Drones with cameras have both commercial and recreational applications. For commercial use-cases, the ability to live stream videos, with low latency, is crucial for the effective use of drones. This enables enterprise stakeholders to see things happening far away, in near-real-time, from a bird’s eye view. Many industries, sectors, and use-cases can leverage such remote drone operations, for example:
Search & rescue
Surveillance and security
Monitoring and inspection
A cloud-connected, user-friendly solution can thus be leveraged by drone operators, specialized service providers, UAV system integrators, and enterprise drone program managers.
Multi-Camera Streaming via FlytNow
The capability to stream videos from multiple drones, simultaneously, is now available in FlytNow, the remote drone operations solution from FlytBase. Multiple camera (‘Multi-Cam’) streams can be viewed from a single operator dashboard, which can also be used to control multiple drones, their payloads, camera gimbals, etc.
Top 3 Use Cases of Multi-Cam Streaming
While there are numerous commercial applications that can benefit from drone fleets and multiple-camera streaming capabilities, these 3 seem to be gaining the most traction.
Security & Surveillance
Automated drone patrols are at the heart of surveillance of residential, commercial, and industrial premises. With the FlytNow multi-cam feature, surveillance drone operators can cover large areas from a single dashboard; it allows them to gain situational awareness during a security breach, with the added advantage of images & video surveillance from different angles.
Security stakeholders can combine different views (eg. thermal and normal camera feeds) and be much more effective during night time, low visibility conditions, etc.
Drones are used to inspect infrastructural and other valuable assets that are remote, hard to reach, or massive in size. With FlytNow, inspection personnel can view such assets from multiple angles, with the videos streamed in real-time, from multiple drones to a single dashboard in the command center or control room. This ability is useful in a range of remote inspection activities such as structural inspections, wind turbine inspections, cell tower inspections, oil & gas refinery inspections, and pipeline inspections.
Large structures under construction require to be inspected quite regularly – this includes visual observations of foundations, roofs, and key structural components. The inspection data provide insights into the overall condition, progress, and maintenance needs of such properties.
The traditional way of inspecting, which involved manual inspection of only some of the areas of a large structure, is severely lacking – not only in coverage but also in terms of safety. Drone footage, on the other hand, can both improve coverage, reduce inspection time, and eliminate almost all safety concerns. Drone fleets powered by FlytNow can give stakeholders automated aerial views, from multiple angles, of important but hard-to-reach structural locations.
Wind Turbine Inspections
Periodic inspections are an important part of the maintenance programs of wind-turbine sites, so as to maintain their efficiency, safety, and longevity. It’s important to check the structural integrity of the blades since different parts expand and contract differently under varying climatic conditions. Blades are also subject to damage from dirt, birds, snow, ice, etc.
Here, drones are now being used to rapidly, safely, and quickly scan the different parts of a wind turbine with highly calibrated IR sensors and high-resolution cameras. With FlytNow Enterprise, an inspector can capture different aerial views of a blade, control the camera gimbal remotely, and maintain a safe distance automatically.
Cell Tower Inspections
Cell towers are tall structures that need periodic inspections to keep them operational and safe. Drone-based inspections can help significantly reduce the amount of time that people have to spend on a tower for such inspections. Safety, speed, and cost are all factors in making remote aerial inspections more amenable for broad adoption. Using FlytNow, live streams from drone fleets can be delivered to a single dashboard; these videos can then be shared with guest users, regulators, and other stakeholders in cell tower inspections.
Refinery and Pipeline Inspections
Drones are being designed and deployed for corrosion detection, analysis of cracks, spillage, and leak detection in oil and gas refineries and along long-distance pipelines. The information gathered by drone fleets can be invaluable for maintenance and planning at these complex facilities, with billions of dollars of infrastructure at stake. The speed with which inspection data is gathered can be drastically improved using multiple, autonomous drones, powered by multi-cam streaming available via FlytNow.
The biggest risk in public safety is to first responders, who have to be on-site without timely situational awareness. They also have to deploy fire trucks, ambulances, police cars, and other equipment – without first being able to assess the situation.
US-based technology companyPhirst Technologies, which focuses on public safety solutions, has integrated autonomous drones into the CAD system that supports the 911 service. The idea is to dispatch drones from a unified dashboard to assess a situation before sending human responders. The solution is called FIRST iZ, and they are using FlytBase technology to power their drone automation.
Drones thus offer a compelling capability for incident response – public safety authorities can deploy them first, gain real-time awareness, and make better-informed decisions about people and equipment deployments.
These capabilities are now available in FlytNow so that search parties can quickly dispatch a fleet of drones and stream the live footage from them to a single dashboard, thus expediting the search and rescue process.
Drones fitted with IR sensors can find people trapped in difficult situations such as forest fires where visibility can be quite poor. In 2018, fires scorched more than 150,000 acres in less than two weeks in California. 16 teams of public safety officials clocked 500 drone flights in 3 days. UAV flight data was used to aid search and rescue operations, and pinpoint the path of the fire.
Since such operations may require scanning a very large area, of the order of hundreds of square miles, features like multi-cam streaming are crucial for the deployment of a large fleet of thermal drones.
During the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020,drones deployed in the city of Ahmedabad, India helped monitor lockdown and mitigate the spread of the deadly coronavirus. A central command center was established, with the FlytNow dashboard receiving live video streams from multiple drones flying across the city.
Drone technology has witnessed a rapid maturity curve - with regards to not only hardware and software technology but also the use cases across industries and sectors. Consumer drones have gone past the typical use in film production and recreational uses. These prosumer off-the-shelf drones are now solving complex business problems - for example, in logistics, drones are being deployed to do last-mile delivery, managing inventory, and conducting security patrols.
In this blog, we will specifically focus on thermal imaging drones and the related use cases. Let’s start with an introduction to thermal imaging, understand how it works and how it might be used, via different drones and cameras, for commercial applications.
Need for Thermal Imaging
The ability to let people visualize what their eyes cannot, have led to the popularity of thermal cameras for conducting inspections and patrols. Owing to the invisible heat radiations emitted or reflected by all objects, such cameras record and produce an image of any object having a temperature above zero without the need for visible light. The hotter the object, the brighter it will appear in the thermal image (you can choose the color pallet accordingly).
Such differences in temperature of the objects under observation are then represented in different colors. Generally, blue shades are used to represent colder objects, while red shades are used to represent hotter ones.
Thermal imaging has therefore been known to offer superior protection in demanding conditions. Some of the prime benefits include:
Ability to remove blind spots
Capture data in low-light or at night time
Examine inaccessible areas
Ability to see-through camouflaging foliage
Recommended Thermal Cameras for Drones
Drones with thermal cameras have resulted in unparalleled flexibility for many businesses that require constant protection against potential intruders. Adding a thermal camera as a payload, allows operators to view thermograms in real-time, with the ability to immediately identify objects from the radiation emitted.
Some of the key factors to take into consideration while choosing an appropriate payload aligned for business include:
Is the camera radiometric or non-radiometric?
A radiometric camera provides a temperature reading along with the thermal image.
Does the camera come with a gimbal or a fixed mount?
A camera with a gimbal offers greater control to the operator over the camera movement.
Here are some recommended payloads:
Popular Drones used for Thermal Imaging
Apart from having a fast turn-around time, drones are pocket-friendly as compared to installing thermographic cameras at several locations in the property with a higher possibility of blind spots. Some of the cost-effective drones that could quickly cover the entire facility and be used 24x7 for monitoring include:
Use Cases of Thermal Imaging Drones
Aerial imagery is the primary application of commercial drones; with a thermographic camera, drones can further add value for various enterprise applications.
More recently, during the outbreak of COVID-19, thermal cameras were widely used by the public safety authorities in many countries to detect infected people by checking body temperatures. Thermal drones were also used to identify people defying lockdown rules or social distancing guidelines imposed by many countries especially at night.
Why use FlytNow for Automated Night Surveillance
FlytNow Enterprise for Security and Surveillance enables drone operators, service providers, and enterprises to remotely operate a fleet of thermal drones.
An ideal solution due to the following capabilities:
FlytNow provides geofencing and intelligent waypoint design that a security service provider can use to schedule patrols. The geofencing feature creates a virtual boundary for your drones. The platform allows the creation of unlimited flight plans and streaming of live telemetry to further aid such operations.
The cloud-based platform provides live, low-latency streaming of thermal video from multiple drones on a single dashboard, which can be used to inspect a structure or situation from multiple angles and viewpoints. An operator can remotely control the camera gimbal of drones connected to the FlytNow system, and thus effectively track different objects on the ground. With the AI detection feature, FlytNow allows the auto-identification of objects and humans.
With FlytNow, one can share a live video feed with anyone using an URL, including the map view. This way, a FlytNow user can share his screen with someone who doesn’t use the platform.
FlytNow provides integration with Airmap and DroneLogbook so users can scale their BVLOS flights.
FlytNow integrates with Skysense charging pads so users can completely automate the launch, operate, and docking cycle of a drone. It also supports precision landing so drones can land on charging pads.
Here is an illustration of what drones with thermal imaging working at scale might look like.
Observational surveillance systems rely on the capabilities of the cameras employed, but the main limiting factor is the stationary nature of the cameras in a traditional surveillance system. Now, surveillance can be achieved utilizing drones; it can be not only cost-effective but also accomplish the desired outcome more safely, efficiently and at a much larger scale. Security drones present a quicker, more economical method of aerial information collection.
Here are some of the benefits of using drones for surveillance.
Security drones can reach confined and narrow spaces. They can be outfitted with detectors and night vision cameras, giving them a superior vision that can detect things that a human eye cannot.
Drones can reach a spot much faster than humans, making them the ideal first responders.
Drones can provide a birds-eye view of a situation from multiple angles, especially when deployed as autonomous fleets.
Drones can keep humans out of harm’s way, by providing real-time situational awareness in dangerous situations.
Drones can be fitted with IR sensors, thus making them effective even during night time.
Drones powered by intelligent software bring in the capability to deploy complex analytics, mapping, and object detection features.
Use Cases for Surveillance Drones
Adrone security systemcan be deployed for home security or monitoring commercial properties. They can relaylive video footage, eliminate blind spots both during the day and nighttime — and follow and track trespassers and intruders, thus reducing the chance of theft.
Drone surveillance can aid in real-time traffic control. They can improve situational awareness during accidents. Drones can employ analytics in traffic management that includes automatic vehicle count recognition, license plate identification, and tracking vehicular activities for improved safety and security.
Forest officials face a constant threat of poachers hunting. Drones outfitted with thermal devices can replace stationary IR systems that are costly and not as effective. Surveillance drones have a fast turnaround time; they can be deployed on-demand and controlled from a base station.
Commercial and residential properties usually have pre-defined boundaries. Surveillance drones can track a target area from a safe distance with live updates of possible threats present at/inside the perimeter. Surveillance drones can operate even at night time with the help of IR sensors, thus avoiding harm to security guards and serving as ‘eyes in the sky’.
The government can track large scale events and execute complex analytics like head-count evaluation, riot detection, and identification of law-breakers. Drones armed with speakers and beacons may be used for crowd control.
Surveillance drones can be used to monitor insecure border operations and dangerous zones. They can give live video feeds to security officials and other stakeholders, thus enabling them to make strategic decisions from safety.
FlytNow Enables Surveillance with Drones
FlytNow is a cloud-based, remote drone operations software that can be used to manage a fleet of drones from a single, user-friendly dashboard. The platform has intelligent features like geofencing, flight path design, precision landing, autonomous charging, collision avoidance, etc. that can be used for automating surveillance activities with drones.
The FlytNow dashboard is the command center from where operators can control multiple drones, which in turn are connected via 4G/LTE/5G. Users can stream live videos from the entire fleet of drones on a single dashboard, and can easily switch between map mode or video mode.
The FlytNow solution also integrates with the Drone-in-a-Box technology allowing enterprise users to completely automate the flight, patrol and docking cycle of a drone.
How can drones be easily, quickly adopted for security use-cases?
FlytBase offers a28-day free trialfor users to explore FlytNow Pro edition and its relevance to specific use-cases for security stakeholders. Customers can add their drone fleets, fly them autonomously, create flight plans & coordinate missions, set geo-fence and checklists, view and store live video footage and integrate drone operations into an existing system.
The need for security and surveillance — whether residential or commercial — continues to steadily increase in a world of increasing volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity. Privacy, not just security is becoming as much of a concern — with technology playing a central role on both fronts i.e. in violation of privacy and in the provision of security. This is where drones for security come in, powered by reliable hardware and intelligent software.
Traditional security systems (human guards, CCTV cameras, locks, access control systems, etc.) continue to prevail amongst security and surveillance providers. However, new technologies ranging from drones and robots to biometrics, AI and cyber-security have started to capture alarger share of the market. These technologies offer a range of benefits — automation, scalability, remote management, auditability, cost-effectiveness, reliability, mass customization and so on.
Use of Security Drones
Unmanned aerial vehicles (i.e. drones) are already part of the most advanced home and office security systems, with a fleet of drones programmed to launch from their nests, run repeated missions, capture aerial footage of the assets being secured, and return to their nests to charge and prepare for the next mission. By augmenting, if not replacing, human guards and static CCTVs, these ‘eyes in the sky’ can offer faster response to incidents, real-time situational awareness to the central command, live video feeds to remote stakeholders, and even serve as a deterrence to unfriendly elements.
Demand for Drones in Security & Surveillance applications
While regulation remains a challenge for outdoor operations such asaerial security and surveillance using drones, technology has advanced enough to enable drone-in-a-box security systems. These include not just drones, but also autonomous charging pads, weather-proof docking stations, intelligent automation via software, cloud connectivity and live remote operations. The key to large-scale adoption of such drone surveillance systems is their cost-effectiveness; which in turn requires the use of off-the-shelf drone hardware and SaaS-enabled solutions that minimize the upfront capital expenditure.
Importance of UAV for Residential & Commercial Security
Residential security drones have made the news in recent years, but it is industrial andcommercial security systemsthat are seeing faster adoption. This is driven not only by enterprise initiatives in security automation but also by the rapidly increasing costs of human guards for drone security system providers, made worse by constant employee turnover.
By putting equipment, instead of humans, at risk of harm in case of adverse incidents,aerial surveillancedrones minimize risk and enable better-informed decisions during security events. The best surveillance drones can, in fact, be rapidly sent to a location of interest, using GPS navigation and 4G/5G connectivity, to immediately stream live video feeds and even carry payloads such as sirens or warning lights. With thermal and IR cameras easily available, night-time drone patrols and alarms can be an integral part of aerial home/office surveillance systems.
Autonomous UAV Security & Surveillance Solution
Autonomy is — of course — the key to drones for security, since having human operators involved in UAV surveillance can not only add to the cost, but also introduce the risk of errors, or worse, loss of integrity of security operations. Software-driven automation of drones is thus driving their adoption for home security as well as industrial perimeter security. By defining specific points of interest, ideal schedules, and waypoint-wise camera action, such autonomous UAV security systems can be programmed to operate reliably and continuously and can be rapidly deployed across large swathes of residential or commercial areas. Automatic obstacle detection, collision avoidance andprecision landing capabilitiesfurther expand the use-cases for drones in this context.
Making Drones Smarter for Security Solutions
By incorporating AI/ML techniques, image processing, and machine vision,drone security systemscan even recognize things, track-and-follow intruders, and automatically identify objects that post threats. The physical size and weight of drones are reducing rapidly as the technology matures; such drones can make hard-to-reach locations easily accessible — and make harsh environments more secure — without putting humans at risk of harm.
Aerial video surveillance is thus turning out to be the next frontier for the security industry, powered by autonomous drone fleets that are intelligent, cloud-connected and remotely managed.
How can drones be easily, quickly adopted for security use-cases?
FlytBase offers a 28-day free trial for users to explore FlytNow Pro edition and its relevance to specific use-cases for security stakeholders. Customers can add their drone fleets, fly them autonomously, create flight plans & coordinate missions, set geo-fence and checklists, view and store live video footage and integrate drone operations into an existing system.