Drones benefit security operations

October 2016 Surveillance, Integrated Solutions, Security Services & Risk Management

New rules regulating the use of remotely piloted aircraft systems, colloquially known as drones, are now firmly in effect after having been signed by the Minister of Transport.

“The regulations governing the use of drones in South Africa are welcome because they bring clarity,” says Philip Smerkovitz, MD of TeleEye SA, a distributor of FLIR thermal imaging systems and DJI gimbals designed to be bolted-on to the world’s leading drone models.

These imaging systems use state-of-the-art infrared technologies that detect infrared radiation, or heat, enabling the drone operator to see in total darkness, and all weather conditions. With simple power-in and video-out connections, and MAVlink (Micro Air Vehicle link) compatibility, it’s easy to integrate FLIR Vue thermal imaging systems onto drones and get flying.

Smerkovitz explained that the promulgation of the RPA regulations last year means it is now impossible to fly drones near National Key Points without prior permission. A current list of National Key Points is available on the web and is maintained by the Right2Know campaign.

The good news is that it is completely legal to use drones on private property, for search and rescue, fire fighting, security, agriculture, roof and solar panel inspections, aerial surveys and photography, and a host of other applications.

Drones cannot, however, be flown within 50 m above or close to a person or crowd of people without prior approval. This has obvious implications for crowd control applications and sporting events.

Drone operators should be aware that they need to have a Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) approved remote pilot licence and a letter of approval which is valid for 12 months. Drones furthermore cannot fly more than 120 m above the ground, nor within 10 km of an aerodrome. That’s an airport for those of us born after 1970. Interestingly, while the rules also stipulate that visual contact must be maintained with the drone, this doesn’t apply to night operations.

DJI (Dà-Jing Innovations Science and Technology is a Chinese drone leader manufacturing unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), gimbals, flight platforms, cameras, propulsion systems, camera stabilisers and flight controllers. The Economist in 2015 described the company as being at the “forefront of the civilian-drone industry”.

DJI and FLIR Systems have formed a formidable partnership that has seen FLIR design core thermal systems that seamlessly integrate with DJI drone products including the flagship Xenmuse XT gimbal.


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