Atlas Unmanned Solutions: Bringing Airspace Security To Grassroots Stakeholders With Ralph Gonzalez

Drones are fun and cool. But they can also be dangerous. And by dangerous we mean potentially deadly and devastating. That is why as this emerging technology continues to develop and rise in popularity, the need for tighter measures in airspace security also increases. But very few organizations that can potentially be harmed by unauthorized drones have the capability to mitigate such threats. A complex combination of regulatory difficulties and lack of education and training are the biggest obstacles they’re facing right now. That is what Ralph Gonzalez seeks to solve with Atlas Unmanned Solutions. Leveraging his background in counter-terrorism. Ralph trains organizations to be prepared for threats posed by hostile unmanned aircraft. Join in and learn the complexities of this rapidly developing area of security!

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Atlas Unmanned Solutions: Bringing Airspace Security To Grassroots Stakeholders With Ralph Gonzalez

We have this amazing guest who happens to be a semi-professional handyman. He’s a shooting range marksman, a skyscraper Spider-Man, but he also is the President at Atlas Unmanned Solutions. We have Ralph Gonzalez.

Welcome, Ralph.

Thank you. It’s a pleasure to be here.

We are going to start off hot and heavy here, and here’s our question. If cyber risk was a pizza and the frameworks are crust, what’s the riskiest topping you have seen and what topping would you equate that to?

I’m not an engineer. I have real-world experience with a little bit of cyber, mostly counter your own stuff. From the little that I have seen, the hardening of cyber networks from the top down, meaning physically. Being able to see through a window, getting a signal from a parking lot, from a roof, and stuff like that. That’s where I have experienced the most risk. If I had to equate that to something on a pizza, being born and bred New Yorker my entire life until recently when I moved out of state, pizza is something we take very seriously. We don’t mess around too much with the toppings. The one thing I will say and maybe like the topping is the way you eat it. You never eat it with a fork and knife.

Take care of certain things. You have to do it in a certain type of way, just like you have to eat pizza in a certain type of way. We had the misfortune of this mayor who one time took a fork and knife to a pizza in public. That knife was put as evidence. That evidence bag is still in that restaurant as evidence of what not to do. Literally, it’s a police department evidence bag. I’m not going to use certain terms to describe the guy, but people weren’t big fans of him. That was one of the main things we didn’t like about him. Never eat pizza with a fork and knife.

We have a pizza place here in San Diego, all the way across the United States, that flies in their water from New York to make their dough. It’s an important ingredient. It makes that pizza the way that it is.

That’s the one on Coronado Island.

I think they are opening a couple of different locations.

If you guys are over in New York, the place is called Goodfellas. It’s out of Staten Island. You will see the fork with a picture of the guy.

In your role as president of your company, what keeps you up at night?

Regulation is the one thing that bothers me. Right now, we deal primarily with airborne and airspace threats. Something that we have seen evolving in the last ten years constantly. Now it has been driven by the war in Ukraine and other conflicts. The solutions for a lot of these issues are available. When I say solutions, I mean technology.

The legal framework that controls both signals the aircraft flying in the sky and all this other stuff is technically against almost every vendor on how to resolve this issue. It’s not just the vendor but also the clients. Meaning law enforcement, meaning prisons, and critical infrastructure. Everything is against them and everything favors the pilot. Let me caveat that. I’m a big fan of pilots, hobbyists, and people flying drones. Most people do it the right way, but the same rules that protect them also protect the bad guy. That’s the one thing that bothers me.

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Maybe weather balloons as they call them.

The next big weather balloon.

Meeting those regulatory requirements, tell me more about that. We have talked to a few drone people and a lot of them are dealing with FAA regulations. Those same ones protect the hobbyists, as well as some of the professionals. If somebody’s flying especially if it’s manned, not unmanned, but if you have got a manned drone or something, you want to bring it down in a hard way. What are some of those other regulatory requirements that you struggle with?

Just like cell phones and a lot of things that go over the airways, the signals that control the drone between the control station and the drone itself or the UAV are controlled through FCC regulations. The fact that they are controlled and those signals are managed by the FCC, they have to meet certain standards. The same thing goes for anything that interrupts that signal.

We can’t interrupt the signal without proper authorization from the FCC and a few other people unless your particular agencies are allowed to do such a thing under certain standards. The fact that the security director for a stadium full of people during a football game can’t say, “There’s a drone coming. We should push it further out.”

I don’t think that’s right. With the right training, licensing, and authorization, certain people should have the ability to protect their facilities, communities, critical infrastructure, and manned aircraft. It’s mind-blowing to me that airports can’t do this. You have jets full of people flying back and forth, landing every 60 seconds, and you have something with a lithium battery the size of a brick flying close to an engine. You have never seen a lithium battery catch fire. It’s a scary thing especially when you are trying to put the fire out. Regardless of what you do, it won’t go out. These are the things that concerned me.

What can be done in these lithium battery situations? What do you think should be done or what can be done to address that in regulation if anything at all?

In the United States, only certain agencies have the authority to mitigate the flight of a drone. Mitigate means pushing it further out, jamming its signal, taking over its signal, and that type of stuff. Of those agencies, there are maybe a few thousand people that work for those agencies. You can’t expect those people to be responsible for every single large event in the United States and every critical infrastructure that could be harmed by one of these things. It’s not fair to those agencies, and it also says something about how much the Federal government believes in local entities. How much do they believe in state law enforcement? Why aren’t you giving them the authority to protect themselves from this threat?

I say threat in a way that as former law enforcement, I see everything as a potential hazard, and that’s what we got paid for. You assessed how this can have an impact negatively on whatever it is that you are trying to protect. You see a large venue being improperly protected. You can detect it. The law says you can detect the signal but that’s all you can do. As long as you don’t go into the signal, you are okay. I equate it to a highway. You can look at the cars. You can say that’s a Ford or Chevy, but what you can’t do is go inside the car and see what the driver is doing. That’s where you start breaking the rules.

A lot of technologies evolve to the point where they can make out the make and model based on the signature of the signal without having to go into the signal. Once you go into the signal, the world changes. If you could go into the signal, you can feed it in new directions or what we call a render safe location. “I want you to go land in that parking lot away from everybody else, then we can take a better look at you. If you didn’t do anything wrong, we will give you back to your owner.” We will give the owner a slap on the wrist. That’s what should be happening now. The Federal government should say to large venues, specially trained task forces, and whoever it is that needs to do it, “You now have the authority to protect your own backyard.” That’s what I would like to see one day.

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There’s a parallel there in what essentially is the concept of an internet-driven world. A lot of people think of cyber attacks as it’s on their computers and it’s online, but attacks can happen. They come in many flavors like pizza. It can be a radio-based attack. We have seen security professionals that do what we call signal interference and deterrence, doing those kinds of penetration tests on different kinds of hardware, as well as using radio signals.

You’d be surprised how much alignment there is in what essentially is the certification of certain products and/or at large. Every police department does have the ability to get you in touch with a cyber crime task force in their area. I speak at a lot of digital forensics conferences. I have in the past anyway.

About a third of the folks there is law enforcement, and so they talk about what essentially are drones. The technical teams are responsible for the cybersecurity side of the house if they are involved. Most of their involvement is very limited to the local school and there’s a kid that’s hacking, and the Safe Schools initiative at that school. Their hands are tied otherwise. They don’t have the resources and people. I see a parallel there.

Some people feel that certain agencies don’t want to give up their authority and stuff like that. I don’t think that’s true. I have worked with a lot of different agencies and these guys are overworked. Most of them would be happy to give up some of the responsibility. They’re like, “No problem. I can spend the weekend with my family because I don’t have to work on this football game or this large event. No problem. Take it over.” As long as you have the proper training and the proper equipment, and you have the legal authority to use it. If the laws change, then everybody should have a chance at it.

It’s one of these things that 8 or 9 years ago we saw growing. We are tracking the growth of the drone market, and we knew it was going to hit. The numbers that we saw then have been blown out of the water now because the technology keeps getting easier to use, cheaper, and a lot cooler. The pictures and these fantastic cameras in these things are on the move, tracking programs where you can go running and the thing was following you behind you.

The thing is now it’s going to get even more popular because you see the videos online of what’s happening overseas and the war. That same stuff was happening during the conflict with ISIS, but we weren’t getting a lot of video feeds on that, at least not open-source stuff. Now, you go on LinkedIn or certain sites on YouTube and you see how these things are deadly accurate.

What is that going to do? It might inspire somebody to try it themselves. Why not protect people? Why not give the authority to local law enforcement, state officials, and security directors? It doesn’t always have to be a cop. It could be somebody who’s trained to that level. “Here, protect this infrastructure because if this power grid goes down, X amount of states is going to go dark.” If you haven’t lived through a blackout, it’s an interesting event. That’s what we don’t want to see happen.

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What are you doing about it? You run Atlas Unmanned Solutions. What’s the solution that you developed to help us?

Our solutions, for the most part, are third-party solutions when it comes to technology. We develop some stuff in-house. We develop different ways of deploying solutions, but if there’s a smarter person working on the problems then let them figure it out. We can figure out how to implement it for our clients. I have been doing this now on the private side for a couple of years. I have done it for the public sector for almost ten years.

Everybody has a different need. That’s why I like being equipment agnostic because everybody has a different workforce in the desert, but the military doesn’t always work in an urban canyon. It doesn’t always work in an area surrounded by water or in a place where you have millions of cell phones pinging at the same time. We have to try to figure that out and match the client with the right solution.

The one thing we provide that’s unique to us is our training. All our training is based on real-world experience and almost a decade of counterterrorism work. We also cater that specifically to the client. Meaning that if you are a power grid, this is what we can train you with. If you are a task force, meaning different agencies coming together, we can train you how to work together. How to set up an operation, how to set up equipment, how to properly make it, do an assessment for equipment deployment, and also a threat assessment of a location. How to make an arrest based on this threat. This is a new type of threat. How do we make an arrest with that?

Airspace Security: All if the training at Atlas Unmanned Solutions is based on real-world experience and almost a decade of counterterrorism work.

Airspace Security: All if the training at Atlas Unmanned Solutions is based on real-world experience and almost a decade of counterterrorism work.

I made a lot of arrests when it comes to this stuff. You have to know how to exploit the data on the drone, how to handle the drone, how to approach an individual legally, and what questions you can ask to get more information from them. I’m very grateful that I was part of a great team. Throughout the years of doing this, we came up with these cool con-ops that we were able to share with other agencies. Now, as a private entity and business, I can train. As long as they are friendly to the US government and not looking to do any harm, we can train them.

How are things now? You are training these people and you are giving this ability to a number of different agencies or different people. It sounds like it’s private business as well or is it strictly more for law enforcement?

We do private businesses, but when we say private, it’s primarily security personnel. I don’t like putting the onus on just law enforcement. If you run a stadium or a large venue, your personnel should be trained to a certain level as well. A lot of times, when it comes to training, we snub our noses at security companies, but I don’t think that’s fair. They deserve as much training as everybody else because they are going to be your first line of defense. They are the guys who call the cops. Cops are number two. As former law enforcement, we like to say first, “No, it’s not true.” The person who calls 911 is the first person. If we can train them up to a certain level, it’s going to make your life a lot easier. That’s why I like training security personnel as well.

I’m going to change things up here. What do you see for the future? What excites you about the future and how that’s going to go long term?

The future is we are going to be kept busy. Airspace security is a new realm of security. I was a law enforcement trainer for many years, and we trained people on how to detect explosives and car bombs. Everything from residue on somebody’s hands and looking for explosive traces. We did all this stuff and we would still see drone intrusions. Airspace intrusions. There would be a Temporary Flight Restriction or TFR in place, and the drones would fly right into that.

Ninety-five percent of the time, it was somebody who didn’t know they were doing something wrong. Every once in a while, it’s somebody who was doing it on purpose. Somebody who wanted to take a picture of Serena Williams during the US Open, or somebody who wanted to take a picture of a Yankees game. Not knowing that at any time that signal could be lost by no fault of their own, and that thing would drop out of the sky.

I have been hit by a drone in the back of the head once. It’s not fun. It’s part of our R&D. I got smacked in the head. I have seen people lose their eyes. I have seen somebody die from this and literally lost the top of their head. It was an unfortunate accident where somebody got too close to their own RC helicopter and it was a terrible thing. A lot of people look at these things as toys, and they are not. Number one, they are flying computers. These things are as smart as a cell phone. Number two is lithium batteries. Number three, those RPMs sometimes have carbon fiber blades. You are going to lose a finger. You are going to lose whatever part of the body that it hits. You are not getting it back.

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We used to do all types of experiments. We used to tie them down to the tables to see what the down blast was. Every paper in the room would go flying. These things are extremely dangerous if handled improperly. Not that I want to see anybody lose their right to use them. I would like to see more control over who’s buying them.

Right now, the process with the FAA is you buy it, then you have to register it, which is backward to me. It’s like when you buy a car, you have to show proof that you have a license before you can register it, and then you get to take possession of the car or whatever that you need to do. The way it works now is you buy it, then you register it, and you are asked to take a certain test to make sure that you operate safely. These are all post-purchase. It should be the other way around.

I will tell you a horrible story. I get a call from a buddy of mine. This is when I was still doing law enforcement. He says to me that there’s a store in Times Square that’s selling an agricultural sprayer. I was like, “Why in Times Square? Why is somebody selling this?” I go in regular street clothes. I walk in there and say, “I’m looking to buy an agricultural sprayer.” The guy looks at me like, “For what?” I was like, “I grow grapes. I’m a winemaker.” I don’t look like a winemaker. The guy’s exact words to me were, “I don’t care what you are going to use it for. If you give me $15,000, you can walk out it with today.”

It was sitting right there. This thing holds 5 gallons of water. Super easy. He’s like, “I will show you how to use it.” He pulls out a tablet. Here are your weigh points. Tap on the tablet where you want it to go. Hit send and it goes off on its own. Why is this being sold right there in Times Square? Three blocks north of Times Square. These are the things that concern me because they are out there. Some people may want to do harm with them. Some people may not know how dangerous these things are flying irresponsibly, or somebody has bad intentions. These are the people that we should be scared of.

The technology is out there. The con officer out there has to learn what not to do. If you are an agency, how should your guys be responding? Number one is detection. Let’s figure out a way to detect these things. We at least have a warning when these things are being turned on. Number two is mitigation of some sort, but 99% of the people out there won’t be able to do it until the laws are changed.

It’s like an airplane’s collision detection system. It’s always on. In this case, it’s announcing itself. The drone is saying, “Here I am. I am that way in.” Those that are trained and know how to deal with those situations can intercept. I agree with you on the prior point that there needs to be more training, more capabilities, and more regulations on the legal side of allowing regional first responders to deal with these situations. That’s always been the concern in many areas of regulation. It’s not just those drones. I see that too. It’s fascinating to hear some of these real applications, but also these situations where people can get their hands on these assets, and do whatever they please.

It’s always distinguishing from the hobbyists who are fantastic at policing themselves. I have been to a couple of flying fields with some AMA guys. They are one of the biggest ones out there. They have fantastic safety officers, taped-off lanes, and even signals. Everybody knows what frequency you are flying on. They do it great. If everybody did it that way, we wouldn’t have to worry about it. The fact is that because this technology is so popular, little Timmy gets one of these for Christmas. Timmy lives outside of an airport down in Howard Beach in Queens. Now he puts it up 2,000 feet in the flight path of an incoming Airbus or something. These are the things that we need to concern ourselves with.

Some of the manufacturers are setting up their own geo fences into their programs, apps, and all that other stuff, but these things are very easily overcome. Sometimes you go into the settings and turn it off or they will ask them, “You are not supposed to fly here. Do you want to fly here?” “I do want to fly here.” Now I go. It’s not enough.

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We should have a defense mechanism available for law enforcement. It’s not just detection. It should be other things that they should be able to do to prevent a catastrophic incident from occurring. Even if this thing falls out of the sky and hits somebody. There was an incident a few years ago where somebody said, “There’s a drone up in the sky.” This police officer looked up to see where it was and it landed right in her face. These are the things that we want to prevent. Those are my two cents.

There’s a lot of information out there online, but I imagine that there are probably events that you might attend. Can you share with us some of those events, whether it’s trade shows or conferences? I’m aware that there’s an event coming up, IWCE in Las Vegas, which is a communication of what essentially are different kinds of technologies, including drone technologies. We would call them not maybe direct drone events but tell us.

It’s related. If I had to suggest anything to anybody, I would say the AMA conference. If you are going to be a pilot, join your local AMA. Maybe it is an endorsement but it isn’t. I have no direct relationship with these guys. I know they do it so well. Hang out with those guys. There are a few other conferences out there like AUBSI. There’s a handful of them, but it’s mostly guys pedaling technology. They do talk about the change of laws and all this other stuff. In the counter-drone world, there’s very few stuff out there unless you are military, law enforcement, or any of that stuff, or you are a vendor of some sort.

We are hosting a demo day for different technology vendors. It’s going to be on April 17th at the Emerging Technology Institute or ETI in North Carolina. If anybody wants to go learn about drone detection and mitigation stuff, they can join us there for a day. We are also going to have an interesting panel discussion with some DOD and critical infrastructure guys, and people with the same concerns.

We are going to discuss what rules need to be changed and what rules don’t have any effect on what we are trying to achieve. The goal of everything we do is the security of the skies. There’s another event that I will be attending. It’s with the ICA or International Council of Airports. We are going to be speaking about similar concerns in and around airports like how we keep the traffic controlled by the tower, and not people who take it upon themselves to fly in your airspace when you are landing and taking off aircraft constantly. These are concerns that are real.

There are some fabulous events in the tech community. There are fabulous business events and regulatory events, and even science and research events. It seems that there are always folks attending certain events. Sometimes they don’t cross over, depending on what their focus is. You have to focus on what you are focusing on. We appreciate you sharing these other events. I haven’t heard of any of these at least off the top of my head. Maybe the AMA I have heard of. I appreciate you sharing that. Thank you so much.

We have also another event that we are hosting. It’s a training event in the same location, ETI in North Carolina. It’s a training range. It’s a fantastic facility and we are going to have a three-day training for law enforcement, security personnel, DOD personnel, and anybody who’s in the business of not just physically securing an area, but also cyber securing the airspace. That’s a three-day training of the nuts to bolts of what exactly is a UAS or a drone, all the way through how to process an arrest, how to deal with the evidence, and how to set up detection technology. We will talk about mitigation technology, but we don’t have the authority to use this. We will just talk about it and show some examples of it without having to turn anything on. That’s the type of stuff that we are doing.

Can you share with us where in North Carolina this is?

It’s the Emerging Technology Institute in Red Springs, North Carolina, ETI.

One of our folks may be close to that area, so we will let him know. What were the dates on that again?

The demo day is April 17th. That’s Monday, so we will have a little demo day with different types of technologies, and we will have that round table discussion. The following three days we will be all training. I would like to give a huge shout-out to our sponsors DroneSec, which is an open-source drone incident reporting system, but a phenomenal system globally. We have Echodyne which is a drone detection radar. Fantastic product. We have Flymotion out of Tampa. An everything shop that has to do with drones specifically for first responders and DOD.

These guys do it all, training and equipment. Fantastic shop. All three of the sponsors are helping us set this up with ETI, which is another fantastic location. These guys do a lot of community work, bringing STEM to the local schools. It’s funny because they do the STEM work with schools and then they do the military stuff with Fort Bragg. It’s a very wide spectrum there of what they do, but fantastic organization and a great training range. We are going to have a lot of fun with them.

It sounds exciting. Everybody has that friend or family that’s involved in drones or somebody that’s a fan at least. It is fascinating to see the business side of things. At least in our experience, we have had the great fortune of being able to work with companies in the drone industry, whether they are making drones or if they are servicing. The number of applications that I can think of for every time that we meet with somebody that does drones or in the industry, I learned about something new, some new way, or a new application that’s evolving.

I agree with you that the future is going to be incredible, but regulations keep us up at night as well. How they are written is sometimes not well. There are changes that are expected in order to have the right outcomes so we can keep people safe. That’s not just online. That’s physical as well. We hear you and we agree. I appreciate you taking the time with us. We tend to get into some interesting or deeper discussions on a lot of different topics. Are there any books that you might recommend that you have read as well for those that are bookworms out there?

There are a few of them out there. Bard College put something out 4 or 5 years ago. Bard had this unmanned systems program. It died right before COVID and never made it back, but they did put some publications out there which were fantastic. If you want to learn the science, the terminology, and all that stuff, DHS-S&T, NUSTL or the National Urban Science and Technology Laboratory out of New York published this fantastic handbook.

If you are new to this, find that handbook online. I worked with those guys extensively. A big shout-out to Director Alice Hong over there and her team. They put out this great handbook and everything you need to know. It might be a little outdated, but nothing that’s going to keep you from knowing the business. All the sciences are in there and all the different types of technology. I believe it also touched upon some of the regulations.

How did you get here? How does somebody become a drone expert and a training expert to tell people how this is? You came from law enforcement, but tell us a little more about yourself.

I don’t like the word expert. I’m always very weary when somebody says that they are an expert because somebody is going to put you to the test. I’m a guy who knows a little bit about this stuff. I did twenty years with the NYPD. Most of that time, I did under counter-terrorism. I belonged to a very special unit where our job was to test and evaluate different types of technology. Meaning that there was a need for technology because we saw that there was a potential danger out there. Either we saw it overseas or domestically. If it had to do with technology or something we could mitigate with technology, we would work with vendors and different agencies. We would try to incorporate that technology or even design the technology into our everyday concepts operation.

When we started seeing the use of weaponized drones overseas, we were like, “This is something we need to concern ourselves with because I can buy a drone here. Let’s see what we can do about it.” We started working with the Department of Defense and some of their research laboratories like the Arctic up in Picatinny Arsenal with one Army Futures command. All these great laboratories signed to the Army and some of them to DHS. They have similar jobs. It’s to look at what the problem is and try to figure out a way that we can use technology to mitigate it.

I was turned on to the counter-drone technology by a buddy of mine out of DC. I will tell you guys the story. I walk into my boss’s office and I’m also a part-time professor. I know how to put together slide decks quickly. Nobody wants to read reports so I put together a slide deck. I go to my boss. I was like, “We need to be looking at this.” He’s like, “Ralph, we have too much going on right now.” This is around 2012 when ISIS was starting to get spun out and we were dealing with that stuff. He’s like, “Don’t bring me any new problems.” I was like, “This is important.” He says, “Get the F out of my office and go back to work.”

Fast forward a month, we get an intel report of somebody putting a gun on a drone. They were like, “This is weird.” I walked past the high-ranking officer. He was like, “Look at this. What is this? I have never seen this before.” I was like, “Let me mind my business.” I go do what I got to do. I get my cup of coffee. I’m on my way back to my office and they are still talking about it. I go, “If you don’t mind my interruption. I have some information on this.” He’s like, “What do you got? You are the new guy here. What do you know about this?” I was like, “I have a slide deck.”

Five minutes later, I’m setting up in the chief’s office and I’m showing the slide deck. Their minds are completely blown. I have videos, case studies, and all this other stuff. A week later, I’m doing this in front of a three-star chief at headquarters. Most of the time, when you hear the word chief, it’s a cop. No, we are talking about the Chief of Counter-Terrorism for the NYPD. They make movies about these guys.

I show it to him. He turns around and goes, “What are you guys doing about this?” I was like, “There are certain things we can do, but we don’t have legal authority, but I can find something.” He’s like, “Go.” From that day on, I led the project. We became the model for a lot of agencies because even some Federal agencies weren’t dealing with this problem. We were training them on how to do it. I did that until 2011 when it was my time to punch out. I stayed in the same lane, but now I do it privately.

It sounds like you also incorporated that professor and the training and all the education that you have done both for yourself and everybody else. It seems like you have incorporated that very well into your new business. That’s great to hear.

When you love what you do, it’s not work. It was a lot of fun doing, especially in New York City. Climbing skyscrapers and setting up antennas and detectors all over the place. I got to see a part of the city that a lot of people don’t see. We look up but very few people get to look down.

What’s the most amazing thing that you saw out of all of those climbs that you did? It’s the one that was like, “I’m never going to forget this.” Does anything come to mind?

My hatred for hawks. At first, you see a hawk and you are like, “It’s cute. It’s so beautiful. It’s so majestic.” When this thing sweeps down at you, every word in your mouth turns completely into a curse word. Now you have to watch yourself because these things are so aggressive. You are up there. You are like, “I’m not here to mess with your babies. Do your stuff and I will do mine.” Anything near their nest, we started going up with a third guy. The third guy’s job was only for hawk control.

There was one nasty one, and he was on 7th Avenue. He knew when we were coming because he would always leave like a dead carcass sitting there. We’d go back a week to check on the system and there would be a new carcass and he would never eat the heart. It was weird. He would leave it there for us, the head and the heart. I have worked in some of the worst neighborhoods in New York City as a cop, nothing scared me more than a hawk. It’s terrible.

We folks are walking on the ground in the city, which I have done many times. The concern always is, “Don’t look up,” because of the pigeons or we call them rats with wings sometimes. That’s the concern on the ground is getting pooped on by a bird. You don’t think about that. I used to think that once you are in the building, you got nothing to worry about it. If I could go up on the rooftop, it would be wonderful. I never thought there might be an aggressive bird setting a nest.

We went to one place where there was a bald eagle nest. The wing span of this thing looked like a dinosaur. The person we were walking through the facility or the person responsible for the facility was like, “You could go there.” I was like, “Are you out of your mind? You go first. You wake it up. You tell it to move, and then maybe I will go out there.” When this thing opens its wings, it looked like an airplane landing. I was like, “No, thank you.” You got to learn how to respect nature.

If you could go back in time and give your younger self some advice, what would that advice be?

I think you guys might agree with this, but I tell everybody, “Learn cybersecurity.” Even if you are not going to do it, just learn cybersecurity. Cybersecurity encompasses the language that systems use to speak to each other. You guys tell me if I’m wrong or right but that’s as far as I got with this stuff. Having to bring in somebody else that speaks that language is costly and it’s time-consuming. If I knew at least that much about that part of the business, it would make things a little bit easier for me. If I was looking for a job, it could be more marketable. You have to know how things work.

We were talking earlier about being a handyman around the house. The reason I know this is because my dad said, “Never pay for a mechanic if you could do it for yourself.” I learned how to fix cars. I learned how to fix stuff around the house. It’s the same concept now when it comes to the Internet of Things. You have to know how these things talk to each other and the language they are using. When they break, how do you fix it? How do you keep somebody from breaking it for you? You guys know more than I do about this. Tell me if I’m wrong, but I think that’s the way to go. At least have that knowledge base.

When the WiFi goes down, how do you fix it so that your kids don’t come screaming at you?

They don’t know. I turned it off on my phone. When they don’t go to bed, I turn off their devices on my phone and they lose their mind. I hear the TV coming on and off. I’m unplugging it. I’m sitting there laughing.

How can people find you? Tell us where we can locate you.

Even though I hate social media, I spend most of my day on LinkedIn. It is the best way to find me. My webpage is, but nobody goes to webpages anymore. LinkedIn is the way to communicate and find people to find services. That’s the best way. My email is simple, [email protected].

I can understand the concept of websites. Maybe websites will go the way of the fax machine. Who knows? Did you know that cybersecurity has been around for 52 years?

I didn’t know it was that long, but I know it’s been around for a while. My older siblings are all on that side of the business. They have been doing it since the ’80s. I know it’s been around for a while, but it’s not going anywhere. It’s only going to get bigger and bigger. Having that knowledge base even if it’s not directly what you do, it’s going to help you.

I sit in meetings all the time where they go into the cyber side of the technology while I sit there and I take notes. Every term that I hear, I write it down. I need to know what that is for the next meeting. I’m not ashamed of saying, “What does that mean,” but I can’t do it every five seconds. They are going to tell me to leave. Having that knowledge base is very important.

Ralph, thank you very much for your time and for telling us how you are training our law enforcement and helping set those perimeters, and training people how to set those perimeters. I also enjoyed the stories that you told us about climbing up and watching out for the birds. I experienced some of that myself. If you are an amateur Spider-Man and handyman, I’m going to have to call you for some help and just bug you with things. To our audience, thank you for tuning in. If you have learned something or you laughed, please share this show with somebody else and help us get the word out there. It’s been another great episode of the show. We will see you next time. Thanks for joining.

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About Ralph Gonzales

President – Atlas Unmanned Solutions Inc.

Former NYPD Detective