Why the rise of the flying machines won't kill your network (not yet)

Don't underestimate the challenges drones will cause

Drones, also known as UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles), were previously used only by the armed forces or security forces, but now they're becoming increasingly popular. For example in France, after proving their use in farming, they are now gradually being adopted by an array of companies, including production companies.

Evidence of this growing interest can be seen in the drone pilot training courses now being offered by Pôle Emploi, the French employment agency, and various other organisations. This trend is likely to spread throughout Europe.

Drone domination

Despite the constraints and legal question marks currently surrounding drones, we can expect to see more and more of these devices popping up in companies and in the hands of self-employed professionals in the next few years. A wide range of industries could be won over by the many possible uses for drones:

  • Video surveillance and analysis of industrial sites, construction sites or infrastructures
  • Improved mapping
  • Surveillance of farmland to detect any signs of disease before it destroys the crop
  • Photography and video recording of events

However, whether remotely controlled by a pilot or configured by GPS to follow a predefined route, they are not as easy to use as one would imagine, and they are governed by strict regulations for obvious security reasons.

Varying in size from just a few centimetres to several dozen metres, drones are seen as a much more practical and economical alternative to aeroplanes. That may be so, but companies should remember that before making any decisions regarding the purchase and use of such tools, they should look into how they are going to manage them.

There are two options:

Option 1: Plump for an all-in-one package from the manufacturer including the drone, its accessories, a trained pilot if necessary, and data processing. In this case, the purchaser will need to check the vendor's ability to process the data collected without slowing down or saturating the system so that the images are instantly available at all times. Many startups are now jumping on the bandwagon in this fast-growing market. Checking their professional credentials and their ability to manage the enormous quantity of data in the long term is an absolute necessity.

Option 2: Manage the drones in-house – a practical and more discreet solution. If the company prefers to manage the drone and all the data itself, it must study the legal context, and also think about preparing its IT infrastructure to cope with the arrival of a huge quantity of data. The very large number of high-definition images captured by drones will create a colossal amount of data. There is a very real risk of saturating the system and this must be taken into consideration before bringing in drones.

P for planning

The key issue here is forward planning. IT plays an essential role in the smooth running of any company in today's world. A significant slowing down of the system would affect all the employees and any ongoing activities. Setting up a system management and monitoring tool is therefore key to success. An effective tool must meet two essential requirements:

A unified interface: many companies have acquired multiple network control tools over time, but these are not always able to communicate with each other. The administrator therefore does not have an overall view of the network, meaning an increased risk of bugs and more time spent monitoring the network.

Alerts and automatic repairs: network availability must never be interrupted. Any issues with performance and their causes must be identified beforehand, thus allowing alerts and automatic repairs to be put in place. This way, any anomaly will be repaired before the network is affected or slowed down.

The drone is indeed a unique tool and ideal in many respects for various sectors, but a significant number of precautions must be taken. Drones have only recently become popular. Not everyone is aware of the legislation yet, which will no doubt be subject to change over the coming years. Users therefore need to consult a specialist to ensure they are not breaking the law. The IT system then needs to be prepared to ensure that the opportunities offered by these UAVs do not turn into a nightmare for the IT department.

  • Austin O'Malley is Chief Product Officer at Ipswitch