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Drones to Pick up Infrastructural Data
By Dr. David Adjiashvili, Head of Product & Co-Founder, Drone Harmony
It should be safe to say that industry 4.0 is being held up in some parts due to the lack of high-quality representational data assets. Without accurate data entering the digital workflows, businesses, especially larger ones, are stuck working with incomplete, inaccurate representations - held back by legacy data and software while the rest of the world leaps forward with new technologies, such as machine learning and robotic automation.
That was the past. Now both the software and the hardware have matured, and there is nothing stopping companies from working with precise digital databases of their physical infrastructure - expect that they don’t have the databases ready.
What they have is partial or inconsistent data, often non uniform in its quality and coverage, making company-wide adoption of digital technologies impossible. As more businesses recognize the need to upgrade their digital workflows fast without compromising on business intelligence quality, this demand is being met by automated drone technology.
How Does Drone Technology Compile Representational Data for Infrastructural Assets
Drones are the perfect tools to collect data around infrastructure assets. It is akin to placing thousands of different cameras at precisely the right angle to capture the exact images needed. As opposed to the physical collection of images, drones do this with ease and in very little time.
For example, one of our clients, a company which carries out routine cell tower inspections, has recently used our drone technology to save enormous amounts of time and effort with an automated workflow. The business reduced its inspection costs by over 50 per cent and saved countless man-hours in the process. More importantly, a robust and repeatable inspection process was finally achieved, as inspection success rate soared from below 50 per cent to almost 100 per cent.
Drones are the perfect tools to collect data around infrastructure assets. It is akin to placing thousands of different cameras at precisely the right angle to capture the exact images needed
With cloud computing, workflows have become faster, simpler and more stable. Companies have access to advanced machine learning tools and other forms of predictive software that make maintenance, risk reduction, site and structure inspections, detecting faults and inconsistencies and similar activities much more accurate and straightforward.
However, even with drones, machine learning algorithms and cloud computing, the challenge of obtaining initial digital asset data and integrating this process into enterprise workflows and computer systems were until recently hindering real progress. The proven return on investment was only present in smaller scale PoC setups, or markets with low asset complexity, such as mapping and surveying. This is now changing and here too automation is the key!
See Also: Top Drone Technology Solution Companies
Let’s go back to the example of the cell tower inspection we discussed earlier: Today’s drone inspection workflow technology can automate the three main steps of the process: data capture, digital model reconstruction, 3D-model based analytics/report generation.
The entire operational part of the process has been automated, making it possible for an average technician or engineer with minimum drone training to carry out the site inspection work. Using positioning systems (e.g. GPS) and existing structural and environmental data, several essential parts of the process such as flight planning and the actual flight of the drone was completely automated, leaving the site engineers with very little physical site inspection work to do.
All this data was then fed into a photogrammetric software to create a digital model of the tower almost in real-time. What earlier took close to 19 hours and involved risk of physical injury was now completed in less than eight hours - in a single, seamless workflow, that always produces usable reports.
Ultimately, the value of drone-captured data lies in its ability to provide applicable and useful business intelligence. Businesses - large and small – have always understood the importance of this process but it is only now that the technologies have matured and merged that they can integrate digital asset representations to existing asset life cycle workflows. The final hurdle – that of automating the planning and executing of drone flights – can finally be overcome.
As more and more breakthroughs in the process come up - the question mark hanging over drone technology has lifted. It is all set to become the default data gathering process across industries for physical assets.
Drone Harmony helps in creating digital asset databases affordable, fast, and relatively effortless, it is just a matter of time before it becomes industry standard. Once the benefits reaped by the early adopters to become evident to all, adoption of the drone tech will snowball to cover all industry verticals.