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In the early 2000s the security industry had a renaissance. The ‘war on terror’, a massive technology switch from analogue to network, huge cost reductions, huge technology advances and a massive public surveillance push by China all contributed to rapid growth.
In recent years, growth has slowed substantially. Falling demand, severe price pressure and competitive domination by Chinese firms has made the industry a tough place to operate.
In a recent research report, we examined the commercial unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) market in depth. The market is growing rapidly, driven by loosening regulation, improvements in technology and several core applications such as inspection and construction. It doesn’t take much imagination to see the benefits to building inspection and site situational awareness that UAVs might bring. Is this a new growth opportunity for security manufacturers and operators?
Off the RADAR
Perhaps, worryingly, our discussions with companies active in the UAV industry didn’t reveal any particular focus on physical security. Applications such as building inspection and construction are far more important to the nascent industry right now.
If you focus on the physical security industry the signs, at first, don’t look much better:
- IFSEC, one of the larger European shows, has a ‘drone zone’ as a part of its annual event; however, it is small in scale.
- Genetec, a major video management software vendor, only features a blog post about drones.
- Axis Communications, the driving force for many years of IP cameras, has a blog about using cameras to detect drones, not integrate them.
- Prosegur announced an autonomous drone and service for security in 2015, but there has been little news since then.
However, it isn’t all bad news. The largest manufacturer of video surveillance equipment – Hikvision – showcased its own drone earlier this year. Furthermore, there are several companies who are starting to offer more security focused drone services – Nightingale Security, Airobotics, Aerovinci, Elistair, Cardinal Security, Aviatdrones, to name but a few.
Drone security should fly high
The important question is: why is now the right time for the growth of security UAV applications?
- The commercial UAV market is maturing. Until recently, UAVs were largely confined to consumer and military applications. However, emerging commercial applications for inspection, agriculture and construction mean that professional, industrial-grade UAVs are now available as is an associated network of professional operators.
- Commercial grade UAVs have the performance – flight time, image quality, reliability – to meet the requirements of the security industry.
- Commercial UAV hardware, software and services are being sold into the enterprise level of organisations. This means that there is operational experience with the technology and a desire to connect the data to other data systems. Additionally, to amortise some of the cost, companies are looking at how else they can deploy the drones – security is just one option.
There are two main opportunities – one for security equipment and service providers, and one for system integrators and installers.
For system integrators and installers, UAVs may become another tool that they use to assist on projects. In many other industries, UAVs are already being used to reduce the time spent working at height – inspection, insurance, construction are a few examples. It isn’t unreasonable to assume the same will happen in security. First, UAVs may be used for site inspection prior to an installation. Then, UAVs may be used for maintenance/inspection of cameras. Finally, they may be used for the installation of cameras, particularly in remote or difficult locations.
For security equipment and service providers, there is a new growth opportunity here. As shown by the following graphic, there is a move toward drones-as-a-service. For enterprise customers, they don’t want to own or fly their own drones, they simply want the intelligence from them. This is a good fit for security service providers who are likely already providing managed services to many of the organisations who are interested in using UAVs.
Specifically, the following applications are likely to be a good fit for UAVs:
- Guarding and force multiplication. Personnel can remotely operator UAVs to assess threats or run guard tours, reducing risk and cost.
- Tactical control/situational awareness: rather than replacing fixed cameras, UAVs may augment a system of cameras by providing a tactical view of an entire facility or by providing coverage in known blind spots.
- Coverage along long perimeters/areas such as borders, railways, etc. will enhance existing security systems.
- Temporary surveillance coverage at events can be achieved/bolstered with tethered drones.
We believe that UAVs represent an opportunity for companies in the security space, particularly as traction in other applications occurs. Additionally, system integrators and installers should explore how they can use UAVs in their workflows to improve efficiency and safety.