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) : Members only. Login. or Join.

Related Reports

Video Analytics 101 on Mar 16, 2020
This guide teaches the fundamentals of video surveillance analytics. Inside we cover: Why Use Video Analytics Video Analytics Warning Where...
Critiquing Carnegie's AI Surveillance Paper on Sep 25, 2019
The Carnegie Endowment has issued an ambitious paper on the Global Expansion of AI Surveillance. While its aim is applaudable, the paper has...
Axis: "No One Wants To Buy A Camera" on Nov 09, 2018
Axis has, in its own description, made a bold declaration: The industry is changing so rapidly that the following statement might seem bold but...
Axis Guardian - Cloud VMS And Alarm Monitoring - Released on Jun 19, 2018
Axis has struggled to deliver a cloud-based managed service video platform. Video service providers have utilized AVHS for over a decade, and have...
Dahua Intrusion Analytics And VMD Tested (Poorly) on May 21, 2018
Dahua ships basic analytics on practically all their cameras, ranging from low cost to high end. To see how these analytics work in real world...
Google Clips Camera Tested - Weak AI on Mar 12, 2018
The Google Clips is drawing a lot of interest, especially given its use of artificial intelligence (AI) to deliver a 'smart' camera. Indeed, Google...
Exporting Video Surveillance Tutorial on Oct 05, 2017
Exporting video surveillance is important when incidents or crimes occur. However, there are multiple ways to export video which have their pros...
Genetec CEO Warns Against Insider Threats on Sep 21, 2017
With Dahua and Hikvision cybersecurity issues becoming indisputable, a new counter has emerged. Just put them behind a firewall, buy cheap...
‘Experts' Fail On Dumbo IP Camera ‘Hack' on Aug 24, 2017
Dumbo, revealed by Wikileaks, has become big news. Unfortunately, 'experts' in the security industry have gotten it wrong, incorrectly contending...
Advanced Drone Detection System Analyzed (Gryphon Profile) on May 30, 2017
 Drones are becoming a common topic in the security industry. While startups like Aptonomy and Nightingale are in the early stages of rolling out...

Most Recent Industry Reports

Hikvision Illicitly Uses Back To The Future In Marketing on Jul 03, 2020
NBCUniversal told IPVM that Hikvision UK's ongoing coronavirus marketing campaign using NBCUniversal's assets was not allowed. Hikvision mass...
Verkada: "IPVM Should Never Be Your Source of News" on Jul 02, 2020
Verkada was unhappy with IPVM's recent coverage declaring that reading IPVM is 'not a good look' and that 'IPVM should never be your source of...
Vintra Presents FulcrumAI Face Recognition on Jul 02, 2020
Vintra presented its FulcrumAI face recognition and mask detection offering at the May 2020 IPVM Startups show. Inside this report: A...
Uniview Wrist Temperature Reader Tested on Jul 02, 2020
Uniview is promoting measuring wrist temperatures whereas most others are just offering forehead or inner canthus measurements. But how well does...
Dahua USA Admits Thermal Solutions "Qualify As Medical Devices" on Jul 02, 2020
Dahua USA has issued a press release admitting a controversial point in the industry but an obvious one to the US FDA, that the thermal temperature...
Access Control Online Show - July 2020 - With 40+ Manufacturers - Register Now on Jul 01, 2020
IPVM is excited to announce our July 2020 Access Control Show. With 40+ companies presenting across 4 days, this is a unique opportunity to hear...
Hanwha Face Mask Detection Tested on Jul 01, 2020
Face mask detection or, more specifically lack-of-face-mask detection, is an expanding offering in the midst of coronavirus. Hanwha in partnership...
UK Government Says Fever Cameras "Unsuitable" on Jul 01, 2020
The UK government's medical device regulator, MHRA, told IPVM that fever-seeking thermal cameras are "unsuitable for this purpose" and recommends...
Camera Course Summer 2020 on Jun 30, 2020
This is the only independent surveillance camera course, based on in-depth product and technology testing. Lots of manufacturer training...
Worst Over But Integrators Still Dealing With Coronavirus Problems (June Statistics) on Jun 30, 2020
While numbers of integrators very impacted by Coronavirus continue to drop, most are still moderately dealing with the pandemic's problems, June...