Surveillance Drones Coming Soon?

So this is interesting, will we be specifying these surveillance platforms in a few years?

It really depends on a drone manufacturer or VMS provider focusing on making drone / VMS integration work. The current offerings do not do so.

Right now, it is theoretically / technologically feasible but it is essentially a DIY project.

So when manufacturers starting building mature products / integrations for this space, it should take off.

There are other issues involved (e.g., FCC clearance / safety issues) but the biggest one that is holding back the market is that drones and VMSes are ships in the night right now.

FLIR post

We were showing at ISC video streaming to our Cameleon PSIM platform and control of a drone (although we didn't fly it for all the right reasons).

Now we just need the regulations better defined to allow for automated or non line of sight flying.

Nice "take off" pun


Greg -

How has the drone done in high winds, rain, snow or other non-ideal weather? What is the fly-time and recharge time?

Is this something that you think FLIR would be able to commercialize if the regulations opened up?

As I recall it was a DJI drone.....beyond that I haven't a clue.

I was just pointing out the viability is there as John stated and awaiting the legal stuff to work out.

Drones are one of those cases where I think it is a matter of "the devil is in the details".

Yes, there are times when a drone would be an ideal security platform: a bright sunny day, low/no winds, open area, away from airports, no concern of the noise of the drone giving away its position or altering those being monitored.

Most security applications are not that ideal scenario though. You have windy conditions, a desire to be somewhat covert, low light and so forth. I think if someone is investing in a drone for security, given the amount of money being spent they would want something close to 99% availability. Even assuming the drone would be allowed to fly at night, I think you would be lucky to get above 50% total availability/usability after you account for charging time (or even returning to base to swap batteries out) and weather.

Another issue I see with drones is height/distance/angle. We can usually mount security cameras as low as 15' high and still consider them secure from most vandalism threats. A drone would most likely need to fly much higher to ensure it can't be easily knocked down by a thrown rock or similar. This increased height would affect viewing angle or distance to target, needing larger lenses for the camera onboard, or you'd have direct overhead shots that could obscure details of a persons face.

At a base level, controlling a drone from a VMS isn't that difficult, but I think that these "proof of concept" demos are a very long ways from a product that could be widely commercialized. The FAA regulations are inhibiting investment in this area, IMO, and I think there is a lot more R&D that would still need to be done.

If the FAA dropped all drone regulations tomorrow, I think we're still 2+ years from something like "drone as PTZ alternative".

A drone would most likely need to fly much higher to ensure it can't be easily knocked down by a thrown rock or similar...

They're working on it...

showing at ISC video streaming to our Cameleon PSIM platform and control of a drone

What about Latitude? Latitude already supports this for phones including geolocation. Why not do the same for drones?

Related: FLIR Latitude VMS Test

John, you have an excellent point and it's entirely possible Latitude was an element.

We showed everything from our MPX cameras and recorders connected to Latitude, to Horizon and Meridian devices ending up into Cameleon.

I saw the final use, but each individual part that was played is unknown.

What about Latitude? Latitude already supports this for phones including geolocation.

I believe accurate geolocation requires the Longitude plug-in as well. ;)

Undisclosed 2, everybody, he's here all week!

It's a tough crowd. :)

I've seen that hikvision already released their own drone:

Not sure if it has an open API for integrating with VMSs thought.. it would be nice to have...

Eric, good note on that. The big issue becomes when Hikvision releases the drone 'overseas'. Hard to tell, sometimes they do, sometimes they don't.

But I would suspect it would integrate with their own VMS (at least the 5200, if that is made available).

My understanding is that FAA regs basically require a dedicated operator for each drone, which eliminates any kind of autonomous flying, and night flying is prohibited.

Also, you can't fly within 5 miles of an airport, which covers a huge amount of space when factoring in regional airports.

I think drones may still be quite a ways out as a surveillance platform.

Certainly indoor drone use should be legal, large warehouses, enclosed stadiums.

Wondering if one could use a drone for home surveillance over ones own property, skirting the commercial use restriction.

Then perhaps enterprising companies could sell EBTD, (everything but the drone), kits... Much like the dvd copy software kits.

Suppose the drone crashed who would be responsible? Customer, Integrator or Manufacturer?

Whose drone?

In the US, every air incident is investigated by the NTSB and FAA to determine root cause.

Based on the findings, 'responsibility' is determined. I'd expect that for drones, the same sort of plan would be built out in the US, especially since flying drones already has the precedent for being a restricted activity.

Aside from the fact as earlier mentioned about always having an operator in control its exactly this type of thing that makes me think it will be a long time before it "takes off". Excuse the pun.

That and insuring it. I can see all sorts of accidents happening especially indoors in warehouses as mentioned.

a caged drone might be the answer though.

Btw, this company, Cyphy is offering a tethered drone, which they say would eliminate the legal issue as well as eliminate battery and wireless limits (of course it adds a wire in the air). They are also using an Oncam panoramic with it. We have queued up to do a post on this.

...which they say would eliminate the legal issue.

That sounds interesting. Where do they talk about eliminating the legal aspect, I can't find it on their site?

A 333 exemption is not particular to the tethering, just to drone use. There have been literally thousands of them issued to date.

Moreover, I don't think that allows them to make a product that others could use commercially.

Ok, I am not that familiar with FCC exceptions. Oncam's President mentioned that eliminating the legal issue, though I could have misunderstood him.

This one has 5 4K cameras for complete 360 coverage. I see something like this being useful for security industry.

The FAA is supposedly releasing some updated drone regulations this week. The speculation is that drones up to 50lb will be able to be used commercially at low altitudes. However, still only during daylight, and still requiring them to be in sight of the operator.