drone innovation

Security drones: The innovations set to unlock new applications in 2019 and beyond

Barry Clack

Owner, Box Cottage Photography

Author Bio ▼

Presenter, film maker, drone operator, aerial cinematographer.
March 4, 2019

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‘Secure by default’ in the age of converged security

(Image: Skeyetech from Azur Drones is an automated surveillance drone integrated with Genetec Security Center)

Technology, regulation and legislation are all coming together to make the commercial use of drones more viable than ever before.

The last 12 months has been an exciting, and sometimes controversial, time for commercial drones in general, and their use in the security sector in particular.

Late last year saw Gatwick Airport closed due to a ‘malicious drone‘. This brought the need for drone detection and anti-drone technology to the fore.

As well as specialist, military-grade solutions, we’re seeing more commercial-level options coming on stream, including systems from major drone manufacturers such as DJI’s Aeroscope, which can not only detect drones in the air, but also the operator’s location.

Such lightweight and portable drone detection systems are increasingly used as part of the security portfolio at fixed venues and live events like festivals.

Tightening laws

In January of this year, the government reaffirmed its commitment to commercial drone use in the UK while also announcing a tightening of the laws around what private drone users can and can’t do with their off-the-shelf machines.

From November 2019, private individuals will have to register as drone operators and pass an online competency test to fly legally – a step welcomed by commercial operators who have to undergo stringent training to secure Permission for Commercial Operations from the Civil Aviation Authority.

For the first time, major manufacturers are launching more professional-grade products than consumer-level ones

The broader drone industry has seen a real focus on commercial drone technology.  For the first time, major manufacturers are releasing more professional-grade products to the market than consumer-level ones.

Of particular interest to the security sector is the ever-growing range of sensors now available – from high-end cameras with superb quality optics (including zooms) for pin-sharp visuals, to enhanced offerings in infrared, low-light and night vision products. Modular systems with ‘hot-swappable’ sensor packs are providing superbly flexible surveillance options at better price points than ever before.

Specialist manufacturers have also been making significant strides in gaining regulatory approval for the testing of fully autonomous drone systems. Companies such as Azur Drones from have been trialling pilotless systems, which are likely to pave the way for new drone uses of particular relevance to the security market.

The removal of a need for a qualified pilot for every drone is particularly exciting for any sector where rapid deployment and wide coverage is desirable.

Crucial to a fuller commercial exploitation of drones is integrating them with other air traffic. Where drones and their operators can’t communicate with air traffic control this limits the areas in which they can be used.

Because of this, the surveillance and protection of major infrastructure or private locations close to airports is currently very difficult, if not impossible, to achieve.

A major breakthrough in this area was demonstrated in November 2018 by NATS (the UK’s main air navigation services provider) and other technology partners in Operation Zenith. In this landmark live demonstration, commercial drone traffic was integrated with commercial air traffic via the control tower at Manchester International Airport during a normal operating day.

This proof of concept of a so-called UTM (unmanned traffic management) system confirms the UK’s position as a world leader in the commercial use of drone technology in 2019 and beyond.

The author, Barry Clack, is a film-maker, drone operator and aerial cinematographer. He is presenting and coordinating talks on the security applications of drones at IFSEC International 2019, in the Keynote Theatre on 18 and 19 June 2019.

IFSEC 2019 will also feature security drones from Azur Drones (stand IF433) and counter-drone technologies from Dedrone (stand IF240).

Europe’s largest annual physical security show will take place 18-20 June 2019 at ExCeL London. Book your free ticket now.

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