Drones to Help Fight Crime in South Africa?

South Africa is known for having high crime rates as four South African cities are part of the ten cities ranked as having the highest crimes. This has made it crucial to find methods that would reduce crime. One of the solutions explored was the use of drones, and some companies have already started using them.

In the latest crime statistics that were released for the last quarter, there was a decrease in crimes, which can also be attributed to the strict lockdown laws that were in place. However, the South African Police have started to do more to reduce the crime rates. One of the methods that the Police Service has begun using is drones to combat crime. Through a collaboration with Drone Guards, an unmanned aerial surveillance firm and the Forum of Integrated Risk Management (FIRM), a crime-fighting initiative, they have started deploying drones as a measure to reduce the crime rates in the City of Johannesburg. Johannesburg is known to be South Africa’s crime capital.

There will likely be collaborations between the SAPS and private security agencies as part of the Safer City Project, where drones could reduce crimes. For the drones to be effective in Johannesburg, the city needs to be divided into four separate areas based on the map’s layout, and then a team needs to be deployed. They would also need to determine where the crime hotspots are and determine where the escape routes are.  Once the crime hotspots have been identified, it will be easier to guide criminals to places where they can be captured without putting security officers and the general public at risk.  

There have already been security companies that have started using this aviation technology to combat crime in the northern suburbs of Johannesburg. The Fidelity Services Group is one of those security companies using drones to look out for criminals by surveying security estates located in Johannesburg. Fidelity Services operates at 160 points of contact across the country, but its main aim at the moment is to improve its residential protection service.

One of the areas they have launched a trial of the drones in is the Fourways area, which had been classified as a high-crime rate area during the hard lockdown imposed for the nation. There had been many reports of burglaries in businesses and homes and vehicle theft reported in the area. Through the Fidelity Vumacam’s system, which is a fibre-connected surveillance, they could pick up a suspicious car based on information they received about crimes within the same vicinity. The team was able to detect the vehicle the moment it entered the area successfully. The suspect was caught and arrested by the Douglasdale police for the house burglaries that he was involved in. Due to the success of the drone programme in some specified residential areas, the company is looking to expand to other areas as well to add an extra layer of security.

The Fidelity Group collaborated with UDS Group, a South African company specialising in unmanned aerial vehicle systems. Together, they will introduce drones that their trained personnel will operate. The UDS drones will include electro-optical (EO) and infrared (IR) sensors that will enable the operators to detect light and heat signatures. Their drones will link directly to Fidelity’s mobile command centre. The command centre will also be connected to the tactical response unit to be proactive and reactive.

If any criminals were to breach the security estate’s outer perimeter, then the drones would be able to track them down. Customers can quickly contact the call centre to activate the drone response on sites that Fidelity ADT has guards, allowing for the drone response to be integrated into the incident escalation procedure. Drones are also believed to serve as a visual deterrent, but it also ensures that there are quicker response times and that criminals are located faster. Drones can also be helpful in other emergencies where monitoring would be essential such as land invasions and fires breaking out.

Through the use of drones, Fidelity Group has identified high-risk routes and places that have been used for hiding. Vagrants have also been identified as occupying private land, which can be problematic as this poses a risk to communities. In areas where people are aware of drone operations and their purpose, criminals have started to second-guess their regular criminal activity, which shows the impact that drones can have on reducing crime rates.


Drones have been noted to have a high success rate in fighting the war against crime in South Africa. The drones will likely be introduced to other cities to reduce potential criminal activities that might occur.

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