A simple explanation of drone use in surveillance is captured as follows.
Drone surveillance is the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to capture still images and video to gather information about specific targets, which might be individuals, groups or environments. Drone surveillance enables the surreptitious gathering of information about a target as captured from a distance or altitude.
Of course, drone use in this wide-ranging industry (or area) extends well beyond these fundamental and simplistic boundaries.
Let’s start at the beginning.
Traditional automated ground surveillance methods are typically limited by the stationary nature of the camera, which is usually handled manually or fixed upon a tripod or other structure. Aerial surveillance, on the other hand, has been traditionally performed using a helicopter or other manned aircraft. Clearly very, very costly, often inaccurate and without the ability to get close to the target subject.
Unmanned aircraft vehicles (UAVs) or drones, however, provide the ideal solution to the problems and limitations faced by these surveillance methods. Drones present a much easier, faster, and cheaper method of image and data collection and they have a number of other key advantages over traditional surveillance.
Drones can enter narrow and confined spaces, get closer to subjects without detection, produce minimal noise and can be equipped with night vision cameras and thermal sensors allowing them to provide imagery that the human eye is unable to detect. They can also quickly cover large and difficult-to-reach areas, dramatically reducing staff numbers and costs.
While there are many, we have listed a some key advantages of drone use in surveillance.
- A serious disadvantage of helicopters and planes in surveillance (in addition to their prohibitive cost) work is their noise. Specially developed, highly efficient drone motors allow for discrete – almost silent – monitoring.
- Long flight times mean fewer pauses for battery changes and more monitoring.
- Easy to pilot. No costly, time-consuming training programs are needed. Surveillance teams can learn to plan and implement missions in a matter of hours.
- Real-time monitoring and coordination. Specific drone software enables a direct data transfer to the surveillance operation and all coordinated in real time.
- Tough in rough weather. Many drones are now commercial grade so are resistant to harsh weather like wind, rain, snow, heat and cold.
- Customisable. Depending on your need, drone livery can be changed to suit the need – for example, camouflage or police branding to establish authority.
- Payload flexibility. Surveillance drones can use a conventional video camera or a thermal camera payload to detect targets in darkness or dense vegetation.
While we cannot cover the myriad of potential surveillance applications, we have highlighted a quick overview of crime and safety as a typical example of drone use.
Crime and public safety
To combat the increase in crime and potentially suspicious or unusual behaviour in urban areas, the police force and investigation agencies now need to be more agile, alert and accurate than ever before. Public safety takes precedence in any community and there are a host advanced drones available to assist in both small and large surveillance and threat detection operations.
Investigative teams are able to use these drones to execute swift aerial inspections while some drones even allow the deployment of heavy, large sensor cameras for complex situations.
Advanced drone technology empowers teams to instantly assess any people of interest, while the high-resolution image capturing features provide unparalleled detail in post-inspection analysis.
Police officers on the move can also use a range of smaller drones which can easily be attached to a vehicle. These provide police officers with access to situational evidence and security, enabling them to act appropriately and swiftly.
Below are some additional surveillance applications for drone use.
- Monitoring of flooding
- Anti-terror operations
- Monitoring of critical infrastructure
- Border surveillance
- Anti-piracy operations
- Perimeter surveillance
- Police-related activities
- Search for missing persons
And many more…
So what drones do we recommend?
This Delair drone package is widely considered the premier night and day, long-range surveillance solution.
It features hi-resolution image quality with on-board stabilisation, video tracking, movement detection and human recognition at a distance of more than 1.5 km both night & day. For large surveillance operations it has real-time video that can be transmitted at an amazing 30 km range!
It also features advanced automatic failsafe modes with an emergency parachute. It is ruggedly constructed and has been comprehensively field tested in the harshest conditions including deserts, mountains, tropical forests and alpine regions. It is also capable of landing on any type of surface, with robust protection for the payload.
The DT26X is also silent and undetectable at night and can be deployed in the field within minutes by a single operator.
Matrice 200 with Zenmuse Z30 or XT thermal camera
A sturdy, highly efficient commercial drone perfect for demanding surveillance applications. It is a fully integrated solution with the proven camera, aircraft and ground control apps and the M200 is ready to deploy in minutes.
It combines flight stability, gimbal technology, mobile app integration and image transmission. Rugged in construction, it has an enclosed design that ensures weather and water resistance, so it can fly in a wide range of environments.
Combined with the industry-leading Zenmuse Z30 or of XT thermal camera, this package offers the ultimate solution for wide ranging surveillance applications.
With the Zenmuse Z30 on-board, surveillance applications have become much easier and more professional. Considered the most powerful integrated aerial zoom camera on the market, it has a 30x optical and 6x digital zoom for a total magnification up to 180x.
When monitoring crowds or seeking hiding individuals, it enables you to get up close and personal from a safe vantage point. Mounted aboard the M200, it eliminates the need for dangerous engagements. You are also able to stream footage to a central hub to reduce resources on the ground.
The DJI Zenmuse XT is a high-sensitivity (50mK) thermal imaging at 640/30 fps or 336/30 fps camera. This sensitivity provides accurate temperature measurements ideal for telco analytics and telemetry. The camera is available with four lens options to meet different surveillance application needs. Stabilised and controlled by a custom DJI gimbal, it provides smooth, clear imagery and 360 degrees of seamless rotational movement.
The XT displays thermal imagery in real time so is also ideal for night time surveillance use. Other features include image enhancements and the ability to take photos while recording video.
As an introduction, tethered drones provide a wide range of options for aerial observation operations. This emerging technology is providing new applications for the commercial drone market including aerial surveillance, border observation, emergency incident management, traffic monitoring, telecommunications, pollution measuring, industrial inspections and live broadcasting.
For surveillance, Elistair tethered drones have become powerful tools acting as airborne relays. They enable the creation of temporary networks including cellular, WiFi, high-frequency radio and 3G/4G signals. Thanks to their high-speed data transfer, Elistair tethered systems are particularly suited for surveillance communications.
If you are new to drone technology or simply want to learn more, we highly recommend you speak to a commercial drone specialist that can advise you on both drone options and the best approach to their commercial use in applications such as surveillance.
Sphere Drones is arguably Australia’s leading source of expertise on commercial drone technology solutions in Australia.
Their Sydney-based operation is a state-of-the-art solutions development facility with some of the UAV industry’s leading personnel – making it (or their website) a logical first stop to identify a solution for your commercial needs.