Impact of AI, Drones and Robotics in Global Security Landscape: Is Indian PSI Taking the Cue?

Anil Puri
CMD, APS group

A first generation serial entrepreneur, thought leader and an action catalyzer rolled into one – Anil Puri is a rare combination of a visionary, an innovator and a strategic thinker. He has used this combination to innovate and implement on-ground many new business ideas. His rich experience in various businesses has enabled him to nurture & mentor innovative ideas and scale them up.

Introduction

The FICCI & BDO in their study estimated the PSI to touch INR1.5 lakh crores (USD23.1 billion) by 2022. The key drivers identified in the study were the security needs of office buildings, shopping malls, critical infrastructure, schools, hotels, hospitals, residential complexes, warehouses and factories. However, railways, metro rails, NHAI, Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), oil & gas industry, renewable energy & waste management, mining and telecom industry too have further added to this list. This huge market offers a premium opportunity for the disruptive force of AI embedded drone applications and robotics. All over the world, more and more drones are being used for both private and public security namely by defense organizations and tech-savvy consumers for quite some time. However, the benefit of this technology extends well beyond just these two sectors. With the rising accessibility of drones, many of the most dangerous and high-paying jobs within the commercial sector are ripe for displacement by drone and robotics technology. Their use for safe, cost-effective solutions range from crowd control, emergency response, surveillance, situation awareness, data collection to last mile delivery. The mobility, ease of deployment and versatility of drones have made them valuable tools in the field of security for both private and public entities. Increasing work efficiency and productivity, decreasing workload and production costs, improving accuracy, refining service and customer relations, and resolving security issues on a vast scale are a few of the top uses drones offer industries globally. Adoption of drone technology across industries has leapt from the fad stage to the mega-trend stage fairly quickly as more and more businesses started to realize its potential, scope, and scale of global reach. Whether drones are controlled by a remote or accessed via a smartphone app, they possess the capability of reaching the most remote areas with little to no manpower needed and require the least amount of effort, time, and energy. This is one of the biggest reasons why they are being adopted worldwide, especially by these four sectors – military, commercial, personal, agriculture and future technology. Drones are rapidly growing in popularity. They are still in the infancy stage in terms of mass adoption and usage, but have already broken through rigid traditional barriers in industries which otherwise seemed impenetrable by similar technological innovations.

The paradigm shift in GoI policy on drones to keep pace with global developments

Drone regulation in India has seen multiple iterations over the past few years, with a lukewarm impact on the technological development front. This was further accentuated by a blanket ban on civilian drone operations in 2014 by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation. It was only in 2018, with the introduction of the National Drone Policy, that graded activities were permitted in the commercial space which were perceived by academia, Startups, end-users and other stakeholders as being restrictive in nature as they involved considerable paperwork, required permissions for every drone flight and very few ‘Free to Fly’ green zones were available. Based on the feedback and future of drones in various industries, the Government of India, Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) repealed the UAS Rules, 2021 and has replaced the same with the Liberalized Drone Rules, 2021 and thereby ushered in a liberalised era of drone governance, giving wings to a drone-powered country. In a major boost to promote the drone sector, the rules aim to make India a drone-friendly nation. Furthermore, delivery and logistics – a segment considered vital for making India a drone hub – is well recognised in the new rules. GoI has also approved a PLI scheme for drones and their components with an allocation of Rs. 120 crores for three financial years.

The U Turn in the GoI policy on drones is primarily on realization of benefits it offers to almost all sectors of the economy like – agriculture, mining, infrastructure, surveillance, emergency response, transportation, geo-spatial mapping, defence, and law enforcement etc. Drones can be significant creators of employment and economic growth due to their reach, versatility, and ease of use, especially in India’s remote and inaccessible areas. In view of its traditional strengths in innovation, information technology, frugal engineering and huge domestic demand, India has the potential to be global drone hub by 2030. Government of India also deserves the credit for setting up a Drone Promotion Council to facilitate a business-friendly regulatory regime, while also incubating new drone ideas.

Degree and Scale of disruption on the PSI

For a country of mass and scale like India which has abundance of the cheap human capital, the disruption is likely to be very gradual and slow in the private security industry. However in next five to seven years; it is for sure that the security operations especially in sensitive places will be replaced with robots and systems which will be highly developed and evolved with artificial intelligence. Era of the present-day semi-literate/ low IQ guards will be gone due to cheap and smart ‘Robot-Guards’ with precision knowledge and actions (customized). Thus, impact to the security business at this level will be high but the service delivery is expected to be much superior quality and may be taken over by IT service providing companies. Not only the physical guards and passive sensors will be replaced by smart counterparts but it is also possible that many of the traditional operations like patrolling of perimeters, observation from watch towers, frisking and even to dispose of human bombs, mail bombs, robots with all-pervasive, deep penetrating sensors and precision neutralising capability may be used. Similarly, AI will be used for information gathering or reconnaissance in an event of fire accident in high rise building from an elevated platform and conduct precision tasks in fire-fighting and evacuation. There is very little doubt that the AI will have much bigger role to play in every aspect of human endeavor. On the other hand, it must also be remembered that although these machines may not suffer from psychological dilemma and fatigue, but it is susceptible to cyber-attacks and an intelligent adversary can take effective control of the same information systems and turn the table with the same robotic machines. When we talk about the developments that are taking place globally in the field of information technology in general and artificial intelligence (AI) in particular coupled with drones and robotics, we can surely predict what is going to be the future of the security industry if it does not move fast with the time. It may be possible that entire security business will be swamped by the giant companies like Google, Apple, Infosys, TCS and Wipro as the security industry is too big to ignore by these tech giants. The entry of these biggies will be through the route of AI, IoT and machine learning. They will not supply human guards in uniform, but they will sell and deploy decoys (robots) and replace the existing security guards alongwith existing security appliances, albeit superior in capabilities. But I don’t wish to say that there will be no human component at all; surely they will be around but most of them will be working from the swanky labs of Bengaluru, Chandigarh, Chennai, Delhi, Hyderabad and Noida etc., and operate remotely; a very small number will be deployed on ground (within the business premises of the clients) for doing routine maintenance of these machines, uploading corrected or upgraded versions of the software or in case of failure of proper response by the humanoid (robotic mannequin) and provided it fails to correct itself automatically that is failure of algorithms in self-learning tools. At this moment, aforesaid conditions may appear to be straight page from a fiction but shouldn’t be wished away because it is almost a global reality at many places.

Glimpse of global adoption of drones and robotics and its impact on Indian PSI

Security robots and drones support innovation and adaptability, providing security practitioners with the unique opportunity to enhance programs by using leading-edge technology. Time will tell how the industry will fully leverage them. In the meantime, early adopters would have gained experience and deeper understanding of their potential and will be better positioned to not only choose from an expanding range of products and services but also to drive advancements by making informed demands for the next generation of features. Security integrators leverage the technology to assist with site surveys and corporate security directors have deployed drones to remotely monitor larger perimeters. Corporate security directors are incorporating drones as part of their security programs to monitor remote parking lots, protect large infrastructure such as wind farms, and monitor sports events and concerts. Robots can help track both people and assets, and act as a force multiplier enabling one security guard to gain visibility into many areas at a time. This visibility, combined with the enhancement of issue prevention and operational efficiency, makes robotics one of the most compelling technologies today for the security industry. Autonomous robots also have the ability to detect problems that may not be noticed by a human and using remote two-way audio and video chatting capabilities, can allow one person to monitor and respond to events in real-time, in multiple locations at once. Security robots can be leveraged to patrol and continuously scan a pre-defined area to detect anomalies such as a person on premises after hours, an open door, an asset that has been removed from an area, or a leak or spill. One of the biggest benefits of security robots is that they can help corporate security directors amplify their security program by providing additional coverage after hours and on weekends. Within the next five to 10 years, it’s predicted that security robots will be a common tool for security professionals. As the scale and use of security robots increases, costs will decrease and capabilities will continue to improve. Despite issues with safety and privacy, it is undeniable how drones are uniquely suited to modern surveillance needs. What is the advantage of using drones for security and how are they being used nowadays? No longer does aerial surveillance have to be done by helicopters, or for ground-based security teams to spend precious minutes to respond to an emergency situation. Drones can travel to any site quickly, perform routine perimeter checks, and even track intruders under the cover of darkness. While drones are undoubtedly valuable in security, their full potential is still limited by the existence of several restrictions on drone use. Not undermining these rules, most of the drone community agree that they are necessary. As technology and legislation continue to evolve, we await for the day when regulation and growth can reach a happy compromise.

It is only matter of time that drone hardware will be commoditized and services will dictate the value. Since drone hardware has become more affordable to produce and purchase, manufacturing and the hardware itself will not drive industry growth going forward. Instead, services that operate and manage drones for companies will generate most of the value. End-user companies will turn over services that operate drones, manage drone data, and manage maintenance to third parties. Security companies are using drones to provide more comprehensive surveillance systems for industrial, commercial, and residential properties. They also deploy drones with live streaming capabilities immediately after an alarm is triggered, allowing the security team and clients to obtain key footage of a potential breach. A reputed company is working on an autonomous drone system that would scan for suspicious activity, alert homeowners of potential situations, and, if necessary, provide data to help file a police report. Drones can carry out remote patrolling, can respond to potential or genuine incidents with speed and agility, monitor vast and hazardous construction or industrial site and protect it from intruders & criminals, carry out risk assessments, assess levels of damage in cases of vandalism and render emergency first aid and render early warning of the environmental holocaust. Today, drones are controlled by human operators. However, autonomous flight via predictive or prescriptive analytics would render drone pilots unnecessary, making drones even more economical in commercial operations. ‘The next generation of drones will not need pilots at all – just orders.’ Swarm intelligence leverages AI to plan the activities of hundreds if not thousands of robots, allowing drones to collectively achieve larger, more complex tasks. Currently, collaborative robots are trained by humans; however, we are nearing a time when robots can ‘think’ and train each other without humans. Groups of drones can cover sprawling geographic locations and carry out specialized tasks at the same time. They can also form a network – that is, if drone B is too far away from the control center to communicate with it, but is close enough to drone A, it can effectively pass a message down the line.

Business Model for the PSI

I would like to advise the hybrid model. The PSAs could forge the JVs and partner with Startups engaged in development and manufacturing of the drones to reduce CAPEX and ab initio be in the league of first mover in the adoption and absorption of the drone technology in the security protocols and desired deliverables.

Skill Gap and SSD

Skilling and training is the critical area that will enable a smooth and safe transition as India expands its drone usage especially in the private sector. In this regard, the Indian Institute of Drones (IID) powered by the GoI can play a vital role in training young professionals in drone technology, UAV piloting and other operations with an emphasis on safety and security. The ecosystem is likely to evolve in the compatible timeframe.

Conclusion

In Indian context, PSI is highly manpower intensive with only a fraction of market share cut by the ingress of CCTV surveillance on it. Cutting edge technologies do not come cheap at the initial stages of evolution; hence, rarely find favor to proliferate with speed. With shoe string budget for security such out of box solutions do not find place in security plans of the CSOs. PSI in India, immersed in profit extraction attitude has earned the brand and reputation of being a change resistant. Mid-course corrections by virtue of relook at the business model, reinventing & reinvesting does not appear to sync in the habit of the PSAs. We generally wake up when all around us has dramatically changed and left us to choose between ‘prepare or perish’ at the point of no retreat. We tend to start chasing & mopping the spill overs & left overs having become Left out of Battle (LoB). AI driven drones present a flight of opportunity which is waiting to be en-cashed by the PSI. There is a famous saying that “if you don’t change with time, time will change you.” If we (security professionals) fail to read the writings on the wall & embrace the new technologies in the field of Security and continue to believe that technology can’t replace human elements altogether, well, it may be right to some extent, but one will be outsmarted for sure. Drones are not just a fad – they are here to stay and will soon become mainstream and core of the security deliverables. The same cost and efficiency benefits that have historically made drones attractive to the military are now applicable for a broad spectrum of business and civil government functions. We are just now touching the tip of the iceberg in terms of harnessing the true power of drones for conducting new ways of business and security operations. Still, Trying to imagine how drones will evolve, and the uses to which they will be put, is a bit like trying to forecast the evolution of computing in the 1960s or mobile phones in the 1980s. Their potential as business tools was clear at the time, but the technology developed in unexpected ways. The same will surely be true of drones.


aps


 

Leave a Comment