Drones are patrolling South African residential estates


South African company Drone Guards is moving into the new market of using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to secure residential estates and has ambitious plans to employ hundreds of UAV pilots over the next ten years to monitor estates, mines, farms and other assets.

Drone Guards’ Kim James told defenceWeb that their company has a ROC (Remote Operating Certificate) that allows it to fly over suburban environments. It took more than two years to receive its license from the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA), which authorises it to operate over people, buildings and roads during day and night operations.

“No-one is doing drone security at estates and given our license permission this is a market we are actively pursuing,” James said.

Drone Guards at present uses commercially available multi-rotor UAVs fitted with thermal cameras for day and night operations. Aerial surveillance footage is streamed live to a control room. The company is busy developing its own multi-copter UAV and mission specific software for the security industry. Their aircraft is fitted with a parachute for extra safety and has redundancy in batteries, flight controller and control systems. The company has a fixed wing vertical take-off and landing UAV in the planning stages, which is more efficient than multi-rotors for larger sites.

The company’s mission planning software helps automate flights and includes biometric data to ensure pilots fly drones and missions allocated to them. The software incorporates machine learning to enhance operational efficiency.

James sees Drone Guards as contributing to employment. Rather than putting security guards out of work, she sees drones as being another tool in security company toolboxes so they can offer a holistic service adding security layers.

After focussing on the South African market, Drone Guards intends to take its services into the rest of Africa. “Africa will be our biggest market in the future,” James told defenceWeb.

Drone Guards exhibited for the first time at the Securex fire, safety and security exhibition in Midrand in May, with overwhelming interest in its services.

Drone Guards is part of the UAV Aerial Works group of companies, which is licensed by the South African Civil Aviation Authority.