Are Drones the Key for Easing Safety Concerns at Major Events?

Across the U.S. safety concerns are on the rise, and they’re influencing consumer behavior in  a big way -- from where to live and travel to which public events to attend.

In fact, a recent study Cape conducted uncovered that for 69% of Americans, recent attacks have increased their safety concerns with regards to attending large events. What’s more, when deciding whether to attend, 72% consider venue safety, 66% consider the level of security that will be present, and 61% consider the likelihood of the event being targeted for an attack.

Enter: drones

The data showed that not only are consumers second-guessing their plans due to safety concerns -- they’re demanding better solutions for ensuring their safety when attending large events. Among respondents, two-thirds expect security personnel to have full visibility of the event, regardless of the size of venue, and 64% expect security to have full visibility regardless of type of venue, with 60% saying they expect law enforcement to be able to quickly find and track suspects.

As threats continue to increase along with consumer concerns, drones are proving to be a critical tool for ensuring safety at large events. Traditionally, event teams have been limited to one of two options. Option 1: rely exclusively on ground security support, which leaves a major gap in aerial visibility resulting in major potential security gaps and risks. Option 2: turn to helicopters in order to gain aerial visibility, but at great cost.

Now, drones offer a solution for enabling critical 360-degree visibility of events at a fraction of the cost. With the ability to live stream footage in real-time and at low latency, security teams stationed throughout massive events can have overhead eyes on crowds to monitor for threats and quickly collaborate and respond as needed. Even more importantly, teleoperations capabilities ensure that the most appropriate expert can take control of the drone from anywhere to gain the exact visibility needed at a moment’s notice.

The future of event security

In December, the New York Police Department (NYPD) announced plans to deploy 14 drones across a number of use cases, including monitoring large crowds. A few short weeks later, it was confirmed that one of the first intended use cases  -- though it was ultimately cancelled due to weather -- was enhancing security at the New Year’s Eve ball drop in Times Square. With New Year’s events like the one in New York City drawing some of the largest crowds in the U.S., it’s unsurprising that we’re seeing security teams turn to drones to supplement the hundreds -- even thousands -- of on the ground officers manning the events. In fact, a study Cape conducted in December 2018 revealed that not only are 87% of Americans in support of drones being used for security at large events like New Year’s celebrations, 87% believe they should be used to improve security. Among respondents, 82% also agreed that they would feel safer if drones were used for security, with 65% saying they would be more likely to attend large events if they knew drones were being used.

Looking ahead

New Year’s Eve celebrations are certainly just one of the many major events that will benefit from the use of commercial drones for improving safety and security. This year, we once again saw drones at the center of the Super Bowl halftime show, but in the future we’re likely to see drones shift from flash to function at major events, with a focus on keeping attendees safe, not just entertained.

And a new FAA proposal promises to make that a reality sooner than later. In January, Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chow revealed that her department was moving forward with with plans to remove waiver requirements for a few key operations circumstances: flight over people and flight after dark. While there are still several steps the proposal must go through to be put into action, including publication in the federal register and a 60-day open comment period, the proposal signals a major step in the right direction for unlocking the value of drones for improving event safety and security in the U.S.   

Interested in learning more about consumer perception of drone use for event security and other areas of public safety? Be sure to check out our full report, Superheros in the Sky.