Security drones and job security

Security drones have been good to humans.

Well… most of them anyway.

They have saved lives. They have saved people from dangerous situations. They have implored people to be careful during a pandemic. They have chased criminals and uprooted them from their hideouts.

You could say that drones have been so good that they have found a permanent home in the employ of police services in China, Germany, Ghana, the UAE, the USA, the UK and lately, Namibia.

In South Africa, the issue of police drones is now being discussed in high levels of government, but while they still decide on the way forward, security companies are going ahead with plans to integrate unmanned aerial support in their operations.

Fidelity Security Group has become one of the first security companies in South Africa to include drone technology in their security response teams, which company CEO Wahl Bartmann saying the drones’ proactive potential to prevent crime meant they could not wait any longer.

“We believe drones and the deployment of a mobile drone team, will not only act as a highly effective visible deterrent to criminals, but also assist to immediately track down and locate criminal elements once an outer perimeter on an estate has been breached, or in any scenario where suspects are at large on a security estate,” Bartmann said.

Apparently, having witnessed first-hand what it can do, corporates have taken to drone technology like a dove to water too, with one security drone expert confirming that they are getting several requests for security drone contracts.

The implementation of which would not be a problem, as the expert testifies.

The elephant in the room though has been the fate of the security guards currently making rounds on the perimeters where drones will also be covering.

We have analysed what police drones will mean for the job security of police officers in South Africa; but what about the security people in the private security industry? Should they be worried about their jobs?

It will not happen tomorrow of course, but according to this expert’s experience, corporates are hoping the drones will be taking over from the humans, at least where the perimeter checks are concerned.

“We receive requests from companies all the time about the possibilities of drones replacing humans altogether,” the expert said. “And in our conversations with these prospective clients, the issue is not that they want to reduce labour costs, no. Usually, security personnel doing rounds on perimeters are low level employees and paying them is not a huge problem.”

The issue, it seems, has a lot to do with trust.

Because it has been an allegation in South African security circles – one that has been really hard to shake off – that many of the biggest crime heists were successful because the criminals had inside help.

As a result of these unfortunate experiences, it is not a surprise then, that companies would wish for as less human involvement in security matters as is possible.

The sentiment is, at some point, drones will take over responsibility for perimeter security

And one of those wishes is that drone technology will help rectify such deliberate anomalies.

“While this is understandable, there is also understandable concerns about having to put people out of employment in this economy,” the expert says. “So what we suggest for now is that the organisations let the drones do the work around the perimeters, while the human security personnel is retrained for other security work that the drones cannot do.

“Because the best place for drones in security is observation. So our advice is for the companies to let the drones handle the observations, while the people handle the physical side of things.”

The sad fact is drones – even one that automatically trigger themselves from a box – do not deploy themselves, though. Humans still have to work on the drones, and they might be tempted to make them look the other way too.

Because trust works both ways. It is a vicious cycle.

It something that the South African branch of security solutions provider, Axis Communications mentioned in its 2021 security outlook, when it analysed the technologies that would affect the security industry this year.

“There are many factors which contribute to maintaining trust, and the technology sector is under more scrutiny now than ever before,” the company said. “Customers and end users are demanding transparency around how tech is used and how data is managed, especially with increased surveillance. This, together with the need to maintain privacy, will be a key challenge.

“Renewed discussions around trust will directly impact how organisations in all sectors actively demonstrate why they are trustworthy. Due to its nature, the security sector will be under even more pressure to double down on its efforts in this area.”

Having said that though; we have to understand that disruptive technology is a fact of live we have to live with, and that there are jobs that will be made redundant. In its 2020 Future of Jobs Report, the World Economic Forum did not have security as one of the top ten jobs in danger of technology disruption (most probably because robots are still really expensive to make) in South Africa, but the COVID-19 pandemic had a lot of companies rethinking their strategies in their approaches to some business operations, security included.

Besides, the generations coming into the workforce right now are technologically woke and will most likely want to work with gadgets more exciting than a torch and a dog for company. They grew up in the age of cell phones and robots and drones and other technologies; and they might be wont to look for the easiest way of doing things first before they commit their energy. How many of them will be glad to walk around perimeters with torches in hand, securing premises which could be better cared for by other technology? Are we not killing the future by trying to save today?

These are questions that organisations have to find answers to today, if they do not want to find themselves with jobs that have no takers in the near future. What measures are there today to ensure that companies stay abreast with technology?

It is a question folks at American security Company Xpress Guards have been grappling with, and for now, they seem to have no problem with drone cameras working side by side with human security personnel.

“In some sense, these new cameras represent a sea of change for the security industry,” the company figures. “Unlike traditional camera models, this new technology enables you to monitor specific high-risk areas while still maintaining a total field of view. To the customer, this may sound like a secure alternative to having manned personnel at capacity-crowd events.

“Some clients might argue why the need for plenty of funds to be allocated to physical security. The installation of this technology would work as well, if not better, than the handful of people who are working on the ground. However, while undoubtedly useful, a camera will not be able to intervene should an incident arise. Hence there is still an obvious need for human presence.

“We can safely say that the use of security technology will rise, resulting in cases where it makes complete sense to replace people with technology, from both a business and safety perspective. However, technology will not totally remove the need for a physical presence at some locations. Since the physical presence of an individual is still a major deterrent to someone with ill intent, it’s still the best option when intervention is needed.”


Leave a Comment


Welcome! Login in to your account

Remember me Lost your password?

Lost Password