TOKYO -- Intruders beware. Three companies are teaming up to launch a nighttime drone patrol service for offices later this year.
T-Frend, a drone-based monitoring service, is the creation of Taisei, a Nagoya-based office building operator, Nippon Telegraph and Telephone East (NTT East), and Tokyo-based drone startup Blue Innovation.
Actual in-office operations will be handled by Taisei with NTT East charged with building a fast, high-capacity network. Blue Innovation is providing hardware and automatic flight control systems.
Like night watchmen, drones will do the rounds in offices after working hours, flying down halls periodically to keep an eye on things. They will record video that is transmitted to the cloud via NTT East's communication services.
Building administrators can monitor drone flights in real time or review recorded video later.
Blue Innovation has developed an autonomous flight control system that does not require global positioning technology. Navigation is controlled through infrared sensors that measure the distance from floors and imaging sensors that can detect obstacles. The drones will be designed to stay at a certain height so that documents will not be blown away by wind from propellers.
Taisei is an office building operator that provides cleaning, security and maintenance services on a contract basis.
In general, night patrols by security guards have been limited to common areas, such as lobbies and elevator halls. However, a growing number of companies demand night patrols of inside offices to prevent former employees from leaking information to rival companies.
According to Taisei Director Norihiro Kato, many companies are wary about hiring third-party security guards while employees generally do not like to be the focus of security cameras. The company aims to satisfy both by building a system that employs drones only after working hours.
Taisei expects T-Frend to also help reduce long overtime. For example, while doing their rounds, drones can use embedded speakers to urge employees still at the office to go home.
"Drone-based monitoring services are more effective than public-address systems," said Kato. "Security guards will no longer need to tell each and every employee to go home."
The planned monthly fees of several hundreds of thousand yen "will be cheaper than hiring security guards," according to Kato. Taisei also hopes to provide T-Frend to commercial facilities and distribution warehouses.