Would you want a bunch of drones following you around? It might seem odd, but on a dark night they could be useful.
That's what insurance provider Direct Line's new Flightseries service is for: bringing peace of mind to anyone walking, running or even driving at night, to illuminate their paths with LED flashlights.
Fleetlights uses two types of drones. Fifteen quadcopters, moving as fast as 33 miles per hour, carry one flashlight each. They work alongside five hexacopters that can go up to 60 miles per hour, and carry three lights.
Direct Line marketing director Mark Evans told Inverse that Fleetlights is part of the U.K. insurer's attempts to change the insurance industry. “The business of insurance will stop being about restitution and will start being about prevention,” he said. “Bitcoin, A.I, connected homes, driverless cars, sharing economy, all of these things lead us to believe that ultimately we’ll move into a prevention stage.”
Looking at the numbers
There are stats to back up their claim. There's a 42 per cent increase in deaths and injuries during the darker months. And according to one paper, more than half of all traffic deaths in the European Union occur after dark even though fewer people drive after sunset. Pedestrians are between three and seven times more likely to be killed by drivers in the dark.
There are other problems that come with darkness. According to one study, Good Lamps are the Best Police: Darkness Increases Dishonesty and Self-Interested Behaviour, people are less likely to be honest in rooms with poor lighting. This could contribute to an explaination as to why criminal assaults occur largely at night.
That's where Fleetlights hopes to make a difference. A prototype allows users to activate the flying robots using an app on their smartphone. The autonomous drones find their location, and communicate using mesh networking. Using this system, the copters are able to stay in formation while following their subject.
The big picture
This isn't the only instance of drones being used for security. Earlier this year, Aptonomy Inc. developed a "flying security guard", a drone equipeed with a new flight controller, a second computer to power day- and night-vision cameras, and of course bright lights and loudspeakers. The octocopter is also equipped with artificial intelligence and navigational systems that allows it to fly fast and low, moving around obstacles and detecting human activity. It can even autonomously recognize faces.
Part of what Direct Line is attempting to do is use technology to bring the insurance industry back to it's original purpose.
“Insurance as an industry started out as something really good in the world. The notion was that it was the many looking after the few. That’s a societal good,” he told Inverse. “In many cases, particularly in the U.K, it lost its way and became known for being not-very-nice to consumers and looking after its own interests a bit too much. This is the next era of how we revolutionize the sector into something which is absolutely respected and valued, and that’s good.”
Evans added that although Fleetlights is currently a prototype, the product won't be available commercially for some time, as the country continues to sort out a regulatory process for drones. He did say that Direct Lines has received some inquiries from search-and-rescue operations, which have been proactive in using drone tech around the world.