It should come as no surprise that one of the most immediate and promising applications of unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, is in the area of surveillance. Major public events like the New York City Marathon, the Super Bowl, or World Cup would benefit enormously from the use of drones to ensure the safety of the public. So too would law enforcement and first responders who are engaged in the critically important tasks of search and rescue.
Then there’s the security of our K-12 school districts and university campuses. Earlier this year, the Michigan State Police department became the first police force in the nation to receive statewide authorization by the Federal Aviation Administration to use drones for law enforcement purposes. After reviewing the department’s safety and program procedures, the FAA approved the use of an unmanned aircraft to photograph crash sites, search for lost people, inspect natural disasters and conduct surveillance.
All of these applications are casebook examples of how an exciting new technology like drones can be immediately incorporated by pro-AV dealers into their product mix. Our industry, collectively, has the dealer network with the expertise in the video category and the vertical market end-user relationships required to seamlessly integrate drones into meaningful solutions that save time, money and, in some cases, lives.
Two issues have stood in the way of making the use of drones a practical reality for customers who need and rely upon cost-effective surveillance solutions in their day-to-day life — concerns about privacy and the availability of educational resources to train drone operators. In my opinion, both of these concerns can now be addressed in a way that allows for this remarkable new technology to quickly become a mainstream part of 21st century surveillance.
First, as it relates to privacy concerns, the FAA has made it very clear that it is in the process of developing standards and guidelines for the safe and legal use of drones in commercial applications, in ways that do not violate an individual’s right to privacy. The guiding principle in this process is to make sure that drones are used, not in a broad general way, but rather in an controlled environment where the owner/operator would have a right to have a security professional present.
In addition, the altitude limit of 500 feet further ensures that drones used for surveillance will not be used to monitor the activities of the at large general population.
Second, as it relates to training and education, there is now a very clear path forward for ProAV dealers seeking to offer their drone customers a complete solution. Thanks to a strategic alliance Stampede has formed with Unmanned Vehicle University, pro-AV dealers will now be able to purchase and resell to their customers specific certified courses that will enable them to operate drones in a safe and sanctioned way.
Unmanned Vehicle University is now designing dedicated manufacturer-based product training that is customized to show vertical market specific dealers how to integrate unmanned aerial vehicles into their product offerings to customers.
Finally, there is a way to educate dealers on how to integrate drones into their commercial offering and then provide the necessary training to both their employees on the category and their customers on how to operate the drones, providing a complete turnkey solution. What’s more, the dealers will profit when they resell UVU’s unique training courses.
It has been estimated that the size of the commercial drone market will grow to be 12% of the $98-billion in cumulative global spending on aerial drones over the next decade. Growth could be even faster if regulatory agencies finalize their rules concerning licensing and training.
This partnership with UVU will help customers to be ready to go when these licensing and training regulations are finalized. It will also allow dealers to offer UVU’s training courses to their end-users as part of their camera drone offering and profit on every class they sell.
Kevin Kelly is President, COO and Owner of Stampede, a value-added distributor of pro-AV solutions that represents more than 135 technology manufacturers in offering 50,000 distinct products through a distribution network that exceeds 11,500 resellers. Under Kevin’s leadership, Stampede has expanded its reach into the custom installation, consumer electronics , and hospitality markets while continuing to serve its traditional corporate, government, education, non-profit, healthcare, and hospitality vertical market customers. He introduced the pro-AV industry to the business-building potential of unmanned aerial vehicles and drone-based video systems in 2014 and forged a strategic alliance with Unmanned Vehicle University in 2015. In partnership with InfoComm and Unmanned Vehicle University, Stampede staged the industry’s first Drone Pavilion at InfoComm 2015 in Orlando, Florida. Kevin is a member of InfoComm’s Leadership Search Committee.