Drone Use in the Night Time Economy

17 Mar 2019

Always on the look out for innovative uses for emerging 
technology, Night Time Economy Solutions Director Jo Cox-Brown discusses how drones could play a role in managing 
and enhancing night time economies.

I had a phone call from a client this week and we were chatting about the use of technology to help in policing the night time economy.

As the police struggle with budgets, innovative use of technology in policing has the power to support police work in a variety of ways. As part of this conversation I asked them if they had a drone and if they used it in the night time economy. The answer was yes they had one but no – they had never thought of using their drone in such a way. It got me thinking.

Lots of police forces around the UK have drones but aren’t sure of how best to use them or make them work for them, so we’ve done a bit of thinking and consulted some expert drone friends – thanks to Michael Kheng at Kurnia Aerial Photography and Ben Cottman at Aerial Film and Photo for their expect advice.

Here are the ways that we believe that drones could be used in the night time economy:

  1. In areas where there is limited CCTV but issues such as ASB, violence, noise at specific times are prevalent. Drones could be used to temporarily capture images or convey voice commands to leave the area. This could be particularly useful in areas where single crewed officers are sent to areas where there is high potential for harm to the lone officer, such as rural market towns. Currently, however, drones can only fly for a short time (approximately 20 to 30 minutes dependent on the load) and therefore it does have some limitations.
  2. Crowd management and control or a better view of an incident at festivals, Christmas markets and sporting events. Drones are already being deployed at some festivals and football events; France and America are regularly using drone technology in domestic policing. Drones are useful for gaining an overall picture of the extent of an incident or damage to property, infrastructure, telecoms and then help incident commanders find people and help with decisions to allocate resources. However, this does come with some caveats. If you are going to fly at 50 meters you will need consent of all attendees up to 1,000 people. This isn’t impossible; you could get people to tick a consent box when they buy a ticket. If you event is over 1,000 then you have to be 150 meters away[SO1] .
  3. To convey voice messages to large groups of people especially in case of emergency such as a terror incident. Drones would be ideal to use during an incident like this. Some drones come equipped with a voice loudspeaker that lets pilots play up to 10 custom voice recordings on demand, providing a communication channel to nearby individuals, which can be critical during lifesaving emergency operations.
  4. Search for missing or abducted persons this is particularly useful in low light or night time searches where searching on foot is prohibitive.  Drones allow for proper visual inspections, where structures have low light or in bad lighting conditions and use of infrared, or dual spotlight with a brightness, assist operators in carrying out missions. The use of spotlights and thermal sensors are ideal for search and rescue.
  5. Waterway Safety: With several high-profile deaths in the night time economy in or around waterways. Use of thermal sensors to detect humans by their heat signature is helpful in search and rescue scenarios. If a person is declared missing around a waterway, drones can fly the area far faster than humans could patrol it, therefore potentially preserving life or finding bodies faster. Drones have also been used in Australia to drop lifebuoys to swimmers who are in trouble.  
  6. Chasing a drunk driver or stolen car: Sometimes it’s not appropriate to chase a car due to safety reasons or available man power. Drones offer a viable alternative and can easily traverse terrain that cars can’t. The Metropolitan Police in London are assessing their use to chase moped gangs. They are ideal for gathering evidence and using voice commands as we’ve already discovered. The Police Chief’s Council steering group and the Centre for Applied Science and Technology is reviewing the situation for use in city centres, but there is no reasons why in the meantime the technology couldn’t be used in more rural areas.   
  7. Illegal raves: With night clubs dying, illegal raves and parties are seeing growth.  The number of planned unlicensed music events in London recorded by the Metropolitan Police nearly doubled between 2016 and 2017. Illegal raves are a concern for a number of reasons. Generally, the organisers of these events aren’t concerned with welfare or security and many are run on private land without the landowner’s consent. Drones can be used to assess the situation, gather essential evidence and allow police and councils to deploy appropriate resources.
  8. Rural communities: Medicine Delivery Service: We’ve seen drones being used to deliver pizza and Amazon are trialling their Prime Air Delivery Project. Postal companies across Europe and Asia are trialling drone parcel deliveries. Walmart are also testing drone deliveries. With all these big names testing, drones being used to deliver parcels is more than likely going to happen. Drones are already being used to deliver medical products in Rwanda.   Thinking of rural communities with thriving night-time economies, if there is an incident the wait for an ambulance could be long, in combination with the use of trauma packs it’s not out of the question that essential life saving medicines could be delivered by drones, saving lives.
  9. For something a bit lighter hearted and fun: I’ve seen drones used For Synchronised Drone Light Concerts. If fireworks are too noisy and expensive and get the neighbours complaining then you might want to embrace this new form of art entertainment.  It seems that Intel are the big name so far as they have put together shows with 300 to 500 drones in the air at any time. For example, 1,218 drones were used at the Winter Olympics Opening Ceremony 2018. The drone light shows can be synchronised to music and sometimes only one or two pilots are needed to do a whole show.  These are awesome events, you can check one out here.

Things to think about

  1. Drone flying time: When purchasing a drone you would need to ensure that you maximise the flying time or buy a number of drones to ensure you have continuity of service.
  2. Consider the drone technology, using enhanced data security and protection for sensitive data such as photos, videos and flight logs would be essential in all these cases.
  3. Where you are going to fly it.
  4. Who is going to control it.
  5. Sterile areas for take off and landing.
  6. Permissions: Think about what permissions you may need to seek to perform the activity you are considering – whether that be a legal requirement or simply best practice.

 [SO1]Do you also need consent at this height/for this number?

Written by the Night Time Economy Team ©2019 | Share this article link
Category: Night Time Safety
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