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Burglars Beware - The Hovering "Home Drone" Will Hunt You Down

posted 20 May 2013, 05:52 by Mpelembe   [ updated 20 May 2013, 05:52 ]

Japanese security firm Secom has a warning for would-be robbers - keep your eye on the sky because a soon-to-be-launched security drone will track you down. The drone has been designed to fly to the scene of a break-in and wait until the perpetrator tries to leave.

TOKYOJAPAN (REUTERS) - Life may be about to get tougher for the burglars of Japan as researcher, Professor Toshiki Imamura is happy to demonstrate.

Imamura is co-developer of security firm Secom's new autonomous crime-fighting quadcopter, an airborne sentinel the company believes represents the future of industrial and home security.

In the simulation Imamura plays the part of a robber breaking into a building. As he levers open the door however, he unwittingly trips a laser detector, which sends a signal to the drone parked nearby. Within seconds, the drone launches and heads to the scene of the break-in where it hovers while waiting for the the robber to emerge from the building. The copter detects the robbers' escape with onboard motion sensors, which trigger a small surveillance camera to zoom in and follow the thief while sending a video signal back to Secom in real time.

"This is the world's first miniature aerial surveillance robot, we developed it to improve our chances of finding -- and ideally catching -- criminals," said Tsuneo Komatsuzaki, head of research at Secom,Japan's largest security firm.

"We've had some really upsetting cases in the past, cameras only managing to film criminals from behind or only capturing their shadows. But this goes right up to the subject and gets the perfect footage from the perfect angle. The camera misses nothing."

Equipped with a range of technologies incuding 3D mapping technology, the helicopter has been programmed to maneuver to catch a glimpse of a robber's face, relaying the camera footage in real time via an encrypted wireless signal.

If the suspect makes a run for it, the robot gives chase using a laser sensor to follow the subject at a predetermined distance. It can also home in on a vehicle to record and relay licence plate information in real time, and is equipped take evasive action if attacked.

"Criminals will get a shock when they see it, they'll look up in sheer amazement. And it's at that moment that the camera will be able to film them head-on, making it far more likely the suspect can later be identified. Our dream of course would be if criminals started to fear these robots so much that they don't even dare approach," Komatsuzaki told Reuters.

After two years of development, the 50-year-old security firm now aims to offer the robots from 2014 to its 1.8 million domestic customers at a 5000 yen ($48) monthly premium on existing contracts.

Each robot will be restricted to a preprogrammed flight area, large enough says Komatsuzaki, to keep a home or office safe while making robbers think twice.