Security drones are fighting crime in South African neighbourhoods

South African security company Fidelity recently started using drones to deter and track criminals who attempt to rob homes and property in residential estates.

The drones, which come in both fixed-wing and multi-rotor configurations, have been rolled out in partnership with UDS Group, a certified drone operations company.

Fidelity Services Group CEO Wahl Bartmann told MyBroadband that their drones have proven successful when used in remote areas.

He said they expected similar performance in certain residential areas.

“We believe drones and the deployment of a mobile drone team will act as a highly effective visible deterrent to criminals and assist to immediately track down and locate criminal elements once an outer perimeter on an estate has been breached, or in any scenario where suspects are at large on a security estate,” he stated.

Bartmann said the drones are equipped with long-range thermal imagery and optical camera systems for suspect identification and can patrol a much wider area than ground vehicles.

He explained they only have surveillance capabilities, while Fidelity’s tactical ground teams had the necessary lethal and non-lethal equipment to neutralise threats.

Photo of Wahl Bartmann
Wahl Bartmann, Fidelity Services Group CEO

Initially, the drones are being used in residential estates in Johannesburg as part of a trial period, which started on 1 June 2021.

According to Bartmann, they have already helped identify criminals who breached perimeters and were subsequently apprehended.

In addition, they have identified high-risk routes and hiding places in green belts where vagrants were occupying private land and posing a risk to nearby communities.

Awareness around drone operations has further resulted in criminals second-guessing their normal course of action for carrying our crimes.

Fidelity Tactical Drone Team vehicle with multi-rotor drone hovering in front.

Fidelity’s drones are being deployed in conjunction with the Vumacam suburb street surveillance system.

Bartmann explained the drone system strictly adheres to privacy and aviation restrictions and laws.

“All drones are piloted by Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) approved pilots and supported by mobile command centres and our stationary command centre,” he stated.

“Drones need to be licenced, and flight details have to be approved to fly in certain areas.”

Bartmann said they require flexible use of airspace to ensure the safety of other airspace users, which meant flight plans were filed for particular operations.

“The flexible use of airspace is approved by CAA as well as the relevant air traffic service units,” he said.

“A risk assessment is conducted for all operations, and mitigating actions are implemented to reduce risk to as low as reasonably practical, focussing on the safety of people on the ground and other airspace users.”

Bartmann added that drone operations could only be conducted with the permission of the landowner and/or other designated person able to provide such authority.

Fidelity also offers the drone service as part of its protection activities for large scale events.

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Security drones are fighting crime in South African neighbourhoods