The Sky Isn’t Falling, but the Black Birds Are Coming

Automation is everywhere. It’s happening across industries from manufacturing to construction and medical. As prevalent as it is now, we should expect to see this trend of automation become even more pervasive across industries, especially in physical security.

Despite some bad press around the advancements in technology using automation and artificial intelligence (AI), the sky isn’t falling, but unmanned aircraft systems (UAS)—more commonly known as drones—have incredible potential to change the physical security landscape. No, these black birds aren’t going to replace security guards at the front desk, but they do have the capacity to enhance security for those organizations that require repetitive monitoring on a massive scale.

For companies looking to augment their physical security capabilities because they require extensive, repetitive and highly tedious monitoring in order to protect staff or critical infrastructure, you might be wondering whether a robotic partner that can’t fall victim to physical harm would be a good investment.

“Robotic aerial security is good at covering large areas, but whether the black bird is suitable for an organization really depends on the threat level a company faces. If you have a single acre, a drone might not be a good solution,” said Jack Wu, president of Nightingale Security.

Drones have the ability to fly, but they also have the added benefit of human intelligence that is poured in. They are programmed to know how to detect and react to anomalies. “It seems like magic,” Wu said, “which is why the media says everything is AI, but it’s really just being able to recognize anomalies.”

In the same way that birds are able to see prey from miles away, the autonomous black birds are able to fly, see, cover extensive ground, and monitor large areas efficiently. “You see more from the air than you do on the ground,” Wu said. “That’s why birds are such great hunters.”

Are You Ready to Take Flight?

If companies that deal with concerns of public safety are considering incorporating drones within an overall security solution, the first step is what Wu called the discovery phase. Drones aren’t a panacea for all physical security issues, but they do offer tremendous capabilities for those who need to secure large areas, whether that’s critical infrastructure or industrial and commercial sites.

Once they determine a need, Wu said it’s good to start asking, “What is available, what can this solution do, what are its features? From there, they move to the evaluation phase and assess the efficiency and efficacy of the features.”

Whether the drone has precision landing and the ability to land and take off are important features to evaluate. Equally as important are the system’s ability to charge, transmit and broadcast video, which Wu said are very important, basic features. “A lot of the evaluation phase comes down to operational training. Part of the actual evaluation or effectiveness will be determined by the human operators, which we do as part of deployment.”

The most important capability of a drone is to detect threats, so when an organization is ready for actual deployment, it’s critical to do a site assessment of the location where the drone will be operating.

“When it comes to adoption,” Wu said, “another important thing for people to think about is other uses. What else can you do with it? That might be patrols or roof top inspections. These machines have the ability to detect chemical spills or fires using thermal cameras. The investment starts with security, but once you have that, it becomes a platform you can extend to multiple applications to provide more value.”


Article Written by Kacy Zurkus | View all articles by Kacy Zurkus