Qognify is enabling Southern Illinois University (SIU) to stream drone footage to its video wall in real-time, securely and with low latency to deliver active shooter tests, evidence sharing, monitoring, maintenance, mapping and more.

Integrating drones with its existing Ocularis video management system (VMS), delivers additional operational, safety and security benefits including active-shooter tests, evidence sharing, monitoring, maintenance and mapping.

FAA-certified commercial drone pilot and building automation technician at SIU, Luke Schemonia, said the project was initiated by the need to monitor the university’s Great Cardboard Boat Regatta on Carbondale Campus Lake but has expanded to include wider operations requirements.

“Because the event is university sanctioned, it means we need to follow rules that state video footage recorded on campus must be hosted on-site,” Schemonia said. “We could not simply live stream via a social media platform. There were also issues of latency to contend with, as spectators would want to see the action unfolding in real-time.”

Working alongside Qognify, the SIU team was able to break new ground and for the first time in the regatta’s 46-year history, provide real-time aerial footage from the lake. Such was the success of the initiative it acted as the catalyst for an extensive drone program that today ranges from active shooter tests, evidence sharing, monitoring, maintenance, and mapping, to counting the number of migrating waterfowl arriving on campus each year.

Initially, the SIU team planned to purchase video encoder hardware to ensure footage captured by the drone did not leave the campus. However, having previous experience of working with the university’s Ocularis VMS, used to support its surveillance camera network, Schemonia contacted the team at Qognify to ask if there was a better way.

“Qognify was excited by the project and immediately steered us to a much simpler and no-cost way to stream drone footage in real-time, securely, and with low latency,” he said. “All we needed to do was add the drone to Ocularis in much the same way that a new camera would be added.”

With drone feeds being managed and captured by Ocularis in exactly the same way footage from its surveillance cameras is monitored and recorded, every mission flown not only adheres to the university’s strict data security protocols, it’s also enables the timestamped footage to be quickly and easily shared with law enforcement as admissible evidence when required.

Instant access to a real-time video feed from a drone is not confined to the control room as Schemonia explains.

“With the Qognify Mobile Client installed on my cell phone I can be anywhere on campus, and so long as I have a Wi-Fi or mobile data connection, I can see exactly what the drone is seeing while it is in flight,” he said.

Gary Mausey, also a certified drone pilot and a building automation technician supervisor at the university, explained the university flies a range of different drones such as the Mavic 2 Enterprise Dual from DJI that includes video and thermal imaging.

“With the knowledge that we could use them through Ocularis we have been able to identify a wealth of potential new use cases,” Mausey said. “When a drone is in flight, the video feed travels from the drone via the Verizon network, passing through 2 firewalls and onto an SIU server. It is then processed by the Ocularis Media Server and displayed on-screen in the control room. Considering the journey a drone feed takes, we experienced no issues with latency.”

What began as an event management project has evolved into an ongoing smooth-running initiative that is adding real value to many different areas of the SIU, from its Plant & Service Operations to the Department of Public Safety and its dedicated Police force.

“We recently ran a mission at our power plant which produces the steam we use to heat campus buildings, produce chilled water for cooling, and generate electricity,” Mausey explained.

“The thermal images we have stored on Ocularis can be used to accurately locate steam tunnels where energy is being wasted. My advice to any organization that is considering the adoption of drone technology is to start by looking at what your VMS is capable of.”

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