Skydio’s New Head of Security: Tackling Cybersecurity for Drones

Skydio's new head of securityCybersecurity for drones: in an introductory blog post, Skydio’s new Head of Security Jeff Horne explains why he thinks data security is critical to the future of autonomous systems.

by DRONELIFE Staff Writer Ian M. Crosby

Skydio, the leading U.S. drone manufacturer and leader in autonomous flight, recently appointed Jeff Horne as it’s new Head of Security.

Horne, who began his security career with Internet Security Systems in Atlanta at the age of 18, has been heavily involved in addressing a multitude of cybersecurity issues over the course of his career—ranging from conducting security vulnerability analysis via patch differentials and making exploits more reliable, to antivirus engine research and malicious code detection. Horne served as a security consultant for a number of years, assisting large companies in managing security breaches involving malicious code. “Often in these instances I would find myself in the position of leading their security operations in the interim—a position I really enjoyed—and ultimately decided to leave consulting and pursue security leadership,” Horne said. He has since served as head of security for such companies as SpaceX and Optiv.

“My years in the industry showed me that strong cybersecurity has to be at the core of any company’s values—a fact that is even more true when it comes to drones,” said Horne. “As drones have expanded in scope from being consumer toys to critical tools for infrastructure and national security, we’re seeing increasing demand for trustworthy solutions. This is particularly relevant as the cybersecurity and privacy demands of mature and highly regulated industries now extend to the cloud and security models like zero trust architecture are quickly being adopted.”

Upon his initial encounter with Skydio, Horne said he knew the company had something special: “A future where autonomous technology transforms industries is on the horizon, but the vast majority of companies working in this space have yet to move beyond the theoretical to practical, customer-ready innovations. At Skydio, that future is already here.”

“At Skydio, we make drones useful by making them intelligent. And we have a vision to move the industry forward from inefficient manual operations to remotely operated drones-as-a-service housed in docks around the world, capable of delivering valuable services around the clock. But we also know that data security is critical to realizing the promise of these autonomous operations, and U.S. companies like ours can provide higher levels of data security for enterprise and public customers. That’s why I’m so excited to join the team as Skydio’s new Head of Security.”

Combining innovative technology and strong security, Skydio creates drones that instill regulators with confidence. All of the company’s products are designed, assembled, and supported in the U.S., and software is developed in-house with core processors sourced from U.S. companies. By being so closely involved in the process at every step, Skydio is able to offer a high level of supply chain security and earn the trust of its customers.

One such example is the Skydio X2, which is built with cybersecurity in mind, providing signed and encrypted vehicle firmware, encrypted storage and data link encryption.

“The only way to trust a connected device is to trust the manufacturer and the legal framework in which they operate,” says Horne. And Skydio certainly seems to have earned that trust, with the U.S. Defense Department having concluded that the company’s defense and enterprise products satisfy demanding supply chain security requirements required by Congress in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). As a result of their trust in the company, the Department of Defense handpicked Skydio X2 as a trusted drone platform for the Defense Innovation Unit’s Blue sUAS program.

“I knew I wanted to work for a company that had a great, easy-to-use product that could help keep people safe and make their work more efficient. And from my very first meeting with Skydio it was evident that the team also had something else that means a lot to me—passion. Along with being highly skilled and technical, the teams are passionate about their work, dedicated to making the products better and committed to truly helping our customers unlock the promise of autonomous drones,” Horne explained.

“Leading both the cyber and physical security teams comes at an interesting time for the company, and the industry itself,” he concluded. “I’m excited to work with the team to develop the next generation of security protocols for autonomous drones and ensure Skydio continues to lead when it comes to cybersecurity.”

Read more about Skydio drones, autonomy platform, the next phase of the Blue sUAS program, and Skydio’s X2 platform.

Ian attended Dominican University of California, where he received a BA in English in 2019. With a lifelong passion for writing and storytelling and a keen interest in technology, he is now contributing to DroneLife as a staff writer.