FLIR Discusses Its Fast-Growing Drone Operations

FLIR has become one of the security industry’s most active movers in the surveillance drone and UAV space following recent acquisitions.

As recent acquisitions of companies like Endeavor Robotics and Aeryon Labs demonstrate, FLIR Systems has become one of the security industry’s most active movers into the surveillance drone and UAV space.

SSI spoke with the thermal imaging specialist’s vice president for North American public safety solutions, unmanned systems and integrated solutions, John Bagocius, to get FLIR’s take on this burgeoning market.

How does FLIR see the security/surveillance drone market?

JOHN BAGOCIUS: We see the security drone market as a rapidly growing area of opportunity. The world of UAS [unmanned aerial systems] is still in its infancy. Drone technology is moving well beyond its origin as a simple means to put a camera in the air, with new and exciting possibilities on the horizon. The addition of FLIR thermal sensors into the drone payloads being offered today have revolutionized not only the security market, but also have had positive impacts in other areas such as public safety, critical infrastructure management and defense.

Why has the company invested heavily in the security/surveillance drone market and acquired other players?

BAGOCIUS: Our investment in the drone market is another example of our commitment to provide expanded products and capabilities to the security and surveillance marketplace. Our focus is to continue to provide best-in-class sensor technology and to move beyond sensors into the development of complete solutions as well. The world of unmanned systems allows us to deploy our core technologies in new and exciting ways to solve real-world problems with greater efficiency.

What is the potential role for security integrators in the space?

BAGOCIUS: The addition of UAS technology into the security ecosphere provides many exciting opportunities for today’s integrators. While there are drones today that offer the operator the ability to perform tasks, such as package delivery or dropping lifesaving equipment to someone in need, most drones currently in use are designed to collect data. How and where that data is used and the analytics employed to use the data in an ethical and purposeful way provide a significant opportunity in today’s market.

What are target applications and challenges in the space?

BAGOCIUS: Currently, there are several target applications for UAS in the security marketplace. For FLIR, providing drones for police forces is a key focus as it strengthens our overall smart cities solution offering. Additionally, using drones to augment security forces as well as the use of the FLIR thermal payloads is changing the way many organizations approach their overall security strategy. As with any industry or technology, UAS is not without challenges. Safety is always a top consideration, as drones can be harmful to people and property if not properly deployed. Along with safety, regulatory compliance will continue to be a challenge as new and evolving rules and regulations are put in place by the FAA and other regulatory aviation administrations globally.

What are FLIR’s views on counter-drone technologies?

BAGOCIUS: There are always going to be cases where technology is used for the wrong reasons. With the availability of highly capable, low-cost drones in today’s global consumer markets, steps must be made to ensure we can address those situations where these drones are used illegally. Counter-drone technologies are rapidly emerging in hopes to solve these problems. FLIR’s mission is to be a total solution provider, including counter-drone technologies. As these tools evolve, we will continue to evaluate the different products and methods available to determine which offers the best fit of products to be integrated as part of an overall solution.

What is expected to develop in the next one, three and five years in the security/surveillance drone market?

BAGOCIUS: The future is bright for the UAS market. In the next few years, we will see advancements in all areas of UAS, including airframes, payloads, flight capabilities and software solutions. We will also see the rise of machine learning and artificial intelligence in the UAS technology landscape, as drones evolve beyond their current state. These advancements will undoubtedly serve the security and surveillance market in a positive manner, creating new solutions that provide better tools, with even greater efficiency, to get the job done.

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