Crime-buster drone on patrol in Hout Bay

The GoodAI drone has been patrolling the skies of Hout Bay since Monday as part of a pilot project that will run until the end of the month. Picture: supplied.

A pilot anti-crime project that uses a drone for surveillance is running in Hout Bay until the end of the month.

A series of operations using the drone have been run since Monday as part of a collaboration involving the Community Crime Prevention (CCP) group; GoodAI, a Czech Republic-based artificial intelligence company; and Integrated Aerial Systems, an SA-based drone company.

CCP is a Hout Bay-based non-profit organisation that tries to prevent crime through its 24-hour response team and control room.

“GoodAI approached us early last year asking if drone technology could help in the fight against crime. For the drone trials, it will be focusing on the current hot spots in Hout Bay, specifically the main road and a few green belt areas at night. We are still in the testing phase,” said CCP member JJ de Villiers. 

GoodAI’s chief operating officer, Olga Afanasjeva, is the pilot in command of the drone operations with CCP.

She said she and her partner, Marek Rosa, the company’s CEO and founder, had visited Hout Bay a few years ago and had been impressed by CCP’s operations.

“CCP are very tech-orientated, and together we were thinking how to empower their team even more. This was one of the motivations to start the development of GoodAI Groundstation, a software that allows a pilot to fly a drone, or a group of drones at the same time,“ Ms Afanasjeva said.

All necessary permissions had been obtained for the licensed drone operations, she said.

“To be able to run these trials, we have partnered with Integrated Aerial Systems (IAS), a fully licensed SA-based drone company. We are ensuring that all operations will be carried out in compliance with the South African Civil Aviation Authority drone regulations, as it is of utmost importance to us that all the drone operations are done legally and safely.”

The deployed drone will patrol high-risk areas and track any suspicious persons or activities. The drone will also be used to respond to emergency alerts on the CCP’s Buzzer app.

“Over the years, CCP has collected very detailed statistics as to the occurrence of various incidents, as well as crime hot spots and recent crime spikes and will guide us when it comes to specific areas of focus. Drones can also help monitor the spreading of bush fires,” said Ms Afanasjeva.

“Our trials are planned in such a way that an absolute minimal disturbance would occur to the residents. In fact, the drone should not even be noticeable. We hope that once the trials are over at the end of this month, we will be gradually able to establish a permanent drone programme for CCP that can bring enormous value to the community and increase safety.”

Ward councillor Roberto Quintas said he was unaware of the drone operations when Sentinel enquired, and the Hout Bay police declined to comment on the drone operations and how they might address crime in the area.