Using drone technology is the future for having the ultimate CCTV system protecting your premises. We envision drones proactively patrolling your perimeter and premises, searching for trespassers or any anomalies on site. Using drones has clear benefits in intrusion detection, especially in areas that are obscured from camera views. Here we outline how we are already using drones, future exciting uses of this technology in the security space and some current barriers to the full roll-out of drone use.

How we Currently Use Drones

Site Surveying

At Netwatch, before we issue a proposal to a potential client, we often use a drone to survey the landscape of the site which can quickly give us a detailed high-resolution overhead survey. This can be invaluable in spotting vulnerable areas. This gives us a better understanding of the security needs of the client and allows us to draw up an interactive site map (as seen below).

Drone View

The drone view is incorporated into our Cratos software, so that it can be viewed by our Intervention Specialists. This gives our Intervention Specialist a quick understanding of the site landscape, where cameras are positioned and potential hiding spots for intruders. It also allows us to pass on more accurate details to police and first responders. For example, we can alert the police that the intruder is hiding in the back area and advise them of the best place to enter the site, as well as the potential escape routes for the intruder.

How we see Drone Technology Developing

Autonomous threat response

Netwatch was originally set up when a friend of the owners attended what they thought was a false alarm, but ended up getting brutally assaulted by the intruder that was still on site. Removing any risk to the first responder has always been at the foundation of the Netwatch System.

Using drones we envisage that when a security alarm is triggered, the system automatically dispatches a drone to the alarm location and streams live video to the Communications Hub.  In addition to the cameras already on site, this offers a second available view to our Intervention Specialists. Sending a drone to investigate and visually verify is much safer and an easier option to what could be a potentially dangerous situation.

Scheduled autonomous drone patrols

Scheduled automated drone patrols could replace a security guard patrolling a predefined route. This means an operator flies the drone around the site to detect for intruders or site anomalies (e.g. suspicious packages or vehicles). Given that the average commercial drones can fly between 30-60kph this will significantly increase the amount of ground that can be covered vs. a manned guard patrol. Patterns and patrol times could be preset; for example if you wanted a secure area patrolled every hour and perimeter every 2 hrs, this could be easily programmed.

Multipurpose drones and IOT 

With the infrastructure in place to remotely operate drones, we would imagine drone tech to be incorporated further into the security and facility management systems of a premises. Much like we incorporated heat, smoke and fire detection into our CCTV offering in the last 5 years we would imagine this IOT encompassing approach to happen with drones also. This means security drones, initially acquired for an intrusion detection role, could also take on other tasks. In case of fire, they could survey the fire progression and provide information to emergency services. Or, they could act as a safety surveyor – a drone could be scheduled to inspect a pipeline or oil tank once a week and send that footage directly to the Safety Inspector for sign-off.

Further uses for Drones in Business 

Remote visual inspection – Remotely inspect hard to reach locations e.g. pipelines, wind turbines, powerlines.

Special Delivery – Delivering packages quickly and cheaply between locations. Currently being tested by Amazon Prime Air for delivery of packages. The company Zipline are using drones in Africa for rapid delivery of medicine to remote hospitals.

Land Surveying – Using LIDAR or other sensors, drones can locate water and water flow patterns.

People-carrying drones –  Dubai’s Roads and Transportation Agency revealed that Dubai will be launching people-carrying drones.

Firefighter drones – As seen below a drone can be directly equipped to fight a fire or can be a tool for surveying the fire’s progress. In the Grenfell Towers disaster a drone was used to assess the development of the fire to ascertain if it was safe to send in fire-fighters.

Current Roll-out Barriers


Small unmanned aircraft (drones) legislation requires that all drones weighing over 1kg are to be registered with the Irish Aviation Authority. Current legislation states that drones are not to be flown out of the operator’s line of sight. This severely limits the envisioned extensive use of remotely flying drones until the Irish Aviation Authority Small Unmanned Aircraft (Drones) and Rockets Order 2015 is amended to accommodate this type of remote application.

In a recent report, the Data Protection Commissioner has advised that the commercial use of drones in a security capacity falls under GDPR with similar regulations surrounding data, terms of use, and control as we currently see with CCTV.

Cost Comparison

Incorporating drones to your CCTV system needs to be a viable security solution at an appropriate price point. The cost of running this type of service would be substantial; cost of a commercial drone, on-site base station, drone maintenance and repair etc.

Battery Life 

The capacity of security drones as a primary security solution is also constrained by battery life. At present, commercial drones can typically fly continuously for only about 25 minutes. Surveillance monitoring is a 24-7 task, so this is a considerable issue. However, one solution is to use multiple drones in rotation flying in shifts, but this could further increase operational costs.


2018 drone security is not a cost-effective security alternative, yet. To incorporate this type of technology as a support to a CCTV system is a safer option. The most exciting development will come in the form of multi-functional drones, which will aid in facility managements increasing security, safety and efficiency, at lower costs.

While many people may see drones as an option to monitoring vast sites or as a rapid response, they may not know about the improvements to existing CCTV camera technology which incorporates Radar or Heat detection which currently can meet the same requirements but at lower price point.