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Drones: Friend of Foe for the Security Professional?

February 18, 2018

IFTACH DRORI, DIGITAL MARKETING MANAGER, QOGNIFY // FEBRUARY 19, 2018

In the last couple of years, there’s been a lot of talk about drone technology and its potential usage in security applications. Drones made our list of “5 New Innovations Your VMS Can Deliver” and IHS Markit’s “Video Surveillance Trends for 2017” and many, many others. So, what happened? The predicted use of drones hasn’t really taken off in the way predicted.

PwC has forecasted that by 2020, the security drone market will be worth $10.5 billion. That’s a lot of drones. No doubt, increasingly we’ll see more and more drones utilized in safety and security applications such as:

  • Gaining a birds-eye view – fire-fighting and commercial use
  • Tracking suspects or vehicles across distances
  • Crowd control – at events, protests, etc.
  • Guard duty – patrolling and perimeter protection
  • Anti-drone technology – detect nefarious drones

 

There are a few issues that will need to be addressed prior to seeing the mass adoption that has been predicted.

Battery Life

While the market is working on improving the battery life of a drone, currently, the average commercial drone has about a 25-minute flight time capacity. For certain applications, this is fine. Firefighters effectively use drones to gain a birds-eye view of the fire they’re battling to great benefit.

For applications such as guard duty or perimeter protection, which require 24/7 capacity, short battery life poses an issue.

military drones
A military Drone. Picture by David Stanley for WikiCommons

Cost

Like with all technology that matures, the cost of drones is on a downward trend. The issue is not necessarily with the cost of a single drone, it’s the number of drones needed in order to effectively carry out many of its potential applications.

As mentioned above, a drone could be very effective in perimeter protection. In theory, you could overcome the battery-life issue by rotating a fleet of drones, but this would be expensive, especially if manned guards are still necessary.

Legislation

Like a lot of technology, the origin of drones comes from the military with their invention of UAVs (unmanned aerial aircraft). Developed for battlefield use, as its name implies, a drone is an aircraft. As such, there are regulatory considerations when using drones for security or commercial purposes, including aviation; but also because of their capabilities, governance concerning consumer data protection and privacy also must be addressed.

While governments and industry are pushing forward to apply relevant regulations in order not to stifle this important technology, until that time, the market is seeking clarity prior to moving ahead with full-scale adoption.

Here’s how a civilian drone almost shut down Gatwick Airport last July:

Drones in the Security Mix

As mentioned, firefighters are already using this technology to gain a perspective they otherwise wouldn’t have, making their efforts more effective. Drones are also being used detect movement and armed with video monitoring capabilities can transmit real-time footage of what is happening at the scene. Drones are here to stay.

The market is rapidly figuring out how to expand the use of drones for the security applications mentioned above. With global powerhouses like Amazon investing in drone technology for their own commercial use, the security market will certainly benefit from the attention and resources being put forth by other industries. In the meantime, security vendors and users of the technology are working together to leverage drones within the existing parameters.