Ever since the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, city officials have been working on a way to ensure the safety of participants, observers and event volunteers and employees alike. They may have found their answer in the form of drones, or unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). This past April, the city employed drones with high definition cameras to float above the event and keep a proverbial eye out for threats. Though ground video cameras in place during the 2013 marathon were able to help authorities correctly identify the Tsarnaev brothers, the point of the drones, according to Hank Shaw of the Boston FBI, is to identify a threat before it happens.
Prior to being sent out to scan the Boston Marathon crowd, UAVs were used in a demonstration that showed the public and investigators alike how the attached cameras could zoom in on people in crowds. With the potential to zoom in on suspects from over a mile away, law enforcement are able to spot detail that would otherwise be impossible for officers to see from the ground. For instance, a UAV can pick out people who are wearing hats and try to see if there is anything suspicious about their appearance. A normal ball cap might be no cause for concern, but a ball cap, sunglasses and a scarf might be. Being able to spot little details like this can go a long ways towards ensuring the safety of thousands of people.
Effective and simple to operate, cities across the globe are beginning to use UAVs for added security for their major events. Washington D.C., for one, used military grade drones to police the Presidential Inauguration this past January, as well as the Women’s March on Washington, which took place the following day. Prior to these events, the city already had special rules in place regarding UAV use. The FAA banned the use of recreational UAS (Unmanned Aircraft Systems) within 15 to 30 miles of the city altogether, and allows non-recreational UAS to be used under very specific conditions (such as the inauguration and women’s march).
The Cloud Security Alliance (CSA) and Securing Smart Cities have developed the Establishing a Safe and Secure Municipal Drone Program report. This report provides cities with guidelines on how to safely and securely create and operate municipal drone programs. The report was developed because, whether you like it or not, it is apparent that UAV use will play an important role in creating and maintaining safe city environments.
“Cities around the country are actively working to implement large-scale drone programs to support various functions ranging from medical, transportation, and agricultural through to emergency management and infrastructure protection. It is important that these drone systems be safe, stable, resilient and sustainable,” said Brian Russell, Co-author of the report and Chair of CSA’s IoT Working Group.
In addition to teaching municipalities how they can use UAVs as effective cyber security tools, the report also identifies possible threats of recreational drones, and how and when cities should monitor their use (as Washington D.C. has done). The report also covers the impact of drones on matters of national security, and how city leaders can protect, monitor, respond to and recover from cyber security threats posed by drones.
Finally, the report outlined specific recommendations for cities, including system design, planning requirements, testing, integration and deployment.