In making the drone selections above, we considered a number of these use cases, as well as several factors related to who will be deploying the drones and how they will be used. One of the most popular developments in security drones is the so-called drone-in-a-box concept, in which a portable, weather-resistant base and recharging station also operates as a drone garage, of sorts. Systems like this tend to be rapidly deployable and offer automated takeoff and landing functionality, making them particularly suitable to sites where on-call 24/7 security is required.
On the other end of the spectrum, fixed-wing drones are capable of covering vast distances and typically have significantly longer flying times per charge than multi-rotor vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) drones. The drones sacrifice the agility necessary for many inspections and close-quarters applications, but for wildlife management and fire mitigation, a fixed-wing drone can come in handy. We included the Avy Aera, which adds VTOL capabilities to a fixed-wing drone because it does a great job of offering the best of both worlds.
Perhaps the most important consideration for prospective enterprise drone customers is sensor package. Will the UAV operate during daylight hours and cover relatively open terrain? If so, a simple visual spectrum camera may be sufficient for surveillance needs, and something as simple as DJI Mavic 2 is recommended. But specialized use cases required more sophisticated equipment.
Thermal sensing helps identify body heat from humans and animals even when there's dense ground cover or other vegetation, making it essential in wilderness applications or if drones fly after dark. Lidar, with its high-fidelity point clouds, is great for monitoring infrastructure for project progress or structural integrity. Ultrasonic sensors also have been deployed successfully on UAV.
Another consideration is whether your company plans to consider an investment in security drones a capital expense or whether a drone-as-a-service model offers more flexibility. In a bid to spur market interest and penetration, most enterprise drone companies have some DaaS options.
A final consideration is the level of autonomy desired. Many drones come with some form of obstacle avoidance and automated features such as pilot-free takeoff and landing. Some drone systems, such as Kespry's, do away with joysticks altogether and allow pilots to manage flight plans and choose routes entirely via tablet-based interfaces, which extends the reach of drones beyond highly skilled pilots.
A word of warning related to data security: Because unmanned aircraft often conduct video surveillance of sensitive locations, it's important to protect data via encryption and to ensure that valuable company assets aren't unwittingly being shared with suppliers or left vulnerable. Any reputable company offering enterprise drones will take security seriously, and the drones on our list are no exception.