Security Drones news and reports

The security drones report 2017

Drone deployments are becoming increasingly common in the security industry, as our new security drones report explains.

The commercial drone marketing is already worth $2bn (£1.5bn), the global market for commercial applications was projected to be worth $127.3bn (£88bn) by 2020 – a staggering 6,000% jump in three years – by a PwC report published in May 2016. And security is set to account for $10bn (£7.8bn) worth of the market, behind only infrastructure, agriculture and transport. The US aviation regulator believes the size of the commercial drone fleet in the US will grow to 10 times its current size by the end of the same period.

Drones are already more widely used in the security industry than many might have realised, if our survey is any barometer. Sixteen percent of respondents – mostly comprising security professionals, heads of security and other senior executives – say they already deploy the technology. Given that a total of 60% either already use drones or can foresee themselves doing so eventually, it doesn’t seem hyperbolic to describe the growth trajectory for this market as heading sharply upwards. In fact, a mere 16% indicated that they “probably won’t ever need drone technology for any security application”, the other 24% admitting that they don’t know enough about the technology to commit either way.

Demand and growth potential

Of those who don’t already use drones but expect to at some future juncture, 42% considered drones ‘important to how we achieve our goals’ and wanted to deploy them as soon as practically possible. The other 58% expected to make the investment only when prices fall low enough. And prices are dropping fast. Accelerated by low-cost competition from China – notably DJI, which dominates the consumer market and is making inroads into the commercial space – this is making security drones and anti-drone tech accessible to a widening range of businesses and sectors:


Drones as a service

Replicating a model gaining ground in access control and long dominant in intruder alarms, the provision of drones as a service is likely to suit businesses that only need drones periodically, want the flexibility to scale their operation up or down rapidly, or simply want to test the concept without making a big investment in hardware and training. Unlike more established security technologies like CCTV, access control and intruder alarms, drone use does not benefit from the accumulation over several decades of guidance, operational methodologies and technical standards. They represent if not unchartered territory, then certainly lightly explored terrain. Few organisations can draw on a wellspring of expertise within their organisation or readily find candidates with eclectic skillsets that happen to include expertise in this niche discipline. Within this context, this observation made by Adam Lisberg, DJI spokesman for North America, to Reuters in 2016, seem perceptive. “Four years ago, it was enough to take something out of a box, you push a button and it flies. The smart money is now in drone services.”


ROI: Making the case for investment

Security professionals review the performance of their security systems as tech evolves on a fairly regular basis. This is perhaps understandable given the pace of breathless pace of change in what is now a software driven-market. Asked how often they review their ‘current security systems with a view to investing in new technologies to boost security and/or cut costs’, 42% said once a year or less. A further 27% did so every 1-3 years and 25% reviewed things on an ad-hoc basis, the implication being that they would happily consider investing in technologies as and when they become aware of them. That leaves just 6% of respondents who tend to review systems less regularly that every three years. Such apparently widespread willingness to consider investing in cutting-edge security technology is a real spur to a disruptive sector like commercial drones.

 Persuading budget holders to sanction investment in drones becomes a lot easier if the outlay can be recouped – and then some – through operational efficiencies. Consider the most well-known commercial deployment of drones, by Amazon, during trials in 2016: delivering a 2kg package within a 10km radius would cost the retail giant between $2-$8 in ground transport costs, whereas delivery by drone costs a mere 10 cents – between 20 and 80 times cheaper. It’s not difficult to imagine how substantial savings could also be achieved in the security market if drones could be deployed in place of security guards, network cameras or helicopters in certain contexts.

Education gap

The strong demand for commercial drone use would be greater still if only more people in the industry were aware of such transformative benefits. Admittedly, most security professionals are aware that drones can capture bird’s eye images (84%) and three quarters know they can be operated remotely via smartphones and other mobile devices (76%).

However, somewhere in the region of one in two are unaware that:

• Drones can track suspicious persons or vehicles over long distances (44%)

• Drones can be used for crowd control purposes during protests, sports events and other large gatherings (48%)

• Drones can perform a similar role to security guards, potentially reducing spending on manned guarding (52%)

• Anti-drone tech can detect, locate, track and take over ‘rogue’ drones to protect buildings, people and other assets (55%)

Fewer still – around two thirds (64%) – are unaware that drones can automatically read licence plates. Of those who neither already use drones nor are inclined to in the future, 60% said they didn’t yet know enough about the technology to know whether it would have a worthwhile application in their organisation. The equivalent figure for anti-drone tech is similar at 57%. It is clear then that educating the industry on the merits and applications of drone and anti-drone technology is essential if the commercial drone sector is to unlock the potential of the security market.

CCTV with rotors: Disrupting the security technology mix

The British Security Industry Association (BSIA) estimates that there are between 4-5.9 million network cameras in the UK – about one camera for every 11 people. With so much of our urban environment already under surveillance, might hard-nosed security professionals write surveillance drones off as an expensive gimmick?

Perhaps yes, and understandably so, in certain contexts – most obviously in the surveillance of building interiors. And yet, as well as being unmanned and equipped with on-board cameras, the other obvious facts about security drones are that they are mobile and airborne. This means they can do things that are impossible for regular fixed surveillance cameras – like birds-eye views over large areas or dispatching rapidly to areas of interest. Consider this in combination with the enormous size of the global surveillance market – worth more than $30bn (£23bn), according to MarketsandMarkets – and the enormous, disruptive potential of this technology becomes clear. It is understandable, then, that aerial overview surveillance should have the widest appeal among security applications, with 61% of respondents expressing an interest.

The aerial capture of footage or imagery is drones’ most obvious USP – and not just in security, with aerial photography now an affordable tool for estate agents or wedding planners. Every surveillance application becomes much easier – or feasible at all – at night-time with the deployment of thermal cameras, which are of interest to 45% of respondents. Asked which types of images they require, every option was ticked by at least 44% of those polled, so a wide range of image types are popular.

Tracking Drones are hundreds of times cheaper to hire or run than a helicopter, not to mention infinitely more nimble and discrete in tracking suspects. Both short- and long-range tracking were popular functions among survey respondents, with 39% and 35% respectively keen.

Security guard tour applications are the second most sought after application, with just shy of one in two (49%) of those polled expressing an interest.

Licence plate identification was of interest to more than one in four respondents (27%). Security guard tours are capable of patrolling more rapidly and extensively than human guards, as well as being unimpeded by physical barriers on the ground, drones are an intriguing option for the 46% of respondents who have manned patrols. Of that segment, 64% said they would consider using security guard tour applications. Perhaps unexpectedly, one in two (50%) who don’t deploy manned patrols also expressed an interest in the same functionality – suggesting that drones make unmanned patrols a viable, desirable tool for organisations that eschew or cannot afford manned patrols.

Where sensors detect an intrusion at the perimeter, a drone can be dispatched much faster than a person on foot. And once at a scene – perhaps deploying a thermal camera – they can more readily spot, track and report the movements of an intruder than a flashlight-wielding security guard. This also removes humans from harm’s way. Offering rapid situational awareness drones can therefore be an invaluable aid to first responders in emergency situations involving casualties. Drones don’t get distracted and need neither sleep nor food. That said, they still need refuelling in a way that is much more limiting than a human guard’s need for food and water.


The capacity of drones to support and reduce numbers of fixed cameras and ‘boots on the ground’ is constrained more than any other factor by battery life – and drones are currently deficient in this regard. At present, commercial drones can typically fly continuously for only about 25 minutes. Surveillance monitoring is a 24-7 undertaking so it’s a major drawback – albeit one obviously solved by rotating multiple drones in shifts. Requiring a larger fleet, however, this obviously increases costs.

Download the full report here.



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