IT departments must prepare for the impact of commercial drone deployment

A great deal of the discussion of drones has revolved around the privacy, safety and security of the general public, but as new applications surface for their use, the talk is shifting to how their deployment affects IT departments.

According to recent research released by Tractica, companies, universities, and government agencies are all actively assessing the opportunity for drones to disrupt some industries and create innovative business models in others. The two primary application markets in the commercial drone sector are aerial imaging and data analysis.

The research firm said regulatory policy, public perception, and safety and privacy are all factors affecting adoption of drones, but the development and evolution of current IT trends such as the Internet of Things, big data management and analysis, cloud-based operational infrastructures, and cyber security, will all play a role in the integration, utilization, and advancement of the commercial drone sector, said Tractica senior research associate Chad Mitchell.

The impact on IT from drones deployed for commercial applications varies by sector and use case, he said. For example, the data security and management systems of Amazon’s drone delivery service will be different than the needs of a small aerial photography company. “Overall, the complexity of a company’s IT system for managing commercial drone fleets will increase with the number of drones being managed as well as the capabilities of the drones in the fleet.”

There are many other IT considerations, said Tractica principal analyst Bob Lockhart, including data integrity and its security. Just like other mobile devices, drones are targets for theft of data and intellectual property, and drone inputs could affect certifications such as ISO9001 or ISO27001 for information security.

Encryption can address data integrity and fend off “man-in-the-middle” attacks that steal or modify data while it is transit, but transmissions from surveillance drones could be defeated with a denial of service attack through electronic jamming, he said. “Encryption does not defend against denial of service attacks.”

It’s just not the security of the data that will create additional work for IT departments, said Lockhart. Drones could produce huge amounts of data for organizations that are not used to large data volumes, so organizations should have a data science program ready in advance, he said, and know where the data be stored and processed, whether it’s in-house or in the cloud. In-house management of data from drones requires expertise, and keeping it in the cloud has network security issues as well as regulatory concerns.

Ultimately, it looks as though drones are not that much different from other new technologies or endpoints that store, send and receive data in an enterprise network. Lockhart said integrating information from drones into existing applications should be carefully planned, and that organizations should understand the value of drone data compared to data from other sources such as social media. Organizations also need to have a business continuity plan in the event of drone malfunction or theft, he said. A lost drone or loss of communication with a drone is obviously the first indicator of trouble and will have to be added to incident response processes.

“Any new applications enabled by drones must be integrated into enterprise architectures and business processes,” said Lockhart.

photo credit: P1140969 via photopin (license)

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Gary Hilson
Gary Hilson
Gary Hilson is a Toronto-based freelance writer who has written thousands of words for print and pixel in publications across North America. His areas of interest and expertise include software, enterprise and networking technology, memory systems, green energy, sustainable transportation, and research and education. His articles have been published by EE Times, SolarEnergy.Net, Network Computing, InformationWeek, Computing Canada, Computer Dealer News, Toronto Business Times and the Ottawa Citizen, among others.

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