Drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles, seem to find new applications all the time, and they certainly provide use for the police and surveillance industries. Quadcopters were originally invented for military use during the First World War, with civil and domestic drones being a much more recent development. Military drones were mainly used for surveillance purposes from the 1960s to the 1980s, and have since been updated and adjusted for security as well as surveillance use.
Check out some of the many ways drones are utilized for security and surveillance purposes:
In 2012, Japanese company Secom launched the world’s first autonomous drone for private security. Plenty of private security firms have followed suit, such as Sky-Watch, a Danish company that sells drones renowned for their advanced surveillance capabilities. Those at Sky-Watch note that it’s not “if” drones become a surveillance standard, rather “when.”
It’s somewhat ironic that drones are applicable to airport security, considering hobby versions are banned from getting anywhere near one. Abu Dhabi and Gatwick were the first to use drones as tools for promoting on-site airport safety.
Drones lend themselves to crowd control, though the methods used might come under scrutiny. For example, the South African-based firm Desert Wolf sells Skunk Riot Control Copter, a drone system designed specifically for controlling crowds. The system features four high-capacity gun barrels loaded with up to 4,000 paintballs, solid plastic balls, and pepper spray balls. The idea is to “control unruly crowds without endangering the lives of the protestors or the security staff,” and the device has been sold to mining companies and security firms both in South Africa and abroad.
The Winter Olympics in Sochi used drones not only to capture amazing shots of skiers and snowboarders as they shredded through deep powder and sailed above half pipes, but also for security purposes. Drones provided 24-hour air surveillance over high-traffic areas and alerted security staff about any disturbances. Drones were used for the same reasons at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. The idea was to “stifle unrest” before it became a serious issue.
Reconnaissance drones are designed to make certain a location is safe. Drones are being used in this way by numerous law enforcement agencies; for example French counterterrorism commandos used Recon Scout robots in 2013 moments before storming a house where a gunman was hiding.
Even the highest-tech ground cameras are no match for drones. Once an intruder is out of a ground camera’s line of vision, all is basically lost. Drones are currently being made to track moving subjects via laser sensors among other features that provide more remote surveillance options.
President Francois Hollande and Prime Minister David Cameron recently put a 2 billion euro ($2.11 billion) drone project into practice while simultaneously reaffirming their military ties in light of current Syrian and Libyan conflicts. Cameron and Hollande announced the design of a new multi-use unmanned aircraft that would be ready for technical checks in 2020 and operation in 2030.
"This will be the most advanced of its kind in Europe," Cameron remarked at a joint news conference, noting that the project would create many jobs in both countries. Each country will also contribute equally to the project, titled the Future Combat Air System. Britain's BAE Systems and Rolls Royce and France’s Dassault Aviation, Safran and Thales, are also participating.
Drones for private security purposes are another possibility, however there’s still much to do and many regulations to figure out before such drones become a real option.