Security drones: news and reports

The security drones report 2017

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IFSEC Global explores the developments and updates to the growing drone security market.

Drone security deployments are increasingly common, as our 2017 security drone report explained. 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.

Having said this, the final publication of the new ISO approved drone standards is expected to have a massive impact on the future of growth of the global drone industry. A number of recent reports have attempted to forecast the economic impact of air drones globally. For instance, in its report Drones Reporting for Work, Goldman Sachs has estimated that the size of the global drone industry will reach $100 billion by 2020. Most recently, analysts at Barclays estimate that the global commercial drone market will grow tenfold from $4bn in 2018 to $40bn in five years. Differing estimations these may be, but it seems all are predicting rapid growth in the sector, which is bound to have an impact on the security industry.

Demand for drones in security applications

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. Three in five (60%) either already use drones or can foresee themselves doing so eventually, so it doesn’t seem hyperbolic to describe the growth trajectory for this market as heading sharply upwards.

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 security 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, seems 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.”

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.

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 security 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.

Battery life

The capacity of security 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.

Drone legislation

In December 2019, the world’s first ISO approved drone standards were announced by the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO), following a 12-month period of consultation with drone professionals, academics, businesses and the general public. The final publication is expected to have a massive impact on the future of growth of the global drone industry.

This important first step is part of a wider deliverable by ISO which is expected to trigger rapid acceleration in the use of air drones by organisations keen to reap the rewards of this transformative technology, against a background of reassurance on safety and security within a new framework of approved regulatory compliance.

The announcement by ISO represents enormous progress in the standardisation of the global drone industry and is of particular significance in addressing the operational requirements of the more recognised and prevalent air drones, also known as UAS (Unmanned Aircraft Systems). The new Standards include protocols on Quality, Safety, Security and overall ‘etiquette’ for the operation of commercial air drones, which will help shape future regulation and legislation.

Air safety: A key attribute of the ISO Standards is their focus on air safety, which is at the forefront of public attention in connection with airports and other sensitive locations. The new Standards promote an ‘etiquette’ for drone use that reinforces compliance towards no-fly zones, local regulation, flight log protocols, maintenance, training and flight planning documentation. The effectiveness of the Standards in improving air safety will be further strengthened by the continuing rapid development of geo-fencing and counter-drone technology providing frontline protection against ‘rogue’ drone operators.

Privacy and data protection: The Standards also seek to address public concerns surrounding privacy and data protection, demanding that operators must have appropriate systems to handle data alongside communications and control planning when flying.  The hardware and software of all related operating equipment must also be kept up to date.  Significantly, the fail-safe of human intervention is required for all drone flights, including autonomous operations, ensuring that drone operators are held accountable.

You can download the full 2017 report here.

 

 


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