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Autonomous Drones: Unlocking Field Digitization& Insights
By Yariv Geller, Co-Founder & CEO, vHive
Enterprises have realized long ago that people on the ground have a limited point of view and sought technology solutions to augment their understanding of the field with data from a bird’s eye view. Available technologies typically included:
• Satellite imagery: which is typically not current, has meter level (low) resolution, suffers from poor visibility due to clouds, and has a prohibitively expensive cost of data.
• Airplane imagery: which requires coordination time with third-party service providers, is costly (especially in areas far from airports) and not efficient for focused, frequent, and timely surveys.
Then came Drones
In 2013, the first low-cost consumer drones were made available in retail stores worldwide by companies like DJI and Parrot. This was the first time that people could fly drones by themselves to collect stunning aerial imagery. The tipping point though for the drone industry, happened in 2017, when the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) created the framework for commercial drone usage, truly enabling enterprise adoption. Enterprises who by then realized the vast potential of drones could now easily obtain Remote Pilot Certificates (part 107) by passing an online knowledge and safety test. Ever since, drones have been adopted by enterprises and are expanding possibilities for almost every industry, including telecom, construction, rail, utilities, agriculture, and insurance.
Enterprise Data Needs
Drones have democratized data, enabling enterprises to capture information at sub-centimeter resolution by themselves, whenever needed, gaining a better understanding of their field operations and immensely reducing their operational costs and improving productivity. After the preliminary adoption wave of drones by enterprises, the next important question became how to achieve enterprise scale.
In most cases, enterprises still rely on field personnel to manually gather data. This approach suffers from several challenges:
• It is inconsistent: the quality of the data depends on the individual capturing it. Every survey is different from the previous, whether it is the same person and certainly when it is another.
• It is a long and cumbersome process: manually covering large areas or complex structures is a process that takes a long and expensive time to complete, if feasible at all.
• It is incomplete: people collect data in few, pre-requested sample points. If additional data is required later, the field engineer needs to be dispatched again to capture it.
Drones have democratized data, enabling enterprises to capture information at sub-centimeter resolution by themselves, whenever needed
In addition, collected field data requires an IT system to organize information, make it retrievable, navigable, and sharable in the organization. Much of the manually collected data is merely stored for documentation and is inaccessible or needs to be disseminated into various databases manually.
Picking the Right Drone Solution for Enterprise Data Acquisition, Management and Insights
While drones are a vehicle to address these previously mentioned challenges, they require a software solution to intelligently deliver on their promise. An enterprise drone platform enables drone operation and drone proliferation in the organization.
Enterprises should be looking for scalable drone platforms with the following attributes:
• Autonomous flight: drones should not be flown manually. Manual flight requires expert pilots who are expensive and few. Manual pilots also generate inconsistent data from pilot to pilot and from survey to survey. Scalable solutions enable drones to be controlled by software, easily operated by non-expert field personnel.
• Flying a hive of autonomous drones: the ability to scale beyond a single drone directly shortens the enterprise’s data lifecycle from acquisition to actionable insights. This means that companies can reduce the time to value in getting relevant information and results.
• Low CapEx requirements: the ability to use off-the-shelf, low-cost drones, rather than proprietary and expensive equipment.
• Ability to handle different use cases: many enterprises have a variety of field assets. Take for example, a rail company that owns tracks, rail yards, bridges, and communication towers. Such companies need a solution that flexibly surveys vertical, horizontal, and broad area assets automatically with little to no intervention from the user.
• Effectively manage large amounts of data: drones capture gigabytes and terabytes of high-resolution imagery. A good solution needs to enable users to access data, analyze it, share it, and translate it into operational tasks and business insights.
• Interoperability with other enterprise IT systems: creating a holistic and coherent view of all information about enterprise assets by exchanging information with other systems such as operations systems, inventory and asset management systems, and billing and budget systems.
vHive’s platform enables enterprises to reduce field operations costs by an order of magnitude. Communication tower companies have been able to significantly reduce the need for tower climbers – the current method of surveying towers. This means that a single person with a drone can complete a surveying task that would otherwise take two people a full day. In addition to the time and resource saving, the cost of a non-expert drone operator vs. a tower climber and his associated insurance is much smaller.
Data collected by the drones is processed automatically with no manual intervention to generate measurable 2D mosaics, 3D models, 3600 virtual tours and more, making it easy to make sense of data. Additional analytics tools help precisely measure any spatial aspect of the survey as well as identify items of interest.
vHive is the only software solution that enables enterprises to digitize their field assets and operations by using a hive of drones. vHive’s autonomous flight and data processing algorithms generate highly accurate and repeatable results, enabling enterprises’ field personnel with minimal drone expertise and training to get their job done faster.
vHive solution supports large and complex projects that is built on cutting-edge technology. Autonomous drones save downtime, save cost, save on productivity for maintenance personnel and they eliminate having to put a person in a potentially hazardous environment.
See Also: Top Drone Technology Solution Companies