Drones Are Here to Stay — Here’s Why

As drones become more mainstream and regulations are refined, many security sectors are anticipating their own drone surveillance and detection systems.

Drones Are Here to Stay — Here’s Why

Drones and their prospects of aerial surveillance are no longer an emerging technology. They are already here. As drones become more mainstream and regulations are refined, many security sectors are anticipating their own drone surveillance and drone detection systems.

With incidents on the rise and refined technologies prolonging flight times, drone or unmanned aerial system (UAS) surveillance becomes increasingly viable. This column briefly describes operational and project-based use cases for systems integrators and some challenges in the implementation.

Supplementing Operations – Patrol

Aerial surveillance can dramatically reduce or eliminate a guard’s walking route while allowing them to cover more ground. Solutions leveraging UASs are best suited to vast, dangerous, or impossible to reach areas where traditional surveillance solutions are not a feasible option.

The UAS can follow a predetermined route for patrolling or be controlled actively by an operator to cover a certain area. As UAS technology develops and becomes more cost-effective, we will see an increase in the routine use to support security operations.

Supplementing Operations – Incident response

UASs can respond to alarms or incidents in hard to reach or distant locations much quicker than a person can. This is a reduction in response time where every second counts. If a UAS is deployed during an active threat, security personnel are not first responders to a dangerous situation.

AI solutions in UASs can track moving targets allowing additional time to respond and gather more context. Essentially the speed of a UAS paired with tracking technologies can keep personnel safe and gather more critical incident information.

Supplementing Operations – Line-of-Sight Challenges

To leverage UAS solutions, an operational arm of security is necessary to control this technology. Currently all UASs must have an operator that maintains a line of sight (LOS) through the duration of the flight. This requires either a trained security force or a professional UAS operator on staff.

With only public safety organizations able to waive beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) requirements by the FAA, commercial sectors are likely to operate drones to supplement security operations in a limited capacity. In urban and metropolitan environments, buildings will quickly break an operator’s LOS reducing practicality; however, in expansive rural environments where many industrial, oil and gas, and data center sectors live, a UAS may be the quickest and safest method to respond to an alarm.

 Project-Based Surveillance

Events or temporary locations provide a unique challenge as security measures may need to be deployed and decommissioned to secure a rented space. An end user’s security standards will likely dictate how event security is deployed and a project-based supplemental UAS program provides an additional layer of security.

Some manufacturers sell drone operators on a per-event basis so the end user does not need to train their staff and can still secure the premise. Aerial surveillance can provide coverage in areas where temporary cameras cannot be installed due to infrastructure deficiencies or landlord requirements. This increases the resiliency of event security as an operator is on standby with a UAS ready to respond.

UAS Programs

The threat landscape is increasing as bad actors can identify vulnerabilities from building rooftops with their own UAS. Security footage will not tell you if a UAS belongs to a hobbyist or if it is carrying a payload to spoof a corporate network.

UAS activity and conversations are increasing across many industrial sectors and these security programs will either be implemented proactively or reactively. While a proper risk assessment is needed to see if a UAS program fits within a security schema, consider the following questions:

  • Are your sites in metropolitan or rural environments?
  • Will a UAS be used for routine operation, incident response or project-based use?
  • Can your program support the infrastructure to charge and deploy a UAS?
  • Does training or hiring a UAS operator fit within your program?
  • Is your program equipped to identify or track UASs?
  • Is it equipped to quickly respond to dangerous incidents?
  • How much risk you are willing to accept?

The logistics of implementation, varying regulations and cost of deploying an aerial surveillance program will delay overall UAS adoption; however, security programs will likely invest in detection technologies as an introduction to operations with UASs.


Josh Akre is Performance Engineering Manager at Northland Controls. 

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