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How Drones Are Used to Optimize
Physical Security

How Drones Are Used to Optimize Physical Security

The use of drones and other UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) in the security industry has been widely debated over the past years. Uncertainty around FAA regulations, safety, privacy and technical issues were cause for concern. Nevertheless, drone technology will only grow in the coming years. Industries across the globe are increasingly adopting drone technology to improve safety, drive efficiency and gather data. According to forecasts, the size of the global drone market is likely to expand at a compound annual growth rate of 25%, reaching US$ 279 Billion by the end of 2032.

This massive growth can be attributed to the multiple innovative uses of drones in the security industry including monitoring assets, threat detection, emergency response, inventory surveillance and data collection for actionable business insights. Additionally, drones are witnessing high demand due to their capability to work at potentially dangerous and inaccessible places. The 2021 FAA Rule changes may encourage even greater market growth.

Drones can provide a lot of possibilities as a physical security technology tool. Let’s figure out the most important use cases, challenges and the role of AI technology in increasing drone technology adoption for security purposes.

Benefits of security drones

Autonomy is the key benefit that drones integrated with AI can bring to physical security. Human operators involved in UAV surveillance are prone to fatigue and errors, can lose concentration and miss threats. Autonomous UAV security systems can be programmed to operate reliably and continuously and can be rapidly deployed across large areas. They can also provide autonomous threat response, for example, dispatch a drone to the alarm location, stream live video to the security team, follow fleeing suspects and provide police with real-time tracking information. Automatic obstacle detection, collision avoidance and precision landing capabilities further expand the use cases for drones in this context.

Monitoring vast and hazardous areas. Drones can do those tedious and repetitive tasks of monitoring large areas very efficiently and rapidly, inspecting hard-to-reach locations and gathering data necessary to assess potentially dangerous situations. Due to the ability to cover vast areas regardless of terrain, drones can get closer to hazards, such as high voltage areas, without putting humans at risk of harm and enabling better-informed decisions during adverse incidents. A drone can quickly fly over, detect threats and provide aerial images and real-time footage. This allows security staff to assess the level of danger and identify the appropriate response. Drones also come in handy to provide comprehensive coverage of the crime scene for officers to be fully briefed on the situation and assess the risk before venturing in to tackle the incident.

Drones can help save time and cost especially when it comes to large industrial facilities, like oil and gas sites, solar farms, storerooms or securing pipelines where proper video surveillance is critical to reducing risks of damage, leaks and protecting against theft of equipment and raw materials. However, buying, installing and maintaining cameras in remote areas is expensive. With drones, carrying out inspections is cheaper. Drone security patrols have the ability to monitor vast areas and provide high-quality images and video footage in real time, which could also mean that fewer on-site security officers are needed to protect a site or property.

Speed is another advantage. Drones are much faster than a patrol vehicle or a security officer, which allows them to reach the scene of the incident several times quicker and give the opportunity to provide a rapid remedial response.

physical threat detection

Use cases for security drones

24/7 surveillance with drones

Security drones used for video surveillance can provide practical and necessary functions. Drones can serve to augment human guards by patrolling the worksites and capturing aerial footage of the assets, securing perimeters and preventing break-ins. Integrated with AI technologies they can offer real-time streaming of data 24 hours a day. With AI, drones become smarter and can automatically identify objects that post threats, alert security of the danger. They can also be configured to initiate specific actions in real-time if dangerous objects, weapons, perimeter intrusion or anomalous behavior are detected. With ‘smart eyes in the sky,’ the security personnel can expand their real-time situational awareness while making the use of their human resources more effective. AI video analytics enables them to make faster decisions for incident response and carry out remote security operations.

The ability to cover vast terrains and pick useful data makes UAVs apt for threat detection everywhere, ensuring perimeter protection and even monitoring large crowds. Drones can also serve as a deterrence to unfriendly elements.

While securing parking lots, drones can compare license plates against those on the hot sheet, in this way helping security staff spot stolen cars or identify unauthorized vehicles.

Scylla AI-powered Drone Security System is trained to effectively operate drones cameras with non-static environments and backgrounds. We use proprietary algorithms to enable smart digital zooming and lightning-fast detection to operate at larger distances and run smart surveillance.

Carrying out remote patrols

Drones can become an important part of advanced security methods to carry out remote patrols. It’s critical for such sites as quarries, mines, farms or wind farms that usually have a limited remote monitoring system. Drone patrols can be scheduled to keep an eye on the property enabling rapid detection and identification of the threat. In the event of a security breach, autonomous AI-powered drones identify threats and automatically send an alert so that the security can prepare an intervention. Security teams can also follow drones live and analyze video feedback on their remote interface.

Actionable insights

AI facilitates and automates the process of data collection. Drones integrated with AI technology can better understand their surroundings, map areas accurately and offer precise analytical feedback. One example is monitoring the continuous flow of people and counting how many people are entering and leaving a specific area. That ensures that areas with limited capacity never become crowded and unsafe.

Environment hazard detection

A security drone is apt for identifying such environmental hazards as smoke and fire far into the distance. It can identify a danger that a manned security patrol could have hardly seen. Flying high, it can notice a wisp of smoke coming from an area of the property that is remote and difficult to access. Drones can also be sent to the area to further investigate the incident and immediately report to the fire department.

During a major event such as an oil spill, chemical leak or fire drones can be dispatched manually to monitor the unfolding events and give the security team invaluable situational awareness about dangerous and dynamically unfolding events.

COVID-19 and its repercussions

The wake of the COVID-19 outbreak across the globe may accelerate the growth of drone use in physical security. In fact, in their rapid guidance, UNICEF states how drones can be used to combat COVID-19 and some use cases include pick and drop of lab samples, medical supplies to those infected, aerial spraying of disinfectants, and public area monitoring and guidance.

Additionally, drones can be programmed to keep track of those not complying with COVID safety measures and issue warnings to them. Doing this manually among large crowds can be a challenge for security teams but with Scylla-powered drones, there is little to worry about.

According to McKinsey, consumer behavior is changing and although we may soon be done with the novel virus, consumers are going to continue shopping online. This requires e-commerce businesses to compete against one another on delivering a superior customer experience which can only be through faster deliveries and reduced service costs. Industry leaders suggest that the changing customer behavior due to COVID-19 restrictions is going to contribute to the growth of the drone sector.

Drones for better security

Drone use has led to the rise of many security, safety and privacy issues.

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Drones’ characteristics, namely small size, low cost and ease of use, made them a preferred choice for criminals. You can find various accounts of drones not being used correctly, including cyber and terror attacks.
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Another obvious obstacle for driving the broad adoption of drones is hardware (battery life, sensors, cameras and receivers’ quality, flight stability, etc.) UAVs can malfunction and crash into a nearby house or a group of people, causing property damage and human injuries. As the technology advances, drones are getting smaller, their camera systems - better, battery and fuel sources - more efficient. So, to get the most out of it, businesses must choose drones with the right configuration of hardware components, which have a direct impact on their performance.
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People’s privacy is also at high risk of being exposed by unwanted interference. Drones can record their movement and capture images without their knowledge or permission. Therefore, it’s important to have clear policies about how drone-generated data is to be used. Nevertheless, businesses would still require private drone security systems just the way they have private security teams. This is mainly important for those businesses that are located in remote areas and that deal with highly valued assets and materials.
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Maintaining compliance with FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) requirements and regulations have been a challenge for security agencies. However, in April 2021, the FAA loosened its rules for commercial operations of small drones. Previously, such unmanned aircraft were generally not allowed to fly over people, fly at night, or be out of the line of sight of the operator without an FAA waiver. Now, these drones can operate at concerts, sporting events, and for security purposes, although with certain constraints.

Anti-drone AI-powered solutions

The expanding advancements in drone technology have brought about the growing adoption of drones in various industries, especially in security and defense, for commercial and even amateur use. Machine learning and artificial intelligence contributed to the growth of drone industry market as well. In 2022, the drone market size was estimated to be around US$30.6 billion, rising to US$55.8 billion by 2030.

The number of drones is constantly increasing every year worldwide, as they have already proven their efficiency when deployed to patrol perimeters, inspect pipelines, deliver medical supplies, and gather data. At the same time, cases of inappropriate use of drones are quite common. Drones can easily access protected areas to capture images and get sensitive data. In the area of airports, they can create a jeopardizing situation and increase the risk of accidents. Of course, governments in the United States, China and certain European countries are striving to regulate and prevent these potential threats by working out standards and policies to control the use of drones and make sure they are applied properly.

Apart from regulations, technologies are now widely used to fight against the negative use of drones. There is a wide array of counter-drone solutions, ranging from radio frequency analyzers and acoustic sensors to radars and cameras powered by AI. Typically, they are implemented in combination, depending on the situation, and carry out two main functions: detect UFV in the air and take action to neutralize them by jamming, physical attack, spoofing, etc.

When it comes to detection, solutions utilizing AI and computer vision stand out. They are capable of identifying and classifying drones remotely and can easily distinguish them from birds and other flying objects. Such advanced video analytics works at a large distance and is insensitive to poor visual conditions at night, fog, etc. When detecting a threat somewhere in the vicinity, AI solutions send alert and give accurate information about the type and exact location of the detected object, which provides the situational awareness necessary to implement appropriate countermeasures. It can handle hundreds of targets simultaneously and track them in real-time. AI adds much higher accuracy with fewer false positives and brings great added value, giving a better understanding of what is going on in the air.

Final Takeaway

Unmanned aerial vehicles are now finding increased application in the security sector. In the coming years, more and more businesses are going to deploy AI-based drone security systems to improve perimeter protection and situational awareness at their facilities and minimize health and safety risks to human guards. Due to their unique capabilities, drones integrated with AI solutions assist on-site security officers in their tedious and dangerous missions, allowing them to focus on decision-making. Additionally, they help reduce operational costs and make physical security cost-effective for businesses of all sizes.

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