UAV, automation and video technology continuing to drive innovation in drone security
Marvels of the modern age
Over the last decade or so most of us have become familiar with the idea of technologically advanced countries deploying military UAVs to conflict zones. Combining aerial surveillance with offensive capabilities, US and UK operated drones such as the Predator and Reaper are in equal measure both marvels of the modern age and fearsome weapons.
Now the application of UAVs to commercial security is a serious option. Israel based aerospace hardware, software, and electronic systems engineering company Airobotics has gained legal acceptance for businesses to use its drones for commercial purposes.
Optimus is primed to launch, fly and land automatically
The innovative company has engineered the Optimus drone, a conventional four rotor design with a flight endurance time of 30 minutes. It has a span of 1.8m, a weight of around 9 kilos and is capable of carrying a 1 kilo payload. It has also created the Airobotics Airbase, a 2.1m high base station which provides shelter from the weather and a robotic arm which automates the capability of swapping payloads and changing batteries.
This creates a unique system that launches, flies and lands at the click of a button, and which is able to ‘refuel’ and change mission. Current payloads include hardware for a range of surveillance and surveying missions such as streaming live video, mapping, taking still photographs, or infrared imaging.
Prime sites for deploying Optimus include large scale industrial facilities such as mines with ‘soft’ or energy facilities with ‘hard’ perimeters - where fixed surveillance options are too costly, technically challenging or otherwise inappropriate.
Where to next on the road to advanced security UAVs?
Advanced aerial drones are the stuff of sci-fi. Certainly, the great sci-fi writer Iain M. Banks had a powerful vision for drones. In several of his books, such as Consider Phlebas, he took AI (artificial intelligence) controlled drones to the next level.
One of these included putting forward the idea of artificially supporting human intelligence, where a machine would act as host for the mind of a deceased human. Recent movies such as Oblivion, starring Tom Cruise, showcased future concepts for powerful networked security and surveillance drones, a credible development of today’s Predator and Reaper UAVs.
Today’s manually controlled drones have a lot of bad press; rogue hobbyist drone operators threatening commercial flights, and the delivery of contraband to prison inmates are examples of dangerous and criminal use. However, despite the potential for using drones for more beneficial purposes, the private operation of UAVs above densely populated areas is likely to be held back by a ‘safety first’ edict.
So, what next? There can be little doubt that we are on the road to seeing the increasing use of UAVs for security and surveillance in the domestic theatre, not just conflict zones. The security situation and the general threat from terrorism has been with us in some shape or form on the UK mainland since the 1970s, and it has never really gone away.
The next steps on the roadmap suggest that we may well see police drones permanently on station above large cities. With long endurance and a small and relatively unobtrusive platform when compared to a helicopter, this looks like a realistic possibility. Similarly, UAV enabled-aeromedical services could offer better, faster options for advanced treatment of serious injuries at the scenes of accidents or mass casualty events.
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