Might We Soon Become Drone Rangers?

It’s 2014! We’re in the era of what some may consider “Jetsons”-like technology. San Diego is one of several regions vying for the title of being the country’s “Center of Excellence” for the Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) technology development, better known as drones. San Diego, rich with companies invested in innovation, research and development, combined with the heavy military influence, is the perfect city to be the center of excellence. The chatter about UASs from military use to the commercial sector is lively and controversial, and makes me wonder if it is the next opportunity for the security industry.

A UAS can be as small as a remote control airplane or as large as a giant intercontinental global hawk. Right now, the technology is being used for military applications for random antiterrorist measures (RAM), but the transition to the commercial security market is not far away. Currently, a surveillance system is a static installation — it can be compromised because static, by its very nature, is vulnerable to penetration. UASs that incorporate sensors (e.g. cameras, electro-optical IR, thermal imaging) can be used for unpredictable surveillance patterns.

The question for the security industry is: how do we apply the ability to make the sensor mobile (unpredictable) and an affordable solution for the commercial security sector? The obvious end user would be those protecting large infrastructures such as power facilities, water districts, dams, border regions and areas with large land responsibility. Other applications would be large commercial industrial areas such as factories, distribution centers and campus-type businesses. How can we use this emerging technology in the design of a security system for the customer?

The news at the time of my writing this article was the investment of Amazon in the UAS technology to be considered for package delivery. By easily programming GPS coordinates, the package could be efficiently delivered to the customer’s doorstep. What was that about the Jetsons?!

Locally, there are discussions about the use of several UASs to do land surveillance on a large piece of chaparral (23,000 acres) in the Escondido area called Rancho Guejito. This locale is an original land mass that has been passed down through generations. The family is working with the city to determine if it can be developed. The owners have deployed several UASs to search for poachers, trespassers, broken fences and, most importantly, any hint of fire danger.

There have been game-changing leaps in our industry over the years — most recently the proliferation of the Internet and rapid acceleration in the improvement of wireless technology. The big question now for the industry and SSI’s readers: Is UAS technology a legitimate opportunity and if so, what are the implications? Can we capitalize on this for both surveillance and monitoring services? Will central station operators soon be manning UASs from their dispatch desks? What do you think? I’d love to hear your feedback and continue the discussion.

Shandon Harbour is President of San Diego-based SDA Security.

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