sensor for producing 3D maps and an obstacle avoidance system that operates without relying on GPS or light.
Led by 23-year-old Blake Resnick, Brinc’s new product launch comes amid ongoing moves by the U.S. government to blacklist Chinese drone giant DJI.
“The free world needs a drone maker,” Resnick said. “So that’s what we want to be.”
Brinc differentiates itself from other drone companies by serving first-responders with tools to keep people out of dangerous situations. Customers include the Seattle Police Department, which has used the drones to mediate a hostage negotiation, and around 400 other agencies across the country.
The startup has raised $80 million in total funding. Its backers including Index Ventures, Tusk Venture Partners, and Next Play Ventures, a firm founded by former LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner. OpenAI CEO Sam Altman was BRINC’s first external investor, via OpenAI’s startup investment program.
When Resnick was 17, he was inspired to engineer a drone for first responders after a mass shooting in his hometown of Las Vegas that killed more than 50 people.
It took three years of trial-and-error before Brinc took off. Resnick spent time testing the hardware, including working with SWAT officers to refine and improve his prototype drone before it was used in the field by Las Vegas police.
Resnick made headlines after a video surfaced of him sharing his vision of a “Wall of Drones” at the U.S.-Mexico border.
Resnick, then 17, addressed this controversy in a blog post last year, condemning his actions as “immature.” The backlash over the video inspired some of Brinc’s values, which include “never build technologies designed to hurt or kill.”
In 2022 the company moved its headquarters to Seattle because of the region’s concentration of talent in aerospace, consumer electronics and software, Resnick said. About 15 employees from Prime Air, Amazon’s drone delivery service, have since joined the startup.
Brinc’s drones were recently deployed in Hatay, Turkey, aiding the search for survivors following a devastating earthquake that has claimed more than 50,000 lives, according to Brinc Chief of Staff Andrew Coté.
Last year the startup donated 10 drones to Ukraine and sold an additional 50 drones for information-gathering and search-and-rescue operations. In 2021 its UAVs were used in assessing damage caused by the Surfside condominium collapse in Florida.
Brinc’s drones were recently approved by the U.S. government for compliance with the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). To meet the criteria, the startup had to ensure that none of its components were sourced from blacklisted Chinese manufacturers. This proved to be difficult, said Resnick, who noted that “the entire global drone supply chain” is based out of Shenzhen, China.
“Not being able to use any of their parts presents a major challenge that takes a huge amount of engineering to fix,” he said.
Brinc now has a vertically integrated supply chain, producing all products in-house, and sourcing most components from the U.S. The company also uses its fleet of Markforged 3D printers to manufacture replacement parts for customers, leading to faster turnaround times, according to Brinc Executive Vice President Colin Bell.
Resnick said its closest competitor is Belgium-based Sky-Hero, which makes tactical drones for law enforcement and military clients.
There’s also autonomous drone manufacturer Skydio, a San Francisco-based startup that recently raised $230 million from investors including Axon, Lockheed Martin Ventures, Nvidia, and Andreessen Horowitz. Its valuation increased to $2.2 billion.
Resnick said Skydio caters to a much broader array of verticals ranging from consumer to defense, whereas Brinc concentrates solely on public safety.
“You can imagine selling a $50 million drone program to the DoD is very different than selling a $1,000 drone to a 15-year-old,” he said. “It’s just hard to do all of that well.”
In the future, Brinc plans to implement more carrying capacity for its drones, enabling first responders to deliver Narcan, Epi-pen, or even a pack of cigarettes in a hostage negotiation, Resnick said. The company also wants to equip its drones with chemical sensors to aid in hazardous material emergencies.