Imperial Capital Report Spotlights Scenarios for Deploying Security Drone Systems
Despite rising opportunities for security providers to integrate unmanned aerial systems into commercial applications — including counter-drone solutions — steep regulatory challenges will have to be resolved before a market can fully develop.
Photo courtesy Dronefly
In the latest Security Industry Monitor published by Imperial Capital, the quarterly macroeconomic report includes an overview of the unmanned aerial systems (UAS) sector.
This particular section piqued my interest given that SSI’s May publication marks our first robosecurity issue. Hitting mailboxes and SSI’s website in the coming days, we delve into how ground and aerial robotics are fast advancing from R&D facilities and military uses to general security and video surveillance deployments.
As the April 2018 installment of the Security Industry Monitor reinforces, the market for security-centric UAS is expected to increase significantly. This view is supported by market research such as conducted by Freedonia Group, which forecasts safety and security drone sales to reach $250 million by 2019 compared to $90 million in 2016.
“We believe implications for the security industry are far reaching with potential applications for public safety and security, private security and guarding as well as home security. UAS can provide a cost effective additional layer of protection, enhancing providers’ security offering and potentially reducing costs,” the Imperial Capital report posits.
Particular interest is growing among select systems integrators for deploying drones as part of a complete end-to-end security solution. Think improved situational intelligence and expedited response to security breaches and other emergencies.
Imperial Capital cites an autonomous drone-in-a-box solution offered by Securitas that has been deployed at large events. The security provider is also said to be exploring a companion drone to follow guarding personnel on their rounds. Other examples involve Johnson Controls and Stanley; each has collaborated with autonomous UAS providers Percept and Sunflower Labs, respectively.
Yet there are considerable headwinds: “Although we are bullish on the long-term prospectus of security UAS becoming a normal part of the security offering, we remain cautious as the progress of regulation (particularly in the U.S.) remains slow,” the report states.
Integrating Counter-Drone Technologies
Numerous near-miss incidents and collisions between drones and manned aircraft, as well as increased drone sightings in unauthorized areas, are helping keep security at the forefront of the drone integration conversation. Enter the potential for deploying counter-UAS (CUAS) solutions into the national airspace.
Users ranging from illicit actors such as terrorists to reckless or inexperienced recreational operators can pose similar threats to critical infrastructure, national sites and large events or gatherings.
Beyond the implementation of CUAS solutions, the FAA is studying the use of remote identification and tracking solutions for receiving real-time information on drone operations, along with investigating incidents after they have occurred.
These technologies and capabilities exist today. Imperial Capital cites data from the Center for the Study of the Drone at Bard College: There are more than 230 CUAS products produced by 155 manufacturers in 33 countries. The most common detection techniques are radar, radio frequency and electro-optical/infrared, while the most popular mitigation method is jamming.
Yet, more market headwinds abound. Regulations for conducting drone operations require drone pilots to “see and avoid” other aircraft. Ground-based operators must keep the UAS within their line of sight. Current laws in the U.S simply do not allow for commercial enterprises to deploy or use CUAS solutions without potential significant legal liability.
The liability could extend to local law enforcement and other government agencies that have not been given clear authorization to use CUAS deployments.
For example, if a commercial security provider deployed counter-UAS mitigation technologies and defeated an unauthorized drone, the security provider could be in violation of the Aircraft Sabotage Act, which prohibits “the destruction, damage or disabling of an aircraft.”
Moreover, jamming UAS communications or using a detection and tracking system could violate the Wiretap Act, while spoofing systems may violate the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.
Where does that leave commercial security providers and the ability to enhance security offerings with counter-UAS? Imperial Capital envisions deployments that could begin via joint law enforcement initiatives, particularly at large events, sports and entertainment venues.
The report states that DHS has begun work with the NFL, MLB and NBA to significantly upgrade security at stadiums and arenas under the agency’s Support Anti-Terrorism by Fostering Effective Technologies (SAFETY) Act. The act provides incentives for the development and deployment of anti-terrorism technologies by creating systems of risk and litigation management.
Although DHS hasn’t provided any clear intentions, CUAS deployments under the SAFETY Act could be a first step to use by commercial security providers, according to Imperial Capital.
“We believe a priority for the FAA in 2018 will be continued work towards safe integration of UAS into the [national airspace,] which will include progress towards Beyond Visual Line-of-Sight (BVLOS) operations,” the report states. “For both to happen, the [national airspace] will need a robust Unmanned Aircraft Traffic Management system (UTM) for operations as well as remote ID capabilities to not only track in real-time but provide the ability to find operators when needed for post incident investigations or other unauthorized events.”
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