Drones and Home Security

drones-and-securityLink to photo in creative commons

Drones have always been closely associated with the military; it’s no secret that drones have been used by Obama’s administration for stealth surveillance and other violent military processes. Still, new weapons and evolving technology go hand in hand with military use, and that’s not likely to change. Opinions on weapons and their proper application aside, what the majority of the public is concerned about regarding drones are the possible breaches in personal security in our own lives that these flying, artificially intelligent robots make possible. Much like the fears that satellites brought (drones, too, use satellite internet and navigation to reach far off places) the average person is left wondering how often their activity is being watched, and exactly how much a drone or satellite can see.

After all, drones are unmanned and therefore can be small enough to go unnoticed. They’re also able to fly high enough to bypass any traditional man-made walls or blockages. For example, Tina Turner was just one celebrity who discovered that paparazzi were unafraid to use drones to get the photos they needed of her wedding in Switzerland. Aside from their photographic uses, personal drones can be used to benefit the everyday person – in fact, despite their threat to virtual home invasion, one potential use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV’s) is actually home security.

Home security has evolved from deadbolt locks to motion-activated cameras, and now, even fully automated homes which can be controlled using smartphone apps. It’s no surprise, then, that the minds behind motion activated sensors and cameras would also be interested in drones. After all, what good is a security camera if the intruder discovers where it is and how to avoid it?

Remote-controlled drones are able to take home defense to the air, making it possible for any homeowner to survey their entire property from inside their home (or from wherever they wish) without the previous limitations of stationary cameras. Personal drones can be controlled via a remote, or if out of sight-lines, through a computer controlled by the homeowner. Yet another option is to relay the video feed back to a pair of video goggles worn by the homeowner.

Drones aren’t simply for video monitoring anymore, either. Customizable options, such as speakers (to warn intruders that they’ve been discovered) or even neo-lethal options like a taser or mace can be added to the drone. For better vision, infrared or night vision cameras are also available. Just last March, Chaotic Moon studios in Texas released a personal security drone they call Cupid, which stands for Chaotic Unmanned Personal Intercept drone controllable by smartphone. The drone was viewed at Austin’s SXSW Festival and marketed as the future of security, and possesses the addition of a stun gun able to shoot upon command. The firm stated that if an intruder were discovered, “If you detain them, it drops into fully autonomous mode to detain them until police arrive, if need be stunning them with 80,000 volts of electricity to render them incapacitated.”

Intruders are one issue that drones can help solve, but that’s not all this technology can assist with. Suddenly, it becomes relatively easy for parents to check on their children, whether they’re playing in the backyard or down the street in the neighbor’s driveway with models like the autonomous (non-piloted) Pet AR.Drone, which will follow its subject much like a puppy would. The creator, Sameer Parekh created the technology with extreme sports photography in mind, but it’s not a far leap to use the same robots to increase child safety.

All drones can provide vantage points that are impossible to access otherwise, which means that even if homeowners aren’t convinced of their use or necessity, local police officers, and other government officials could potentially use the technology in order to assist with situational awareness in heavy-crime areas, during fires, or when other disasters take place.

Of course, the beneficial uses of drones can only be properly implemented if first there are limitations on how and when drones can be used. At the moment, airspace is only defined according to flight levels (the height at which planes fly) meaning that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has yet to regulate the level that drones fly at. However, they are currently working on legislation to control both the personal and business use of drones. With the right laws, drones could be limited to protect privacy, while using their full potential to increase public safety.

Guest Post by Kate Voss