Police to Use AI Recognition Drones to Help Find Missing People
Wed, April 21, 2021

Police to Use AI Recognition Drones to Help Find Missing People

Drones do not just exist in fiction anymore. They are now widely used in various ways, including delivering goods quickly, studying an environment at a broader scope, and scanning military areas / Photo by: Dmitry Kalinovsky via Shutterstock

 

Drones do not just exist in fiction anymore. They are now widely used in various ways, including delivering goods quickly, studying an environment at a broader scope, and scanning military areas. Drones are also helpful in border surveillance, storm tracking, security monitoring, and safety inspections. Even ordinary consumers are utilizing these devices for recreation. 

Trackimo, an online site featuring an app that allows its users to find and track their precious things, reported that the estimated number of drones shipped by the end of 2019 runs up to two million. According to the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), more than 900,000 owners had already registered their unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) or drones with them by September 2016. Monthly owner registration reached 8,000 to 9,000 in January to December 2018. These figures are expected to increase. 

Drones powered by artificial intelligence are increasingly being used in the commercial real estate industry. It is expected that the global investment in property technology, also known as “proptech,” will reach $6.3 billion this year – an increase from only $4.5 billion in 2018. The industry has been using AI to manage operations in buildings, while drones are being used to monitor developments and plot out sites. This is just one of the many examples of how AI drones are utilized nowadays.

With AI, drones can make decisions and operate on their own without human intervention. They can generate vast amounts of data, which is usually in the form of images or video streams. “Drone-captured data is a very amazing solution to deliver complete analysis to stakeholders and it delivers an affordable option to improve designing, estimating, reporting, and progress-tracking for worksites,” states DroneBase, a commercial company that provides data for better-informed, real-time decisions about people’s most critical assets.

Facial Recognition for AI Drones

Facial recognition is a way of recognizing human faces through technology. While this has been around since the 1960s, recent technological developments have led to a wide proliferation of this technology. Today, millions of people have facial recognition technology in the palm of their hands, aimed at protecting their data and personal information. 

One of the functions of facial recognition is to identify when known shoplifters, organized retail criminals, or people with a history of fraud enter retail establishments. It is used in forensic investigations by automatically recognizing individuals in security footage or other videos. At the same time, it can be used to find missing people and victims of human trafficking.

For instance, software company Neurala has been offering Neurala Brain, a software that aims to help drones equipped with cameras recognize and identify predetermined targets. It can then alert a human operator. According to Emerj, an artificial intelligence market research firm, the machine learning model the company uses was trained on thousands of labeled images, such as photos of people in a crowd. Thus, the software could identify a specific target in the field when equipped with a military drone. 

Also, Turkish defense contractor Defense Technologies Engineering and Trade Inc. (STM) recently announced that it will be adding facial recognition technology to its kamikaze drones. These devices will be part of the Turkish Armed Forces portfolio in 2020. Turkey’s military will be using AI drones with facial recognition to detect human targets and “autonomously fire-and-forget through the entry of target coordinates.”

Facial recognition is a way of recognizing human faces through technology. While this has been around since the 1960s, recent technological developments have led to a wide proliferation of this technology / Photo by: metamorworks via Shutterstock

 

Tracking Missing People

It’s no secret that police have been using technology for surveillance. A report showed that new technologies are widely used across the US, with databases of people’s faces compiled by local police departments. These databases now contain over half of all American adults. While a report published by the Brennan Center of Justice revealed that these pose potential threats to free speech, privacy, and due process, such technologies are still in demand. 

Police have been using AI drones not only to investigate crime scenes, map cities, and monitor traffic, but also hunt down suspects or victims. Recently, Police Scotland introduced a new aerial drone system that aims to help in searches for missing and vulnerable people. The system was developed in collaboration with the University of the West of Scotland and the multinational technology company Thales. According to BBC, a British free-to-air television news channel, the device uses advanced cameras and neural computer networks to spot someone it is looking for. It can find a person from up to 150 meters away.

Police have been using AI drones not only to investigate crime scenes, map cities, and monitor traffic, but also hunt down suspects or victims / Photo by: David Mbiyu via Shutterstock

 

This AI drone’s recognition software is compact enough to be run on a phone. The data this drone collects can be processed in real-time. It can identify an animal, vehicle, or person from only a handful of pixels in a large moving color image. “The drone itself has very special sensors on it. There's a very highly-powered optical camera that can allow us to see things quite clearly from a good height. Also, there's a thermal imaging sensor that detects heat,” Insp. Nicholas Whyte of Police Scotland's air support unit said.

Also, Swiss air rescue company Rega has introduced a drone that can scan large areas and locate missing people autonomously. According to Vertical Magazine, the premier magazine for extensive, in-depth coverage of the civil helicopter industry, this drone features three rotor blades with a rotor diameter of just over two meters (6.5 feet). It uses satellite navigation and can fly at an altitude of 80 to 100 meters (260 to 330 feet). 

Indeed, AI drones are getting more in demand in various ways, particularly in the search for missing people. These devices not only help police with their jobs but can potentially save lives.