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The drone industry has grown tremendously over the past two decades, revolutionizing several industries. According to Fortune Business Insights, the drone industry was valued at $6.5 billion and is expected to grow to $47.8 billion by 2029.
We have discussed how drones have improved the filming and surveying industries.
The report also notes that there’s a growing demand for drones in the security industry. Drone services in the security industry occupied the largest part of the drone market in 2020.
This raises the question, what are the benefits of drone technology in security services?
Patrolling on the ground or using CCTV cameras may only sometimes be effective. However, using airplanes can be expensive. Drones provide a more convenient way to conduct surveillance since they can carry a wide range of payloads that can collect varying types of data.
Please keep reading to learn more about the use of drones in security, the types of drones in this industry, and the future of drones in the security services niche.
The benefits of drone technology in security services #
Let’s look at drone technology’s benefits over traditional security technologies in more detail.
Real-time accurate data #
As already mentioned, drones can carry a wide range of payloads or sensors.
Some of these sensors include high-resolution cameras and infrared. These sensors help collect high-quality information from an aerial view, making it impossible for intruders who think they can outsmart CCTV cameras.
If they decide to hide behind a wall or invade at night, infrared or thermal cameras can help detect them by enabling night vision.
Drones are the perfect device for relaying data in real-time since they are designed to transmit footage to a screen or to the controller.
As such, security personnel can receive data from different drones on different screens in real-time, improving their efficiency.
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Drones are faster #
Unlike helicopters, drones are faster and, in some cases, require fewer clearances than manned aircraft.
You can get a drone for surveillance into the air in a few minutes, especially if it’s a multirotor or a VTOL (Vertical Take-off and Landing).
If you happen to use a fixed-wing, you will need a smaller runway than you would with manned aircraft.
Drones are safer #
Anything can happen when surveilling using manned aircraft. It could malfunction, get shot down, or get affected by the weather.
In other cases, manned aircraft may be needed to surveil dangerous and inaccessible areas, such as areas with hazardous materials.
When drones come into play, the pilot stays on the ground and in a safer place. The damage is minimized in case the drone crashes compared to manned aircraft.
Drones are not only safer, but they make it easier and more convenient to survey disaster-stricken areas before people can know the next step to take.
Drones are technically “flying computers.” That means you can fit them with AI and other automotive technologies.
For instance, drones can be designed to fly along a specified route (waypoints), fly back to the home point in case the battery is low or in case of an emergency, and automatically relay the information collected to the user in real time.
Some solutions exist known as drone-in-a-box systems where the drone automatically deploys itself, collects data, sends it to the user, and goes back to its station when the battery is depleted for charging.
This autonomy minimizes the personnel needed at a site and improves efficiency by minimizing errors that would be made when controlling the drones manually.
Drones are cheaper #
When dealing with manned aircraft, you need to spend millions of dollars to get started.
It’s possible to get a drone with a complete mapping system and other advanced sensors for surveillance for $30,000 to $50,000, which is far more cost-effective.
A simple drone costing $1,000 to $2,000 is also good enough to start. As I mentioned earlier, drones require fewer personnel if you can automate the process.
Besides, most drones used for surveillance use batteries, making them easier to maintain than vehicles or manned aircraft.
The lower costs also increase the ROI of such a business, opening up more opportunities for people who would like to venture into drones as a business.
Drones can cover vast areas #
Drones can cover larger distances at a time than CCTV cameras or patrolling a site on foot or with vehicles. They can also give security personnel an edge over the perpetrators who may try to run since they can easily follow them even though it’s not for a long distance.
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Drones are stealthier #
Drones are quieter than vehicles or manned aircraft and can easily monitor an area without being detected. This makes them perfect for surveillance and risk assessment before security personnel decide on the action to take.
The types of drones used for security services #
Any drone can be used for surveillance as long as it has the necessary tools.
The type you choose depends on your budget, trained personnel, and the size of the facility where you need to maintain security. The types of drones include the following.
This refers to drones whose propulsion is made possible by motors and propellers. They are called multirotors because they often have at least four propellers, but it’s possible to find some models with six or eight propellers.
Multirotors are cheaper, easier to run, and more convenient for smaller areas. Since they take off vertically, they don’t need a runway.
Many of them can’t carry larger payloads, so they often come with the necessary sensors, but getting a customized multirotor drone for security services is possible.
Fixed-wing drones #
These drones are more expensive and more challenging to operate, but they don’t consume that much energy, allowing them to fly for longer. They also often have a larger payload capacity compared to multi-rotor drones.
Fixed-wing drones come in handy when you have acres of land to surveil.
This hybrid drone features a propeller to help take off and fixed wings to make it easier to cruise without consuming too much energy.
Most of the fixed-wing drones you will find today are VTOLs since they are faster, don’t need a long runway, and can be deployed within a few minutes.
Use cases of drones in security services #
Below are some of the ways drones are applicable in the security industry.
Over the years, poaching has become quite a menace, leading to some animals becoming extinct and countries losing billions of dollars.
Drones can help fight this menace in several ways.
For starters, drones can be fitted with anti-poaching surveillance technology, allowing them to collect relevant data, which security personnel can then analyze to determine high-risk areas.
Secondly, security personnel can use drones alongside other systems to count animals, identify migration patterns, and even track the animals.
Drones with multispectral sensors can also be used to collect data in low light or to collect data that they can use in models for predictive analysis.
Since game parks and reserves are pretty vast, VTOL and fixed-wing drones are more applicable since their design and flight times make them more durable.
Below are examples of drones and how they are being used in anti-poaching:
Super Bat DA-50 – This is a fixed-wing/VTOL drone used for anti-poaching missions in Tanzania, a country whose elephant population has been greatly reduced due to poaching.It has a 10-hour endurance, fully autonomous capability, the ability to track objects, 15,000 feet max altitude, infrared, and night vision capabilities.
Air Shepherd anti-poaching system – This system was built by the Lindbergh Foundation to help curb the poaching of rhinos and elephants in Southern Africa.This system comprises multirotors and fixed-wing drones, image-processing software, and a predictive analysis tool. They can also customize the system to work with DJI Phantom or Inspire drones.
Silent Falcon Solar Powered Drone – This is a fixed-wing solar-powered drone designed for anti-poaching missions. The solar power allows it to last longer and operate silently, making it ideal when you want to minimize the noise drones make.This drone is also built to carry heavy payloads, which the pilots can operate remotely. That’s why it always needs two operators. This drone has seen wide application in anti-poaching missions in Namibia.
Event surveillance #
You may have seen drones flying around when watching a game, when at a festival, or at a political rally. While some of these drones cover the event from the air, others are being used for surveillance to identify anything suspicious and areas where security personnel may need to be deployed.
Border patrol #
Drones are now deployed worldwide to help guard borders and prevent smuggling and illegal entry.
In the United States, for example, drones are used by Border Patrol and the National Guard to surveil the borders and prevent the smuggling of drugs.
In October 2020, the US Border Patrol invested $1 million in drones, where they contracted Teal to provide their Golden Eagle drones.
These drones have been approved for tracking, surveillance, and public service missions by the Department of Defense.
Drones from JOUAV have also been used to patrol vast sea areas in the fight against smuggling in Guangzhou.
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Perimeter security #
This is one of the most common uses for drones in security, from facility monitoring and traffic management to aerial surveillance of major sports events.
Most perimeter security drones come as a complete system, like the one mentioned earlier, where you get the drone, charging system, and automatic takeoff and landing.
An excellent example of these drones is the Easy Aerial SAMS, a perimeter security drone system used in the Super Bowl and by the Miami PD.
This system has a self-reliant ground station, sensors like thermal cameras and LiDAR, and the ability to carry even more payloads depending on the data you want to collect.
Other systems include:
- Avy Aera 3
- MicroDrones MD4-3000
- Kespry 2S
Challenges facing drone usage in the security industry #
Like any other new technology, drones have their fair share of limitations. Below are the most common ones.
Limited flight time #
While there are drones that can last up to 10 hours in the air, they are quite expensive and would not be affordable for someone who only needs a drone for perimeter security.
The other option they have is to get a simpler, more affordable version which often only lasts between 30 to 50 minutes. This flight time can be pretty limiting if you have huge areas to surveil.
Since drones are small and light, they can’t handle much turbulence compared to manned aircraft, and they’d have to land and wait it out.
Most drones are also barely waterproof, even when the manufacturer says they are, making them challenging to use in rainy or snowy conditions.
Since drones rely on radio signals to relay information, they are prone to interferences by electromagnetic fields, clouds, power lines, or even interceptions by malicious people.
These occurrences could delay or prevent data from getting to the ground station, or worse still, they could lead to flyaways when the connection between the drone and the controller is lost.
Since drones are a new technology, they are yet to be fully adopted since current regulations limit their usage. These include the following.
Line-of-sight flying – In most regions, you must fly a drone within the line of sight. That means the drone should always be visible, and in areas with several obstacles, that could reduce the line of sight to a few feet.This makes it difficult to survey vast areas of land where you can’t see your drone. BVLOS (Beyond Visual Line Of Sight) operations are possible, but they need clearance, and policies on enabling them are still in the works.
Flying over people and vehicles – Another regulation that may hinder security operations is flying over people. You will find that it’s illegal to fly overhead people who aren’t aware, making it difficult to use drones in games, political rallies, or even traffic management.Luckily, you can get a waiver sometimes, which makes the process longer, and you may not get it in time for the event.
Privacy issues – Since drones fly at lower altitudes, some people fear that drones may fly over their yards and spy on them. These cases have happened, and that’s why you will find that in some states, you are required to fly 1,300 feet to fly over someone’s property.Rules against taking pictures and videos of other people and their property without their consent are also in place.
Conclusion – The future of drones in security #
Drones have come a long way, and we can expect more growth with them having found use cases in security.
We can expect to see drones get more sophisticated, automated, and efficient in dealing with security.
Regulations still need to catch up in enabling drone operations, but I’m hopeful that will change to accommodate the use of drones in security and other industries.