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Drones for Critical Infrastructure Surveillance and Expansion

In today’s 21st-century global economy, in both corporate and government enterprises, mission-critical applications must have a higher caliber of resiliency and reliability. To survive asymmetrical warfare (terrorism, guerilla warfare), cyberattacks, and natural disasters, these qualities must be present in the network architecture.

Later this year, I will address the International Drone Expo in Los Angeles (in December) on this critical and timely topic.

Asymmetrical warfare requires a different set of defenses and safeguards for 21st-century critical infrastructure in both government and commercial buildings and business campuses.

From Nazi beginnings at the end of World War II in asymmetrical warfare to electronic jihad today, the growth and impact of asymmetrical warfare focused on disrupting and/or destroying critical infrastructure needs to be defended against in all countries.

Warfare has changed. "Hit the Beach" has been replaced with "Hit the Grid."

According to Hewlett-Packard Enterprises (HPE), 86 percent of organizations lack adequate cybersecurity capabilities. In real estate, over 92 percent of buildings are technologically obsolete. Improvements to surveillance monitoring and overall security are a must-have, not a hoped-for.

Hardening an organization’s facilities, network and power infrastructures, as well as its data center is also a critical step to ensuring business continuity. Critical infrastructure needs to be impervious to cyberattacks and terrorism.

Preparing for and defending against "nanokrieg," the terrorism and cyber-blitzkrieg of the 21st century, new maintenance and inspection capabilities must be designed and interwoven into all intelligent infrastructure including power grids and communication networks.

There is a need for new tools like drones to be implemented as new inspection devices as well as defensive measures around critical infrastructure: power, network, emergency response (911), and data centers.

Protecting critical intelligent infrastructure and smart grids include surveillance and remote monitoring.

One way to achieve this is to have a drone flying over to monitor any suspicious activities as well as check the status of the condition of hard-to-reach cell towers and other network and power infrastructure. Even if drones are just used for routine inspections, they will save a lot of labor costs and avoid potential accidents when technicians do not have to climb 200-foot towers to perform routine inspections.

Electrical contractors and installation crews may see the need to have a drone in the back of their truck because it will be as useful as a ladder when it comes to inspect hard-to-reach areas. A technician with a drone will be able to initially review more cell towers than his “drone-less” counterpart because what took a lot of time to complete an inspection, is now much faster.

Drones as a delivery system for added infrastructure

How many professional sports stadiums, which were initially built out with Wi-Fi and DAS networks to support smartphones in the last couple of years, needed to get upgraded to handle the real and under-engineered capacity issues on game day? Just about all of them.

What if there was a capability to have more capacity available on an as-needed basis put up temporarily on the day of the game? A drone with communications electronics to expand call coverage and streaming capacities for smartphones on game day would alleviate the capacity problem and be much less disruptive than going in and building more antennae into each section.

Because of the portability of these “sky switches,” this type of temporary airborne network capacity capability would have endless applications. Instant network capacity could be added to sports stadiums, concert venues, car races, air shows, and other venues that attract huge spectator crowds.

In emergency situations, like floods and natural disasters, overhead network capacity provided by drones would be a much faster way to reconnect those on the ground with a functioning communications network infrastructure. In-place towers that were damaged could be easily augmented by drones providing network services.

This could be a whole different design concept that has yet to be fully explored. When it comes to designing a flexible system having the elasticity and scalability to cover user demands without building out more in-place infrastructure, a “sky switch” could be the answer.

Carlini is currently writing, Nanokrieg: Beyond Blitzkrieg, a book on military and critical infrastructure, strategies and tactics to fight the war on terrorism in the 21st century. It is planned to be out at the end of the year.

About the Author

James Carlini

Contributing Editor

James Carlini, MBA, is a strategist for mission-critical networks, technology and intelligent infrastructure. He has been the president of Carlini & Associates since 1986. He is author of "LOCATION LOCATION CONNECTIVITY," a visionary book on the...

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