There is an increasing demand for drone security systems as customers try to reduce costs and boost efficiency. Here's what to know before investing in them.
Drone security systems currently see an increase in demand as a combination of COVID-19 and the need for automation has boosted efforts to decrease costs and improve efficiency. Autonomous security drones, in particular, are getting much attraction as customers try to reduce the costs of human guards and improve efficiency. Companies providing autonomous drone security systems have had higher inquiries in 2020. For instance, Nightingale Security has seen as much as a 50 percent increase, one-fourth of which, it believes, is because of the pandemic.
"COVID-19 definitely made people aware that human guards can get sick
," said Jack Wu, Co-Founder and CEO of Nightingale Security. "When a guard gets sick, it's not just them - you're talking about the entire shift having to be quarantined. The security guards share patrol vehicles. They share the guard shack, share the refrigerators for their lunch, share the bathrooms, share the command centers, keyboard, and mouse. A lot of command centers don't typically have the best ventilation either."
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So, when one guard gets sick, you must have the entire shift quarantine. And that's very inconvenient because it causes the customer to have to go out and get more guards quickly. It's one thing replacing a single guard, but it's another to have to replace an entire shift.
All such reasons have prompted a growing interest in autonomous drone security systems that can operate entirely on their own, from take-off to landing and everything in between. Drone security cameras have also come a long way from their early days, providing high-quality footage.
UAV surveillance now and in 2021
What COVID-19 has done is bring a lot of customers' attention to automation. Companies with automation plans will prioritize those plans to be looked at sooner rather than later. Wu believes that 2021 will be the year when autonomous security drones will become mainstream
"It's like an opportunity for us to really utilize the pandemic as a catalyst to look forward to automating some of the things that we should be automating anyway, even without the pandemic, because it saves time, it will save money," Wu points out. "And it is safer, because certain dangerous jobs, you really don't want humans to be doing it. Often, to respond to an emergency, the security guard arrives at a location not knowing what they're dealing with; they just know that there is an alarm. Having a security drone is going to provide situational awareness in ways that a human can't."
Here are some developments in security drones that we may see in 2021:
Of course, there are several technical features that companies need to focus on to deal with customer requirements. For instance, security drones should be able to operate in any kind of weather conditions, adverse as well as good. They have to operate at night and perhaps even in foggy weather because security is something that you don't know when you need it until you need it.
Integration is a single major factor that enables customers to take maximum advantage of drone security surveillance. This includes not just integration between the drones and ground systems but also communication between drones.
"You're going to see drone to drone communication, multiple systems working together, and air and ground systems become integrated. So, you'll have ground-based autonomous systems with aerial systems talking to each other. The drone can get to an area, vector, and tell the ground-based system that the bad guys are over here. Get over here!"
Completely autonomous security drones allow customers to rest assured that their security system can take care of any problem that arises without human intervention.
"The most important thing is a complete automated workflow, which means the drone must take care of itself," Wu explained. "It must take off by itself, identify threats by itself, land by itself, work with other drones by itself, charge by itself, and download the data by itself."
What to consider when opting for drone security systems
Although autonomous drone security systems may seem like an attractive option, there are certain factors that customers must consider before investing in them. This includes a careful evaluation of the site they want to protect, existing security solutions, and their ability to integrate.
Size and location of the site
Wu suggests that small sites, like one to four acres, are better off with CCTV cameras. You must look at your operation concept and see if you have a large area and need to respond to intrusion quickly, have limited human resources, or a limited number of cameras and sensor infrastructure.
"A drone is a camera that you can use anywhere, anytime," Wu said. "If you have a large area, this makes sense. Now, if you have a small site like an acre or four acres, you probably should just get cameras. But if you have 100 acres, for instance, then you definitely should get the drone."
The location is another factor to consider. If your site is in an urban or semi-urban area, there may be regulatory restrictions on the use of drones
. So, check regional laws before investing.
If you have a large area that needs protection and need something to cover the space quickly, then autonomous security drones can do this cheaper, better, and faster.
"First, you need to assess your current concept of operation - if you have a perimeter sensor, for instance, can you integrate that with a drone, so the drone can automatically respond to emergencies to alerts," Wu said. "If you have human guards, perhaps the drone can detect intruders and then automatically provide a live video to the security guard. So, before the security guard reacts, he or she will have situational awareness."
Integrating security drones
Ideally, you must have an existing command center that will pipe-in the video feed from the drone and do a VMS integration. Integration is essential, and you must integrate to make drones part of your entire security system.
"To implement it correctly, you've got to be able to integrate this with your other security assets, whether it's just your VMS, for instance, or as complex as multi-sensor integration," Wu added. "This means you can integrate with your thermal radar or kinetic sensors at the fence-line, your PTZ cameras, etc. so that the drone can tell the PTZ cameras where to look. But you've got to be able to integrate the drone into your regular daily operation."
Conclusion: drone security systems are here to stay
Interest in autonomous security drones is definitely on the rise. COVID-19 helped accelerate demand in this sector because many security management companies have more time to plan for the future when there is a shutdown.
"When looking at what to do to enhance their security, they're also looking at their budget," Wu explained. "Because now they're saying, well, maybe there's a certain slow down to the business, and the budget will be reduced. Where do we reduce the budget? Well, human guards are one of the most expensive elements in fiscal security."
Human guards are a recurring cost. It's not something you can invest in just once and forget about it. Costs of employing guards go up every year because you must adjust for inflation and consider market conditions. Robots are not asking you for a raise. So, the cost of operation is obviously in favor of a drone versus a security guard.