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Crowd Security Means Eyes in the Sky
By Brad Frischkorn

Surveillance technology is getting a facelift in Japan, as the need to maintain security among large crowds gains importance. The issue is especially pertinent for Tokyo, which is set to host the 2020 Summer Olympics.

At Secom Co., Ltd., the technical challenges to combat potentially dangerous threats are all too real. Traditionally operating in the surveillance market for factories, office buildings, and commercial property, the firm has taken advantage of both drone research and conventional airship know-how to add some innovative solutions to its product line.

In December 2015, Secom kicked off a drone-assisted surveillance service for its existing clients, featuring a 2.2kg four-prop multi-copter. Outfitted with laser sensors, a high-definition (HD) camera and LED lights, the drone compliments the efforts of security staff by standing ready to launch in case something goes awry on property grounds.

At the press of a button, the drone can be released and fly on a number of predesignated patrol courses, snapping photo and video images of suspicious persons, faces, cars, or license plates. Flying up to 5 meters off the ground, it has enough battery power stay aloft for about 15 minutes.

"As an inaugural system it's relatively easy to manage since it doesn't require any piloting skills," says Secom public relations officer Tadashi Kajitani. "But it does help solve a 'quick-dispatch' need in case there aren't enough personnel to address a situation, or if there is an incident that would take too long for guards to arrive in time."

As Japan faces chronic personnel shortages due to its steadily declining population, the system has already attracted a good deal of attention from existing and would-be clients, he adds.

Secom short-distance surveillance drone

More recently, Secom has embarked on a larger project for crowd surveillance, designing a 20-meter airship outfitted with a sensor package, plus microphones, speakers, searchlights, and a 4K camera.

Planned as a tethered unit, the blimp can stay airborne for several hours and monitor the ground from an altitude of up to 100 meters. It made its trial debut the 2016 Tokyo Marathon held on February 28, completing its mission near the finish line without a hitch.

"The airship's high-resolution camera allows for very precise crowd imaging, which should be a big plus by the time Tokyo is ready to host its first Olympic events since 1964," says Mr. Kajitani. "The world is a vastly difference place, and the security technology needs to be up-to-date."

Secom surveillance airship

“As an inaugural system (an airship is) relatively easy to manage since it doesn’t require any piloting skills." -- Tadashi Kajitani

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