To those already worried about pervasive surveillance in society, beware!
Two tech companies have teamed up to build a fully automated indoor security drone system purposed with identifying security threats or breaches.
Skysense, a German-based drone infrastructure and automation company have partnered with Spanish-based Geographic Information System (GIS) ICT company, Avansig. Together these companies have developed a drone product for massive multinational security firm, Prosegur.
What can these drone do?
The drones are designed to follow preprogrammed patrol route through whatever building they operate in. While flying, they broadcasts a live-feed of what they are seeing and if something is amiss (a window open that shouldn’t be, for example) they create an alert for whoever is monitoring the feed. Flying patrols drain a drone’s battery power fairly rapidly. However, Skysense have designed infrastructure allowing the drones to automatically return to a fast-charging station when their batteries are low. The drone sites on the charging dock and gets back some of its juice before continuing its patrol.
The video below demonstrates the Skysense/Avansig drone in action as it makes a patrol route through a building.
Advantages this technology has over traditional security operations
One of the main upsides to patrolling security drones is they are cheaper than tradtional human guards. Once a company has made the initial outlay for the drone, the technology can operate almost constantly. The rapid recharging functionality of this technology is the real gamechanger. CCTV cameras could be used in concert with the drone patrols, creating fewer blindspots for companies. One can imagine many applications for these UAVs and they are likely to be particularly useful for logistic or warehousing companies, airports or military facilities.
Should we be worried about the creep of this technology into mainstream usage?
I’d imagine most of us would agree we don’t want drones patrolling our streets in lieu of police officers. While there is no immediate plans for this to happen, as the technology rapidly develops and surveillance technology gets cheaper, it becomes easier to make an efficiency argument for placing these drones in public space.
A 2016 report from the Police Foundation titled: Community Policing & Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS): Guidelines to Enhance Community Trust highlighted how drones have “significant potential to improve operational efficiency as well as officer and community safety.” The report also identified that the public had “understandable and legitimate concerns about privacy risks”, particularly because there is no unifying nationwide policy on drones. We’ve brought you many stories relating to drone surveillance and ways this technology could be abused by those in power, particularly in authoritarian regimes. One recent example we gave you was was how more than 30 agencies in China had been using dove-live surveillance drones to spy on the Chinese population. While drone surveillance technology has many practical applications, before its widespread rollout we hope to see strong nationwide legislation enshrining people’s privacy rights.