Channel 2 Investigates

New gun detector technology could help prevent school shootings

DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. — A new technology is being promoted as being able to prevent shootings at schools, businesses and public places. It uses artificial intelligence to detect guns and aggressive actions, then calls the police.

The Athena uses an artificial intelligence box that hooks up to existing security cameras to detect guns with 99 percent accuracy. Its inventors hope it will make school shootings a thing of the past.

“I get scared sometimes but I feel like we’re in a good spot in our school and we have pretty good security,” said Cassidy Ashby who is a senior at Dunwoody High School.

Like many students she worries about the possibility of a shooting on her campus.

“So, our goal is to prevent these shootings from happening,” said Chris Ciabarra Athena’s chief technological officer and co-inventor.

That’s why Ciabarra and his partner Lisa Falzone invented Athena, the world’s first artificial intelligence security camera that detects guns and aggressive actions to prevent crime before it occurs.

Channel 2 Action News traveled to Las Vegas, Nevada to record a live demonstration of how it works.

The AI technology connects to security cameras that schools and businesses already have.

“Those cameras feed out 30 frames per second. We look at each one of those images for an object like a gun and we’re able to alert on it,” said Ciabarra.


When Athena detects a gun or aggressive action it calls police. Unlike traditional security cameras, this system can share live video of what’s happening with police and officers can communicate with the people on the scene through the Athena app.

Channel 2 Action News showed the system to Dunwoody Police Chief Billy Grogan.

“Well, when I first saw the video I thought man, this is great. You know something that can detect a gun and get police en route while the incident is still happening,” said Grogan.

But the technology can’t distinguish between a real and fake gun.

“I think it could be a challenge, just like it is for police officers. You know when we get a report of a gun just from a call and we go to a scene, we don’t know if it’s a real gun or not,” said Grogan.

There is another concern – the cost. Grogan said police departments have limited budgets to try out new technology until it’s been proven to work.

Ciabarra said this type of system used to cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, but Athena’s improved algorithms help keep the price down.

“So, we’ll be able to take that technology and reduce the cost and it’s very affordable for all the schools and businesses out there today,” said Ciabarra.  He declined to state the exact cost.

Athena is already in use. Archbishop Wood High School in Warminster, Pennsylvania, was the first school to install it.

In Metro Atlanta, students and parents Channel 2 Action News talked to think it's a small price to pay to keep kids safe.

“I think it’s a good idea because it wouldn’t really alert a person who’s trying to enter the school that something has been called, that the police has been called,” said Cassidy Ashby.

Her mother Christy Ashby said, “I think it’s wonderful. I’m a school teacher myself so I love the fact of keeping our children safe.”

Ciabarra said the system has detected weapons in training situations, but so far, the company has had no real-life instances of criminals pulling out guns in front of Athena.