Show Report: Drones + Physical Security

By: Carlton Purvis, Published on Aug 16, 2013

Drones are all over the press, both good and bad, for their use around the world. Given their surveillance abilities, it would seem a natural fit for physical security. However, so far, this is not happening.

We went to the annual AUVSI 'drone' trade show, and learned about integrating drones into physical security and the keys to a good aerial video platform. The key findings we explain inside are:

  • Legal barriers for physical security use
  • Limits on extended surveillance
  • Training and maintenance costs
  • Camera stabilization needs
  • Bonus: federal government weakness and state government overtures

Why Video Surveillance and UAVs Haven't Integrated

They Aren't Legal for Private Companies to Fly in the U.S. Yet 

"In the United States, companies can't yet fly the systems, so they can’t be incorporated into security systems," said AUVSI spokeswoman Melanie Hinton. Law enforcement and public entities can get a permit from the FAA to fly drones. Even then, they have to be 25 pounds or less, are limited to flying 400 feet or lower and must remain in line-of-sight of the operator. 

The line-of-sight requirement is because most unmanned systems lack sense-and-avoid technology that would help them avoid collisions if flying in the same airspace as manned aircraft. Here's an online video demo of what sense-and-avoid looks like:

This has been one of the biggest hangups for clearance to fly in the United States. One FAA committee is working to amend a rule that would allow UAVs to fly using electronic sense-and-avoid technology and another committee is working on technical sense-and-avoid standards. The FAA hopes to have these done by 2016. 

The FAA's drone permit is not available to commercial entities. However, the FAA has approved two specific models of UAVs (Puma and ScanEagle) for commercial use. "A private company that seeks to fly an unmanned aircraft in unrestricted airspace must obtain a special airworthiness certificate from the agency," reports AINonline. Energy company ConocoPhillips is the only company that had been approved so far and will be using ScanEagle to do ice surveys, wildlife surveillance and oil spill monitoring in remote areas.

Small UAVs Don't Provide Extended Surveillance

Drones used by the Department of Defense use jet engines. They can fly for hours, sometimes days. The small drones that law enforcement are using run on batteries. "The small, battery-powered systems typically don’t have the endurance required for extended surveillance of small areas. The systems that do have the endurance are generally more useful for monitoring large areas, such as crops or national parks," Hinton said. 

Get Notified of Video Surveillance Breaking News
Get Notified of Video Surveillance Breaking News

Training and Maintenance Costs

"Larger vehicles are still cost prohibitive for surveillance of a site," said the senior engineer of a company that makes unmanned helicopters. "You don't really need highly trained operators for static PTZs. You have a lot more consumables and higher trained personnel with unmanned vehicles." One unmanned helicopter and support staff could cost as much a whole surveillance system.

Areas where UAVs could win out over traditional security would be surveilling remote locations. "We think these would be more cost effective in things like monitoring pipeline or telephone line surveillance, places where it's not always easy to put up cameras or have people going out to check." Still, situations like these may need larger more expensive UAVs that have the endurance to travel to remote sites and back.  

An engineer with another company that also produces unmanned helicopters says it is unlikely unmanned systems and video surveillance systems will be integrated anytime soon because their vastly different roles and cost of equipment. Surveillance systems are used to collect evidence to use later, he said, but much of the worth of a UAV comes from being able to get high quality images live and provide surveillance in places where surveillance does not already exist. 

Cost Per System

For smaller systems being eyed by local law enforcement, the cost per system starts at around $10,000 and in most cases these can be made to order based on what kind of communications set up and cameras an agency wants to use. The cost per hour for unmanned systems is $25-75 per hour. The cost per hour to operate a manned aircraft is around $200-$400. 

Here is a model of quadracopter, the most common type of UAV, from Microdrones. These start out at around $10,000:



However, companies are popping up all over the Internet and at trade shows with bargain prices. A lot of these are just beefed up RC systems. See below:

Larger systems (longer endurance, run on jet fuel, live communications links) start at ~$100,000. The Air Force says it paid around $12.5 million  for an MQ-9 Reaper in 2012. 

Camera Stabilization is Key to A Good System

"The development of the stabilized gimbal is really the key to us," the same engineer said. "You can have a camera that does everything but if you shake the heck out of it, it's not going to be that great. Camera stabilization right now is a bigger concern than just camera technology. If you take that a step further, mechanical stabilization is very important. You can't always have hi-tech video stabilization on board. That high level of processing isn't available on at lot of the payloads today."

Below is a gimbal made to stabilize point-and-shoot cameras. The photo on the right shows where a camera would be mounted on a larger helicopter UAV. 

Applications

Some of the more common proposed applications:

  • Scientific research 
  • Building Inspections
  • Remote Site Surveillance
  • Mass Gathering Surveillance
  • Wildlife Management
  • Firefighting
  • Search and Rescue
  • Perimeter Security
  • Celebrity/Entertainment Photography

More companies at the show were marketing for agriculture than I have seen before. Said one exhibitor, “This is something farmers have already being doing for years with their own planes or with RC planes. We’re giving them more capability than an RC with less the hassle and cost of owning a plane.”

Drones are already being used for perimeter security in some countries. They can be used to watch areas where guards are unable to go and supplement areas lacking surveillance cameras. Drones used in this application can be set to follow a pre-planned route, and can be watched lived or the video retrieved later depending on what an organization is using to capture footage. The quadracopters produced by Microdrones can be customized to mount a variety of cameras including point-and-shoots, GoPros and DSLRs.

Less Government at the Show

It seems that predictions on sequester having an impact on trade shows [link no longer available] may have come into play at this year’s show. Part of sequestration included limiting travel for government employees. One thing that seemed to be missing in the exhibit hall this year was a heavy presence government employees. "Sequestration did play a role in some of our government vendors not having a presence this year," the AUVSI spokeswoman said.

States Seek Drones to Boost Economies

Another interesting thing about this show was that state government’s bought booths to try and attract drone manufacturers to their areas in hopes of benefitting off the drone boom that comes when the FAA gets all its stuff cleared up. Ohio estimates the economic impact on the state could reach $264 million annually [link no longer available]. There are more than 50 applicants from 37 states hoping to be selected for drone test sites. The FAA Is hoping to select six sites by 2014. From what I heard around the show floor, Oklahoma is a shoe in.  



Every year a number of new companies spring up in the small drone space. According to AVUSI numbers, there were around 50 more exhibitors (550) at the show than last year and more than 100 since the show in 2011. If/when drones get approved to fly commercially in the U.S. there will be tons of companies waiting to put their products on the market. A key factor will be what companies are weeded out and which survive over the next few years as lawmakers go back  [link no longer available]and forth about what to do with them. Moreover, it will be interesting to see not only how they are integrated in the airspace, but how they are integrated into the security industry in general. Will drone integrations become an offering alongside video surveillance, intrusion detection and access control? 

Comments (5) : PRO Members only. Login. or Join.

Related Reports on Monitoring

Network Optix NxWitness 4.0 Tested on Oct 10, 2019
Network Optix released Nx Witness 4.0, proclaiming new features like a deep learning analytics metadata SDK, increased H.265 support, and UX...
Directory of 70 Video Surveillance Startups on Sep 18, 2019
This directory provides a list of video surveillance startups to help you see and research what companies are new or not yet broadly known. 2019...
How Cobalt Robotics May Disrupt Security on Sep 13, 2019
While security robots have largely become a joke over the last few years, one organization, Cobalt Robotics, has raised $50+ million from top US...
Genetec Stratocast VSaaS Tested on Sep 05, 2019
The VSaaS market is rapidly expanding in 2019, with Verkada, Meraki, Eagle Eye, Avigilon and numerous startups growing their market share. When we...
Security Integrators Outlook On Remaining Integrators In 2025 on Aug 22, 2019
The industry has changed substantially in the last decade, with the rise of IP cameras and the race to the bottom. Indeed, more changes may be...
Proactive CCTV "Only Affordable Video Archiving Solution" Profile on Aug 12, 2019
Proactive CCTV is claiming to offer "the only affordable video archiving solution on the market", reducing the storage typically required for H.265...
Razberi Technologies Company Profile on Aug 06, 2019
Razberi says they have doubled their revenue in the first half of 2019, citing their proprietary camera hardening and cybersecurity capabilities...
Avigilon Blue VSaaS Tested on Aug 05, 2019
Avigilon says Blue is a "powerful integrator cloud service platform", easy to set up and configure, quickly scale business, by leveraging cloud...
Online Video Surveillance Sales Comparison - Amazon, B&H, CDW, LTS, Super Circuits, More on Jul 31, 2019
IPVM has uncovered the key trends and top options being offered across commonly used surveillance sellers. How has the market shifted since we...
Avigilon ACC7 VMS Tested on Jul 22, 2019
Avigilon's Control Center 7 boldly claims it will "transform live video monitoring" with the new Focus of Attention "AI-enabled" interface. We...

Most Recent Industry Reports

Axis HD Analog Encoder Tested on Oct 11, 2019
Two years after declaring "Everything is IP", Axis has released their first HD analog encoder, the P7304, with support for AHD, CVI, TVI, and SD...
Dahua Celebrates PRC 70th Wearing Communist Party Hammer and Sickle on Oct 11, 2019
Dahua celebrated the PRC's 70th anniversary with a video of various Dahua employees wearing China Communist Party hammer and sickle pins as shown...
Last Chance - Register Now - October 2019 IP Networking Course on Oct 10, 2019
Last Chance - Register Now - Fall 2019 IP Networking Course. The course starts next week. This is the only networking course designed...
Network Optix NxWitness 4.0 Tested on Oct 10, 2019
Network Optix released Nx Witness 4.0, proclaiming new features like a deep learning analytics metadata SDK, increased H.265 support, and UX...
HID Fingerprint Reader Tested on Oct 09, 2019
HID has released their first access reader to use Lumidigm optical sensors, that touts it 'works with anyone, anytime, anywhere'. We bought and...
ONVIF Suspends Dahua and Hikvision on Oct 09, 2019
Dahua and Hikvision have been 'suspended', and effectively expelled, from ONVIF, immediately following US sanctions being placed on the 2 mega...
Hikvision And Dahua Sanctioned For Human Rights Abuses on Oct 07, 2019
In a groundbreaking move that will have drastic consequences across the video surveillance market, Dahua and Hikvision have been sanctioned by the...
Avigilon H5A Analytic Cameras Tested on Oct 07, 2019
Avigilon has released its H5A analytic cameras, claiming to "detect more objects with greater accuracy even in crowded scenes." We tested the...
Crisis At China's Largest VMS Provider, Netposa, Now State-Controlled on Oct 07, 2019
NetPosa, which bills itself as the PRC's largest VMS provider, is in a crisis. The firm is pursuing huge unpaid bills from clients, and its...
Knightscope Sells Just 1 Net New Robot In 6 Months on Oct 04, 2019
For the first half of 2019, US government records show that Knightscope has sold just 1 net new robots ('machines-in-network'), inching up from 52...