Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Droning on about UAV's

Observer South African UAV in flightImage via Wikipedia
The Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, UAV, or more commonly known as Drones are becoming ever more present in today’s world. Mainly used in the military for all types of purposes the UAV is starting to find itself being used in more civilian uses like policing.

Using UAV's for police work is not necessarily new as some cities have trialled the use of them before. Most of the trial periods though failed either due to funding or the fact that the drone crashed! There is hope though for UAV to be used for policing and for other uses.
In the South African context with our high crime rate and porous borders the use of drones could well be part of the solution. Funding is always going to be a problem but the cost of UAV's is slowly coming down. For most part the cost of operating a drone was only slightly cheaper than crewed aircraft. As the technology improves so does the cost come down.

Denel, the South African arms manufacturers, have developed a UAV called the Seeker 400. This UAV is capable of flying for 16 hours without re-fuelling in any weather and be controlled from a computer hundreds of kilometres away. Granted this has been developed for military purpose but it could easily be adapted for civilian purposes.

Uses

We could have these UAV’s patrolling crime hotspots with camera’s and when something happens it can track the criminals until either a helicopter is chasing or ground crew are in pursuit. It would be able to monitor protests from above giving riot police information on where to be deployed.  Being able to monitor troublesome spots for up to 16 hours would be a huge tactical advantage to police.
Mótmæli vörubílstjóra 23. apríl 2008Image via Wikipedia

Other uses would be in the fight against poachers who are killing rhino’s for their horns. These drones could be placed above nature reserves and monitor both rhino and detect poachers allowing ground and air teams to move in on them.

In a recent article SARS, South Africa Revenue Service, complained that the borders of the country are vulnerable. Apparently the 4800km land border is not under surveillance and allows people to just walk across and even fly due to inadequate radar coverage. Our shoreline also suffers the same fate.  Surely a couple of well placed drones would go a long way to tighten border security.

Granted some people will probably say that their rights are being infringed by these drones circling above them and being under surveillance but in the end I would believe it would not be a big issue if used for the purposes it is intended for.

Failure
Of course the use of UAV’s could always fail like the pilot drone used in the UK. It assisted in only one arrest before it crashed. You can read the full story here. Having looked at the pictures of this drone it looked more like a toy controlled with an iPhone than a police issue UAV.

There is the opposite extreme though. Police in Texas are now putting weapons onto their drones? I personally do not think this a wise move especially if the drone crashes then the weapons will be easy pickings? Rather stick to camera’s and thermal imaging and whatever else can be crammed into these awesome flying vehicles.
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