An Israeli company says it has developed a fully autonomous commercial drone system that can provide around-the-clock service and security, without the need for human intervention, at sensitive and strategic sites.
By using sensors and real-time computer vision technology, the company, Percepto, says its drone system is able to deal with ad-hoc situations and react autonomously to potential security threats.
In addition, it can carry out safety missions such as detecting smoke or gas leaks, and conduct routine inspections to identify abnormalities such as corrosion or damage to infrastructure, the company's Chief Commercial Officer, Ariel Avitan, says.
"Our applications are based on three tiers of value: first one is security - the ability for the drone to autonomously detect humans or cars by using computer vision in real-time, and enabling the drone to identify a human or a car, alert that there is something wrong, or there is someone... a suspicious object near a fence and then track it if needed, if it's ordered to.. and on top of that the biggest value of having a drone on site is continuous inspection, the ability for the drone to inspect different kinds of objects - if it's high-voltage towers, grid, solar panels, chimneys and power utilities - that enables the drone to provide constant data on the status of these objects," Avitan told Reuters from the company offices in the central Israeli city of Modi'in.
The system is comprised of three main components, Avitan explained. A ground station that charges and shelters the drone, and communicates with it, the drone itself that carries the company's core module and real-time computer vision applications, installed on the core.
The advanced technology enables the drone to collect the data, analyze it in real time and react according to clients' needs.
"We teach it with thousands of pictures of a human being, how a human being looks like in different kinds of shapes and sizes, so the next time it sees a human being it will know that this is a human being, same with a car, same thing with a high-voltage tower… that enables the drone to autonomously identify and classify different images and understand what it sees. Now once it knows what it sees there are different kinds of sequences of flights that we ask it to do per the identification," Avitan added.
In one scene of a promotional company video a security breach scenario is depicted.
In the video the drone is seen launching automatically and heading to the designated area after a security alert was generated.
As it arrives on site it uses computer vision technology to analyze the image, identify the intruder, follow him and keep him in sight, until a security team arrives.
Located on site and providing constant data collection and service, the system is designed to offer large utility companies a more efficient and effective security and inspection system, that also reduces the risk for company employees, says Ofir Bar Levav of Tyco Innovations which specializes in security systems and teamed up with Percepto to promote its drone.
"Today if you look at an average facility, we protect it with fences, smart fences, with detectors with fixed cameras. The drones enable us to offer something unique in terms of value to our customers as we offer something which is not just a fixed camera looking at a specific field of view, but actually enables us to replace manned guards, manned patrols and provide a real smart device that is onsite 24/7, able to run routine tasks, but also deliver ad hoc missions and response faster than any human being can," he said.
Avitan says Percepto mostly targets major utility companies of the energy sector, that will be able to program the autonomous system to monitor and protect solar fields, pipelines, chimneys, high-voltage towers, grid and other sensitive facilities that require high level of security, safety and constant inspection and maintenance. He says that its overall contribution will increase productivity.
For Percepto, privacy is not an issue, as it seeks to create a means of deterrence against uninvited guests. The drone is designed to be very noisy, has noticeable lighting on board and enables the operator to speak through a loudspeaker to people on ground.
The use of commercial drones is still not fully regulated but Avitan and Bar Levav, who say they follow closely US FAA's (Federal Aviation Administration) developing rules, believe that in the coming months they will allow commercial drones to conduct fully autonomous patrol and surveillance for security purposes.