Ground Sensors and Surveillance Drones: A Proactive Security Strategy

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Ground Sensors and Surveillance Drones: A Proactive Security Strategy

With the risk of threats at an all time high and security departments operating with limited personnel, organizations today are faced with the constant challenge of prioritizing their response.

How do you know when to send your security officers and how can you gauge the correct response? For many, it’s using advanced surveillance technologies to provide real-time situational awareness.

An effective example of this uses a footstep detection system to deploy an unmanned aircraft, or surveillance drone, with high definition EO and IR live-motion video through a “fly-to-cue” integration.

Security Challenges Lead to Limited Solutions

Security professionals tasked with protecting a facility are faced with an increasing number of challenges each year. This is true whether you protect critical infrastructure assets from a hydroelectric plant to remote transmission lines, as well as for our border agents patrolling vast areas of the southern border.

Organizational challenges are also present in day-to-day security protection. Budget constraints and a lack of personnel are all part of the equation when it comes to gauging a response.

Security teams may have little or no response capability at the site or need to rely on local police who have other responsibilities. Having correct information ahead of time is necessary whether you are preparing your own response in a remote area, or need to call on law enforcement to investigate.

When it comes to more traditional challenges with physical security protection, they often include a reliance on the perimeter or fence and dealing with the geographic issues surrounding a facility. This level of reliance on protecting a facility’s perimeter is short sighted. Perimeter security measures like fences, cameras, and access control systems are reactive, not proactive, which results in a rushed and ineffective threat response.

Another drawback to concentrating on the physical perimeter is a reliance on heavily power driven solutions, be it cameras or fence-mounted sensors. These can only be deployed so far from your power source and do little to provide security beyond the line of site.

Geography plays a major role in determining your security options. Whether you are in an urban environment where surrounding infrastructure is already in place, or in a remote location with harsh terrain, these are factors that will lead to the security solutions you choose.

It may not be cost effective for some organizations to patrol areas like remote locations or low priority facilities. Footstep detection sensors with a fly-to-cue capability can overcome these challenges and augment their physical security protection without significant investment.

Moving Past CCTV

Today, as we have for many years, we continue to protect our facilities with fences, cameras, and access control systems, a still growing market valued at $37.43 billion in 2021. However, a larger investment in this type of protection doesn’t necessarily mean better security than what we have today.

For organizations considering augmenting their security with unmanned aircraft, there is another solution commonly viewed as an easier alternative. Closed-circuit television is the long-standing preferred choice as many firms continue to lean heavily on a sophisticated system of cameras to monitor their perimeter.

Although the technology for these cameras has significantly advanced over the years, they are still faced with a number of inherent drawbacks. Footstep detection systems provide an alternative strategy and their implementation first in this capacity is often a precursor to augmenting security with fly-to-cue capabilities.

Cameras can only see and zoom so far before the quality is too degraded to allow for effective monitoring. They also have a narrow field of view, leading security professionals to install an abundance of cameras on poles and fences to monitor every possible angle. This approach is also done to overcome blind spots caused by vegetation and terrain.

This is not ideal solution as an overuse of cameras is cost prohibitive, easy to detect, and require extra monitoring from a central command station.

A more proactive and cost effective strategy would be to place ground sensors in these blind spots and monitor activity. Progressively placing ground sensors further beyond these hidden areas will allow you to gain an understanding of activity and movement patterns before potential threats ever reach these areas.

Additionally, cameras can manually or automatically slew to these blind spots based on detection from sensors. By actively moving cameras towards the detection, security teams can better prioritize their response.

These same cameras need to be hard wired for both power and signal transmission, leading to difficulties installing them beyond the physical perimeter. Augmenting you security with battery powered ground sensors alleviates the need to run cables underground and allows you to monitor far- reaching areas.

These approaches differ from traditional CCTV security because they are not reacting to threat activity already when they are already at your last line of defense. Extend your perimeter and gain a better understanding of movement early without the need for additional costly cameras.

How Fly-to-Cue Plays a Role

The inherent challenges in gathering real-time situational awareness has made proactive surveillance solutions slow to reach the commercial market. However, this doesn’t mean it’s any less important that your response be prepared be based on the best information.

But how do you get all the information necessary to gauge a response?

This has a number of implications in real-world scenarios. Utility providers, whether they are electric, telecom, or oil and gas often have facilities in remote locations where it’s not feasible to use security personnel.

The use of unmanned aircraft or surveillance drones with video allows these organizations to be certain that the detection from footstep sensors or another source is not a false alarm. With this information, they can be confident that their calls to local authorities or other resources requesting a response are related to a real threat.

In the opposite scenario when there is a large amount of infrastructure surrounding a facility, an accurate detection can be hard to obtain. Dense foliage or existing structures make hiding easy and understanding their likely intent difficult.

Footstep detection sensors providing GPS location of the activity followed by high definition EO and IR live-motion video allow operators to have significantly greater situational awareness. This capability involving surveillance drones, such as the K-Hawk from ARA, is especially useful in urban areas where the use of fixed wing aircraft is restricted.

Limited flight time is another critical reason why unmanned aircraft have struggled to provide complete real-time situational awareness. It’s not an efficient solution to send a response based on assumptions and every minute an aircraft loses by searching for a target is a minute lost.

Ground sensors like Pathfinder allow operators to receive a proportional amount of situational awareness early on to prepare their response. Know with confidence that your unmanned aircraft will go directly to the location you need it to be.

This allows operators to get “eyes on” for the maximum amount of time rather than wasting battery or fuel trying to locate a target, resulting in a reduced amount of time monitoring the target.

Without a clear understanding of where your threats are, the chance of locating them and providing any situational awareness is severely diminished. Pathfinder and its fly-to-cue capabilities provide an ideal solution for security professionals trying to understand the threat they are responding to..

Scenario: Improving the Protection of Utility Provider Facilities

Organizations with a close eye on their perimeter security at one or more facilities tend to use a central command center to monitor cameras and other security systems. This is common in the private security world but also for utility providers.

As such, their response on the ground for these locations can be limited or delayed. Organizations often rely on local law enforcement to provide a response and must be confident that they are providing them with the best information possible.

Reactive security solutions may be able to identify that activity is already happening, but can’t provide a clear picture of what the behavior actually entails and how far it has progressed. Cameras and other traditional solutions oriented on a fence line provide a “too little too late” situation resulting in a lack of information and a delayed response.

Proactive solutions such as footstep detection sensors using slew-to-cue and fly-to-cue capabilities can overcome these hurdles and allow for an efficient and timely response.

Let’s look at five ways Pathfinder, together with a proactive perimeter security strategy, could prevent or aid the response to an attack on the grid.

  1. As is the case in most premeditated attacks, 90% of a threat’s activity occurs during surveillance. They must choose the locations to perform this early reconnaissance and where these areas can be accessed from. This may be a roadside location or another known pathway, but by monitoring these areas with ground sensors such as Pathfinder you can get the first point of confirmation for ingress and egress.
  2. As threats travel from these points closer to your protected areas, sensors can then be used to detect their movements and patterns. If you have an early understanding of which paths they may be forced to take, you can begin to identify their likely intent and not just movement.
  3. Finally, most facilities or assets have areas where they are weakest or points identified as being extremely vulnerable. A threat having done reconnaissance will likely target these spots. Placing sensors in these locations will trigger a response to these no-go zones where people have no other reason to be there other than to see the target.
  4. Cameras mounted around a site’s perimeter would fall short of providing an advance warning, and be easily avoided or compromised by attackers. Pathfinder and the smart slewing of cameras would allow you to prepare a more effective response with greater situational awareness. By detecting threat-related activity and monitoring its progression closer to your site, a camera can automatically slew-to-cue once that activity has crossed a threshold necessitating a response.
  5. A high level of situational awareness is needed for any response, especially when local law enforcement is called on. But how do they get all the information necessary to gauge their response?

    Live-motion video provided by an unmanned aircraft sent via fly-to-cue provides the opportunity to gain a complete understanding of the threat activity. The response team now knows what to look for and can be more effective at responding. This advantage can be gained during surveillance detection as well as in the event of an attack.

How do I learn more about Pathfinder?

It’s easy, just set up a consultation with our industry experts. Applied Research Associates is uniquely qualified to help your organization execute a sound security and emplacement strategy. We can get started with a meeting, product demo, or onsite evaluation.