Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Aerial Surveillance

There is an interesting article over on about security integrators (contractors that bring all sorts of different security technologies together for a coherent security program) thinking about using UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) as part of the surveillance program for critical infrastructure facilities. The idea being that when a sensor detected possible intrusions, security personnel would launch a UAV to investigate and potentially track intruders.

For large facilities this could reduce the number of cameras needed to provide video surveillance coverage of the facility, eliminate dead spots and provide near continuous coverage of intruders as they move through the facility. There is no mention of the price of these UAVs in the article, but they certainly won’t be cheap. There is an additional cost for the training needed for UAV operators. This is not something that you would expect the minimum-wage gate-guard to be doing.

Aerial video surveillance is not limited to use by security personnel. Readers might remember my posts from this spring about the use of an airship by Greenpeace to ‘monitor’ chemical facilities. While that too must be a fairly expensive craft to operate there are cheaper alternatives if one is willing to sacrifice some flexibility. There are a number of hobbyist radio-controlled aircraft that could be equipped with a variety of digital cameras.

While these vehicles would probably not be expected to provide real-time surveillance (though advanced enthusiasts could certainly equip their planes with this capability), they could provide detailed information about the layout of a facility. The cost of this surveillance is not all that high. No longer are these planes built from scratch by skilled hobbyists; kit planes and ready-built aircraft are generally available. As we continue to see increases in the number and backgrounds of home-grown terrorists, it is likely that there will be some with the necessary skills and knowledge to operate such tools.

There is little that a facility could do to stop this type of surveillance. Predator drones (much larger than the hobby aircraft I’m talking about) have been difficult to shoot down and most facility managers would frown on placing anti-aircraft guns on their facility. Jamming flight control frequencies is technically possible, but control frequency detection is difficult and radio jamming is frowned upon by the FCC. Tracking the aircraft to its landing site is about the only option and that can be very difficult.

The only real response that a facility would have would be to report the apparent surveillance and increase security measures for a potential attack. Of course, a facility that failed to detect the aircraft, or failed to consider its potential security implications, would not take any additional precautions. That might make them more vulnerable.

No comments:

/* Use this with templates/template-twocol.html */