Higher calling: improving safety with drones

Louise Smyth

As much as the average person may not like to focus on worst-case scenarios, there are many people for whom doing just that constitutes a major part of their job. Not only could a worst-case scenario in industries like oil and gas, critical infrastructure or nuclear energy mean bad news for the business involved, it could also spell devastation in the form of the loss of human life or havoc wreaked on the environment. 

The decision-makers in charge of mitigating incidents, accidents and attacks in industries all over the world don’t have the luxury of burying their heads in the sand. On the contrary, they would be better served by a bird’s eye view of their sensitive facilities, sites and situations – or a drone’s eye view, to be more specific. 

Raising the standard

Industry-standard surveillance and security in sectors like energy and critical infrastructure currently involves a combination of CCTV camera systems and security personnel and other emergency responders. None of these components need to be replaced as they are all essential to comprehensive industrial security; rather, these components need to be complemented. 

The monitoring capabilities provided by CCTV cameras have been valuable to industrial safety, security and surveillance for as long as they have existed. However, because the majority of these cameras are forward-facing and tend to have linear panning they suffer from a limited visual field as well as blind spots, typically behind objects and under the camera. 

Drones for security provide a moveable and wide overhead view that offers nearly unlimited visibility into secured areas of all sizes and environments. And with an automated industrial drone it’s easy to capture and transmit this essential aerial data on demand in the event of an emergency situation, as automated drones can change their own batteries and equip themselves with sensors - ensuring they are always ready to automatically launch and fly – no waiting for maintenance or a drone pilot at a time where a matter of minutes can be the difference between life, death and disaster. 

Drones are also invaluable for the protection they provide to security personnel and emergency responders. Human security guards are what stand between intruders and successful thefts or attacks, and security drones provide those guards with as much information as possible on threats and emerging situations. No more going in blind to face off against armed intruders or other potentially dangerous individuals. Likewise, emergency response teams will have as much information as possible before rushing into an unfolding situation like a fire or chemical leak to attempt to mitigate the damage. 

An array of emergency response

One of the main functions of automated industrial drones for security is the transmission of live high-def video for rapid incident investigation, providing unmatched visibility into emerging situations and helping to inform emergency response efforts. This is a must for dealing with the security breaches and threats common to industrial facilities, sea ports and oil and gas sites. Aerial incident investigation also aids in emergency response to the fires that can so easily occur in oil and gas and other industrial facilities like refineries and manufacturing plants, and to the blasting and hauling accidents that can occur in mining.

Live video transmission can additionally be used to monitor ongoing situations such as oil spills, tracking the spill for the most precise response possible. It can also monitor evacuations related to any sort of industrial incident, helping ensure employees and anyone else affected are being relocated in an orderly fashion and that no one is in danger of being left behind.

Automated industrial drones are also capable of equipping themselves with remote hazard detection sensors, enabling fast detection or confirmation of gas or chemical leaks without posing a risk to personnel who would otherwise be dispatched for testing. 

A welcome downgrade

Facilities in a number of industries are fraught with constant risks, threats and hazards, and as a result, worst-case scenarios abound. The people tasked with facing up to these worst-case scenarios and leading the response when they occur deserve every advantage they can get, and automated industrial drones represent a major step forward in industrial emergency response. With the right tools, many worst-case scenarios can be downgraded to a-lot-less-bad-than-expected scenarios, protecting employees, citizens, the environment, infrastructure and a business’s bottom line. 

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