While technology has always supported security firms with advanced electronics, sensors and video, many tasks still require a large amount of human involvement. Drones are changing the status quo thanks to their speed, size, manoeuvrability and applied technologies: they are the perfect supplement for ground security teams seeking to perform monitoring tasks more quickly and efficiently.
Drones can quickly cover large and difficult-to-reach areas, reducing staff numbers and costs, and do not require much space for their operators. As drones are manoeuvred by small pilot stations, operators can be gathered in one place, as with traditional video monitoring.
In security applications, areas need to be monitored constantly, requiring drones to be sturdy and able to operate in different weather conditions and at night. As operational time for security applications needs to be long in order to ensure continual surveillance, UAVs need higher-capacity, lighter batteries. In certain circumstances, batteries and electronic motors might be unsuitable for the tasks required, and may be replaced by fuel-burning engines enabling longer flights. To further overcome battery capacity issues, new concepts are being developed, such as wired drones connected by cable to an additional source of energy, which can be attached high above the ground to minimize the chance of breaking the connection.
PwC estimates the addressable market of drone powered solutions in security industry at $10.5bn.
Because different parts of the security industry have differing requirements, we distinguish between two types of approach: monitoring lines and monitoring sites. In line monitoring, fixed-wing UAVs are used to perform highway, coastal
and border surveillance. They can watch for cases of illegal border crossing, smuggling or wild animal traffic. In terms of monitoring sites, multi-rotors are used more frequently, as they provide higher manoeuvrability and can hover more easily. UAVs can provide live streaming of detailed data, follow objects or intruders from a safe distance and quickly cover a large area, but also record images that can identify whether part of a forest or a slag heap is missing. Drones have a competitive edge over stationary cameras, as intruders can’t easily step out of sight, and they can cover areas that are normally out of reach. UAVs can also perform remote reconnaissance and rapid accident assessments to ensure
that an area is safe for a response team to enter, and to ensure a prompt reaction to security alarms; this can significantly impact the success ratio of response groups.
Drones have expanded their function beyond basic monitoring and can also ensure the safety of key sites or infrastructure, such as ports and airports. In Abu Dhabi, ADPC – the company that manages all the city’s ports – decided to supplement its security system with drones. UAVs are also used for monitoring and assessing the scale of accidents. This information enables port authorities to delegate personnel more efficiently. UAVs have found other applications in industrial plants: reducing the costs of asset theft, in addition to monitoring and verifying the quality of employee work.
Drones do not need to be limited to repetitive tasks. During sporting events such as the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, UAVs were used to ensure safety. Their main task was to track crowds in high-traffic areas
and provide vast amounts of real-time data for security teams in the event of any disturbances. This enabled response teams to gauge a problem before it escalated. The Red Cross has also tested other uses of drones during such events – for example, identifying injuries to immediately dispatch medical help.
In addition to monitoring and rapid reaction, UAVs can provide detailed pictures and documentation of premises, enabling effective data analysis, identification of risks and security planning.
In the future we envisage that the data gathered by UAVs will be instantly processed in the cloud, providing complete scene recognition supplementing human supervision. Thanks to machine learning software, drones will not only recognize unauthorised entry to a site, but also identify precisely who the intruder is, thanks to motion sensing and biometrics-based behaviour analysis, as well as facial recognition. UAVs will create systems enabling mass surveillance, where potential threats can be identified and data is immediately transmitted to response teams.