April saw the Gold Coast play host to the 21st Commonwealth Games, an event filled with highs, lows, controversies, and amazing achievements. In an innovative first, the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games Corporation (GOLDOC) contracted a drone security solution to assist in protecting approximately 6,600 athletes and officials from 70 nations and hundreds of thousands of spectators.


Planning for the design and implementation of an overall security solution for CG2018 included a range of strategies to source and deploy over 4000 Contract security personnel, physical security equipment and surveillance technologies. GOLDOC therefore required a turnkey solution for a competent, experienced provider of RPAS services to plan and deploy suitable RPA and qualified operators at selected locations for specific times and dates in the lead up to, and during the competition phase of GC2018 during activation of an authorised Restricted Area (i.e. “No fly zones” imposed by AIRSERVICES AUSTRALIA throughout the Games). The primary aim of this deployment was to supplement surveillance systems already in place and enhance situational awareness for the Venue Security Managers.

GOLDOC opened up the initial expression of interest in this contract to both the local and international market in December 2016. The selection process was not finalised until the end of November 2017 due to the complexity of the technical aspects as well as operational and budgetary considerations.
GOLDOC asked potential suppliers to provide submissions based on several possible operational scenarios. Drone Technologies stood out in this process as they provided innovative alternative costings and project outline plans that would cater for a variety of operational and budget criteria.


On 1st December 2017, Nitestar Pty Ltd, trading as Drone Technologies were awarded the contract to supply the drone security system, representing the first ever use of 24/7 low altitude drone surveillance at a Commonwealth Games. Fittingly, Drone Technologies started their life as a part of another Queensland Government backed scheme, the Advance Queensland Knowledge Transfer Partnerships program in which they partnered with the Queensland University of Technology (QUT). This program aimed to provide opportunities to share knowledge, skills and ideas across sectors to foster collaboration, inspire innovation and create jobs; for which I think we can safely say, mission accomplished! Drone Technologies close relationship with QUT continues and as further confirmation of this they provided four of QUT’s own senior RPAS pilots to assist in the surveillance requirements of this project.


The capabilities of the fleet of drones deployed included 180 x zoom (30 x optical & 6 x digital) and up to 640p, 30Hz thermal imaging. All footage from the athlete's village was fed live to the respective GOLDOC command centres and the Joint Emergency Services Coordination Centre (JESCC) being monitored constantly by members of the GOLDOC CCTV team, QPS officers, Emergency Services personnel and Drone Technologies staff.

Despite a few hurdles, including changes to operational sites, the introduction of Temporary Restricted Areas (TRAs) for drone flights and the implementation of “Geofences” by major drone corporations, the Drone Technologies team in accordance with their contract went live on the 17th March, to secure the site as officials began preparing for the athlete’s arrival.

The drones saw their first bit of action more than a week before the games started, when a couple of reporters decided to sneak away from their pre-games night tour of the athlete’s village and attempt to get some behind the scenes shots of the pool area. One of them was heard on the radio the next morning confessing to receiving the fright of their life when “the biggest drone I’ve ever seen” turned up overhead, quickly followed by police and security personnel.


The remainder of the operation went smoothly, with Drone Technologies pilots managing to professionally negotiate the coastal squalls and sporadic weather, emergency hospital helicopter flights and rogue drone intrusions. The pilots assisted QPS and GOLDOC security in rapidly identifying and assessing potential security risks, patrolling difficult to access regions, checking large vehicle rooftops, and even monitoring the workforce themselves.

The GOLDOC closeout report on the services provided by Drone Technologies confirmed that they provided a 24/7 drone surveillance service at the Commonwealth Games Athletes Village from 0600hrs on 17 March 2018 to 0600hrs on 18 April during which time they deployed a fleet of drones with 180 x zoom (30 x optical & 6 x digital) capabilities during the day and up to 640p, 30Hz thermal imaging during the night.

Other significant work included providing “night only” drone surveillance to the Belmont Shooting Complex between 1800hrs on 2 April 2018 to 14 April 2018 using 640p, 30Hz thermal imaging.

Major achievements acknowledged by GOLDOC is that 95% of the allowable downtime caused by adverse weather conditions and other reasons outside of our control (e.g. Hospital and Police helicopter operations) was actually recovered by the Drone Technologies team by flying at an average 114.3% efficiency rating over KPIs that were already considered as challenging. 

GOLDOC further stated that:

“This is considered an excellent result and a credit to the experience and capability of the pilots employed by the supplier”

Other comments from the Venue Security Manager of the Belmont Shooting Complex  were:

“Overall a great investment and fantastic team”