In a few years time the sight of an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) doing a security patrol over a business park or delivering a parcel to your front door may have become the norm.
Although it sounds like something from a sci-fi film it’s potentially just around the corner and I have been speaking to people who are working to make this become a reality.
UAVs are known by various names including drones, quad-copters or simply remote controlled helicopters; they have a variety of capabilities and come in all shapes and sizes. International businesses, governments and the security industry are already exploring UAVs potential to improve services and reduce costs. In the USA, Amazon is in negotiations with the Federal Aviation Administration as they attempt to licence drones to deliver parcels weighing up to 2.3 kg to customers, within 30 minutes of them being ordered.
The Australian government is ordering over a billion pounds worth of UAVs to patrol its borders to prevent illegal immigration and to protect their off shore energy resources. While a UAV cannot compete with a full size helicopter’s range or ability to evacuate casualties, they can perform very similar operational functions and are considerably cheaper to operate. I am aware of a small UAV equipped with a 3D camera which can be programmed to continuously travel a predefined route, such as a railway line. The camera can detect and report to its base any minute change to the terrain since it’s previous fly past. In effect it has the potential to make life very difficult for the crime gangs involved in the large-scale thefts of metal who are blighting our railway network.
UAVs can be used to quickly search wide areas for missing children or for armed suspects without placing anybody at risk, to examine the exteriors of buildings for damage, find cannabis farms and even carry out surveillance.
With the financial pressures on our police and fire services I will be very surprised if they are not considered in Lancashire as a way to save considerable sums of money.
The difficult job will be for the UK’s Civil Aviation Authorities, to develop a system to licence, manage and govern the growth in use of UAVs. For a private individual, perhaps it will mean having a UAV landing pad on your front lawn and putting privacy glass on your windows to prevent snooping!