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Four Reasons Why Oil and Gas Companies Should Invest in Drones

Drones provide practical, economical solutions for upstream, midstream and downstream operations.

In our previous post, we discuss the many ways you can begin using drones to improve inspections in the oil and gas sector. In this post, we take a look at the impact drones have on operations—and why it’s time you should consider investing in a drone program.

Drones provide O&G companies many benefits, including cost savings, improved communication, a safer work environment, and more accurate data. Read on to explore the key ways drones can transform your workflows.


Cost-saving Inspections

Inspecting O&G infrastructure and gathering critical data with drones cost substantially less than traditional inspection methods that require ground crews or manned flights. Drones are tough birds and can withstand harsh temperatures and other conditions. They get much closer to infrastructure than a helicopter or airplane, providing better visuals and data. Drones also minimize downtime by avoiding the need to shut down operations for inspections and by catching leaks and other maintenance issues early, lowering remediation costs.

Drones enable employees to conduct inspection and monitoring tasks without exposing themselves to the typical dangers of O&G operations. As a result, work hours lost due to injuries decline, medical expenses and insurance costs shrink, and the number of workplace events reported to OSHA and other regulatory agencies drop.

Safer Work Environments

Manual infrastructure inspections are often dangerous. For example, inspectors at wells and offshore rigs must climb up and down ladders and along catwalks — and even use cranes or harnesses and rappelling equipment to reach equipment. Inspectors sometimes must work in close proximity to harmful chemicals and dangerous machinery.

Drones perform inspections without risking employee safety. They’re particularly useful for inspections after blowouts or natural disasters — or when sending a ground crew to a site may be difficult, costly or unsafe.

Better, More Accurate Data

Drones provide a flexible platform for a wide range of cameras and sensors. They can collect data needed for situations requiring real-time solutions or store data for later analysis. Businesses can easily integrate digitized mapping information and other data from drone flights into analytical and AI solutions for advanced processing. For example, software solutions use topographical and geological data gathered by drones to create models that help identify promising oil and gas drill sites.

Not only do drones gather information more efficiently than human inspectors, the digital data enables employees to make better, data-driven decisions. This drastically reduces downtime, catches conflicts and issues faster, and helps keep your operation running like the well-oiled machine that it is.

Superior Communication

The remote nature of oil and gas work often requires operators to communicate with workers on sites around the world. This can present a challenge to managers and engineers working from the headquarters and collaborating with the boots on the ground. But drones can make things easier. Workers on the ground can fly drones on their site and upload the data to the cloud where back office managers can review and coordinate further inspection or follow ups — all without leaving the desk chair. Using software such as DroneDeploy makes it easy for the back office to markup maps or drop in annotations in real time so that inspectors can check on pressure points, leaks, or other potential issues.

Where to Learn More

The latest drone technology — like aerial mapping, thermal imaging, and digital terrain modeling — gives you a rich set of data to streamline your workflows and generate real-time insights.

Get Started with DroneDeploy

Want to learn how DroneDeploy can help your business? Visit www.dronedeploy.com to start your free trial or request a consultation with one of our team members. The DroneDeploy mobile application is available for free download for both iOS and Android devices.

Four Reasons Why Oil and Gas Companies Invest in Drones was originally published in DroneDeploy’s Blog on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

This post first appeared on Forbes.com as Drones Pose A Unique Big Data Challenge For Business Users

The public might consider them nuisances, but in the commercial market, drones are valuable data collection devices. Their primary task is to capture, store, and transmit data. So as IT departments consider integrating more drone data into existing enterprise business processes, they face new data governance requirements. As drone technology matures, it is important to know what it means for you as the steward of your firm’s information technology and software.

Drones present both a big data and an IoT challenge

Up to now, the focus of commercial drone use has been on accurate data collection and visualization—not IT process integration. To be fair, applications have been developed to support verticals like agriculture, construction, energy, mining, and telecom with cloud-based services, but these applications mostly produce and serve up maps, e.g., location maps for managing and servicing company infrastructure and other assets.

Just as with big data, the challenges of drone data include analysis, curation, search, sharing, storage, transfer, visualization, and information privacy. We are already beginning to see drones efficiently replace static IoT sensors with one device that is in motion and can capture multiple types of data (so not just pictures and video, but also emission gases, radio signals, geodetic data, etc.).

Is drone data that unique?

Like all IoT devices that are in motion, drones bring a lot of value and at the same time have a lot of challenges. For the most part, drone data is geospatial (or geographic data), imagery, videos, binaries, etc., so falls into the category of non-standard IoT data. However, if you work in IT, you’ll want to understand that this data has some unique requirements. F For example, it requires image recognition analysis and considerable transformation and data parsing to become useful.

A lot—if not most—of the data collected from drones can be used by geographic information systems (GIS).  GIS are mostly used for mapping and analyzing, and they integrate common database operations—such as query and statistical analysis—with visualization and geographic analysis. So, think mapping tools like esri’s ArcGIS.

Data governance implications

When dealing with drone data you may need to expand your current data governance policies because of new risks associated with aerial data itself (like privacy concerns) and the location and operations of the drone (because a drone is legally an aircraft and operates under certain regulations). For example, you may need to revisit policies regarding:

  • Source aviation system, its access, and APIs
  • Security and reliability along the “chain of custody” (drone service provider, to the cloud data service, to your front door)
  • Privacy and risk mitigation (legal issues)
  • Traditional Master Data Management (MDM) to straighten out the differences in reference data like location, asset type, customer name, etc.
  • Archive of source data for later re-processing (do you trust the custodian?)
  • Access control (who gets to see what and when?)

Learning a new lexicon

As you start integrating drone data, you should familiarize yourself with the most common types of processed “processed” data from drones—not the raw data, but the data produced by imaging software and the ones you’ll most likely come across if you’re in IT. Here are five examples:

An orthomosaic is an aerial photograph geometrically corrected (“orthorectified”) such that the scale is uniform: the photo has the same lack of distortion as a map. Typically, an orthomosaic is a composite of individual photos that have been stitched together to make a larger one. What you need to know is that the individual photos that make up orthomosaics each have their own georeference. The processed data (the composite) is what your end users want to use, but they may also want to know the location of the source data if it needs to be referenced later. Think about this in data governance terms. You may need to revisit your data retention rules if the source images are needed for evaluating changes over time.

Thermography (sometimes referred to as thermal imaging) uses thermal video cameras to detect radiation in the long-infrared range of the electromagnetic spectrum. Building construction and maintenance technicians can see thermal signatures that indicate heat leaks in faulty thermal insulation and can use the results to improve the effectiveness of their work. Thermal mapping is also “a thing” with vendors like DroneDeploy, which offers live streaming views, and can either be an image or a map.

Photogrammetry is a technique which uses photography to extract measurements of the environment. This is achieved through overlapping imagery, where the same feature can be seen from two perspectives. With photogrammetry, it is possible to calculate distance and volume measurements. Departments use these outputs to create “point clouds” or 3D images used to do things like render a building or measure the volume of a stockpile.

LiDAR stands for “Light Detection and Ranging.” It is a remote sensing method that uses light in the form of a pulsed laser to measure ranges (variable distances) to the Earth. These light pulses—combined with other data recorded by the airborne system—generate precise, three-dimensional information about the shape of objects and their surface characteristics. The accuracy of LiDAR images is stunning (we’re talking millimeters), which is why surveyors and construction engineers favor this technology. What you need to know is that LiDAR files are big. Datasets for a simple project area can be 1-2 TB.

Video is the most common and at the same time the most complex type of drone data. It’s complex because video is almost always stored in compressed form to reduce the file size for storage. A video file normally consists of a container format holding video data in a coding format alongside audio data in an audio coding format. Those are known as CODECs. The container format can also contain synchronization information and metadata such as GPS location and directional data, which can be encoded in each frame. 10 minutes of video at 30 frames per second = 18,000 frames. It’s complex because, when analyzing video data, you have to sort through all 18,000 pieces of frame data.

So here’s the big data problem—it’s the analytics. Most of what you want to know from images and video files (What can I see? What is happening? What is the value?) cannot be extrapolated by the traditional enterprise big data vendors. While automation can exploit this data and increase analysis efficiency, image and video analysis is more often done by teams of specialists. For this, you may want to outsource to an AI vendor that specializes in imaging or use an online drone data service.


Image credit: A SZ DJI Technology Co. drone is displayed during keynote presentations on artificial intelligence at the Microsoft Developers Build Conference in Seattle, Washington, U.S., on Monday, May 7, 2018. Photographer: Grant Hindsley/Bloomberg photocredit: © 2018 Bloomberg Finance LP

The post What Every CIO Needs To Know About Commercial Drone Data appeared first on Drone Analyst.

A free guide to measuring stockpiles and gathering accurate inventory counts with UAVs.

Whether you work in the construction, mining, or aggregates sectors, stockpile management is a critical requirement on any job site. But measuring stockpiles can be unsafe, time-consuming, and expensive. This puts you in a difficult position. You need accurate data to run your business operations, but you shouldn’t have to send your survey team into the field for hours to clamber across stockpiles on a dangerous job site.

What if you could gather the same survey data in minutes from the safety of the ground, all while achieving higher accuracy and freeing up your survey team to focus on other high-priority projects? Sound too good to be true? Nope. Drones can help.

While you may be familiar with drone photography, drones are also a trusted tool for surveying and measurement. They eliminate many of the challenges companies face with traditional survey solutions. And drones paired with powerful photogrammetry software from DroneDeploy can help lower your data collection costs, increase accuracy, save you time, and keep your team out of harm’s way — all without having to hire an entire survey team or invest in expensive laser or lidar hardware.

“Everyone should be using drones for stockpile analysis. It’s miles ahead of standard surveying.” — Tecia White, President at Whitewater Hydrogeology Ltd.

Read the full case study

Over the last 4 years, our team has worked with thousands of customers measuring stockpiles with drones. In that time, we’ve learned the techniques that produce highly-accurate results that our customers expect from DroneDeploy.

In our latest eBook, we take a deep dive into the stockpile measurement workflow using DroneDeploy—covering best practices and answers to the most frequently asked questions from our customers.

Download the new eBook to learn:

  • The best practices for flying, processing, and analyzing stockpiles with DroneDeploy
  • How to get precise volume measurements and generate instant stockpile reports
  • How to achieve high degrees of measurement accuracy and why it matters
  • The most common app integrations for stockpile management used by DroneDeploy customers
  • How three innovative companies have used DroneDeploy’s stockpile measurement tools to cut costs, save time, and improve safety on their job sites

Where to Learn More

See why drones surveys of this aggregate quarry were Safer — and 20x faster — thanks to drones.

Accuracy is crucial for aerial surveys. some of our resources dive into the topic of accuracy and are worth a read:

Get Started with DroneDeploy

Want to learn how DroneDeploy can help your business? Visit www.dronedeploy.com to start your free trial or request a consultation with one of our team members. The DroneDeploy mobile application is available for free download for both iOS and Android devices.

Accurate Stockpile Measurement with Drones was originally published in DroneDeploy’s Blog on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Three ways to begin using drones in the oil and gas industry.

Some of the largest oil and gas companies around the world now deploy unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), better known as drones, to address a wide variety of operational challenges. This rapidly improving technology, along with advances in big data and artificial intelligence, is poised to transform the O&G industry in the coming years.

The aerial intelligence provided by drones offers several key benefits, including safer inspections and helping companies comply with regulatory requirements — while saving them millions of dollars in labor, remediation, and other costs.

Drones are the perfect solution for conducting visual inspections of infrastructure and gathering extensive data. An increasing number of O&G companies use drones to perform three basic industry functions — pipeline inspection and monitoring, oil well and rig inspection, and surveying and construction monitoring — at a significantly lower cost than ground, manned aircraft or helicopter inspection crews.

Read on to learn more about the leading uses of drones in the oil and gas sector.

Pipeline Inspection and Monitoring

By taking photos and videos of above-ground pipelines, drones allow inspectors in the field or engineers in a remote location to view pipes, either in real time or later. The operator can zero in on areas of concern to gather additional information and, if necessary, recommend that a ground crew visually check the area.

By examining the vegetation index, inspectors can identify specific areas of concern with DroneDeploy, catching leaks before they spread. Read the case study.

To detect potential underground leaks, drones take photos along pipeline routes. User-friendly software from DroneDeploy combines these images, creating high-resolution vegetation maps that identify plant kill-off zones, which may indicate a leak. Equipping a drone with an infrared camera provides an additional way to inspect pipelines: Thermal imagery of pipeline routes reveal hotspots, which may indicate potential defects in pipeline insulation or leaks invisible to the human eye.

Drone images also detect anomalies along a pipeline network or any encroachments, such as construction or roadwork, on a right-of-way that could threaten the integrity of the pipeline. In case of significant leaks, explosions or other emergency situations, drones provide real-time video to help emergency response teams assess the situation before sending in crews.

An operator inspects an oil well using drone POV goggles, while remaining safely on the ground. Photo courtesy of Bruin E&P Partners.

Oil Well and Rig Inspection

O&G companies also use drones to photograph oil wells and offshore rigs throughout the initial drilling process. Once the well is operating, drones efficiently monitor operations. For example, they provide a close-up look at a flare stack while it’s in service. That provides a real benefit to the traditional approach: shutting down the flare system and assigning an inspector to climb the stack to examine it. In this case, a drone inspection saves weeks of physical inspection preparation and avoids significant loss of productivity and revenue due to an operational shutdown.

This drone-generated 3D model of oil storage tanks replaced helicopter imagery and saved $3500 over a five-month period. Read the full case study.

Drone inspections help companies prevent health and safety events (HSE), allowing them to address operational issues without sending employees into dangerous zones. Drones also provide easy surveillance of remote or hard-to-reach assets, such as storage tanks.

Photo courtesy of Bruin E&P partners

Surveying and Construction Monitoring

Drones are taking on an expanding role in both the oil exploration and construction stages.2 They survey prospective drilling locations and gather key data without the time and expense of traditional surveying methods. Once a well site is ready for development, drones deployed during the construction stage of wells, rigs, pipelines and refineries conduct crucial as-built surveys, allowing managers to keep track of a project’s progress and provide quality assurance of the build-outs.

Construction compliance officers use drone photos to compare actual conditions to pre-construction designs, as well as to detect and correct plan defects and deviations and spot any potential safety issues. This information also helps streamline decision-making throughout the project. Companies can even create, document and share a visual timeline with all stakeholders. Once construction is finished, drones provide a digital 3-D representation of structures to use as a baseline reference.

This orthomosaic drone map shows construction progress taking place on a well site. Map courtesy of Bruin E&P Partners.

Drones provide extremely precise aerial intelligence that simplifies and improves a wide range of O&G processes. Whether inspecting hundreds of miles of oil pipelines for leaks, helping employees keep operations in compliance with regulations or enabling companies to construct infrastructure more efficiently, agile and flexible UAVs have quickly become a go-to tool for operators around the world.


Where to Learn More

The latest drone technology — like aerial mapping, thermal imaging, and digital terrain modeling — gives you a rich set of data to streamline your workflows and generate real-time insights.

Get Started with DroneDeploy

Want to learn how DroneDeploy can help your business? Visit www.dronedeploy.com to start your free trial or request a consultation with one of our team members. The DroneDeploy mobile application is available for free download for both iOS and Android devices.

Pushing the Boundaries of Aerial Inspection with Drones was originally published in DroneDeploy’s Blog on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Product Release Wrap-Up January 2019

Kick off the New Year with improved accuracy and AI tools from DroneDeploy

Since launching the Projects interface last month, our team has been busy implementing a series of new features to improve your team’s productivity and overall map accuracy in 2019.

Read on to learn more about new automated flight settings, map alignment capabilities, Autodesk export options, and a suite of AI tools now available to DroneDeploy customers.

The Joy of aligned maps in action over the course of a project.

Align Maps Over Time — Instantly.

Comparing maps over time is one of the most common uses of DroneDeploy. But comparing the same areas can be tricky if the maps don’t line up. Unfortunately, GPS accuracy varies and maps of the same location can shift anywhere between 5–10 meters without the use of ground control points (GCPs).

To overcome this problem, we built a new solution into our proprietary Map Engine to align new maps with those previously made at the same location. As an added benefit, the absolute accuracy and scale of a map made with GCPs will improve the accuracy of future maps in the same area — meaning you can map more often with less effort and still get great results.

Use map alignment in conjunction with the “Side-by-Side” app, to see how things have changed on your site.

Automatic Map Alignment is now available to all paying DroneDeploy customers.

Filter and Sort Map Annotations

Have you ever had trouble finding the annotation or measurement that you’re looking for in a map with dozens or even hundreds of annotations? Or perhaps you’ve wanted to hide specific annotations and focus on those that are most important? New improvements to DroneDeploy annotations make both of these tasks possible.

Now you can view a list of all of the annotations on your map. You can then select or hide specific annotations, and you can even use the search and filter tools to look for specific annotations or annotation types.

Filter annotations by measurement type using the filter icon on the dashboard.

Simplify GCP Tagging with Ground Control AI

For those times when absolute accuracy is required, efficient use of GCPs and checkpoints for mapping is extremely important. For the last six months, thanks to thousands of DroneDeploy customers tagging GCPs, we’ve trained our machine learning algorithms to automatically identify and geolocate the most popular types of GCP markers automatically.

Here are a few examples of the types of GCP markers that DroneDeploy can now detect and geolocate to save you time:

If some, or all of your GCPs are automatically identified, you’ll get a notification in the typical email workflow. You will notice that many of your GCPs are already tagged when you open the link.

Ground Control AI will continue to improve as you use it, and will learn from your corrections over time.

Once GCPs have been detected, you can finish selecting any additional GCPs that may be in the map.

Ground Control AI is now available to all Business and Enterprise customers.

Detect and Annotate Objects with Count AI

We launched our Counting tool last August. Since then, customers have annotated more than 360,000 objects. Uses include auditing solar panels, asset quantification, damage assessments, crop yield estimation, and more. With a significant amount of counting data under our belts, our team can now rapidly train our counting algorithms to detect and count custom objects for our enterprise customers.

Select an area and Count AI does the rest.

The first two object types we are supporting are cars and trees, but if your workflow requires counting any object series in your maps, sign up for our beta program today and contact your DroneDeploy Account Manager to learn more about this new feature.

Talk to your account manager or contact sales about Count AI

Stockpile AI detects stockpiles, saving time when measuring volumes.

Quickly Measure Stockpiles with Stockpile AI

Measuring stockpiles on construction sites, mines, and quarries is one of the most common use of DroneDeploy’s measurement tools. To speed up the stockpile measurement workflow, we developed our Stockpile AI assistant to annotate and measure stockpile volumes with a single click.

When you select the Stockpile AI icon, DroneDeploy will detect and highlight all stockpiles present on your map. You can then generate an instant volume measurement by selecting the stockpile you wish to measure. It’s that easy.

Once the volume annotation is created, it’s still possible to customize the stockpile boundary as you usually would. Keep in mind that like our other machine learning tools, your existing annotations and corrections power Stockpile AI — which will continue to improve the more you use it.

Stockpile AI is now available to all Enterprise customers.

Import Point Clouds from DroneDeploy to AutoDesk

Our construction customers have frequently asked to import drone-generated point clouds from DroneDeploy to AutoDesk Civil 3D, Revit, and Navisworks. We’re happy to announce this capability is now available in DroneDeploy.

To directly import your point cloud files to AutoDesk, choose the AutoDesk (.rcp) format when you export your next point cloud. The .rcp data will also include a .rcs point cloud as well. These new point cloud formats can be exported using all the local and custom coordinate systems we support for existing exports.

RCP exports are available to all of our Enterprise customers.

Where to Learn More

Get Started with DroneDeploy

Want to learn how DroneDeploy can help your business? Visit www.dronedeploy.com to start your free trial or request a consultation with one of our team members. The DroneDeploy mobile application is available for free download for both iOS and Android devices.

Product Release Wrap Up January 2019 was originally published in DroneDeploy’s Blog on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

We just announced the release of our latest research on commercial drone operations. The Economics of Using Drones for BVLOS Inspections is a white paper sponsored by PrecisionHawk, the leading provider of drone technology for the enterprise, which provides a foundation for businesses to evaluate when it’s best to use traditional ground and manned aviation, line of sight drones, or BVLOS (for “beyond visual line of sight”) drone inspection approaches. It’s designed as a comprehensive primer of drone inspections in specific industries.

The paper answers questions like:

  • What’s the best way to enable an effective drone strategy?
  • What are the economic benefits of operating drones?
  • What are the costs, benefits, and risks of using drones for BVLOS operations?
  • How does that compare with traditional inspection methods?

Here is an excerpt:

As the commercial drone industry continues to evolve, widespread BVLOS drone inspection has the potential to significantly change business models for oil and gas, utilities, insurance, and other industries. Representatives we spoke with in those industries point to four main drivers motivating them to explore BVLOS operations:

  • Safety, as in preventing fatal helicopter crashes or accidents from having to manually climb towers to take readings;
  • Costs, or reducing dependence on a $1,500-per-rotor-hour helicopter and personnel and even cutting the time and expense of the multiple flights needed in flying drones within visual line of sight (VLOS);
  • Data inconsistency and lack of quality, since manual data collection sometimes involves photos taken from a helicopter traveling at speed and at different heights for each flight—which leads to inconsistency—or hand-written notes taken while visually inspecting with binoculars—which leads to imprecise or poor quality data;
  • Time to value, meaning that BVLOS flight can cover a wide area and collect high-quality data much more quickly than traditional means, so, for example, insurance claims of total loss can be indemnified faster.

The 21-page report also provides a guide for when—and how—to deploy drones to inspect assets, use cases for how drone missions compare with traditional methods, and insight from PrecisionHawk’s customers about how they’re refining their inspection strategy—and their results.

You can register to get the free report here: http://bit.ly/2Rn8z6y

Image credit: PrecisionHawk

The post Evaluating the Economics of BVLOS Drone Operations appeared first on Drone Analyst.

[This post first appeared in Forbes]

In many ways, 2019 will be another big year for the commercial drone industry. Last year saw a wider rollout of the FAA’s LAANC program (the Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability that provides access to controlled airspace near airports), the launch of the UAS Integration Pilot Program from the FAA, and some significant developments for new regulatory frameworks for drones in Europe and in India. This year, expect more of the same—but with a few twists.

Trend 1 – Expanded business use

Adoption of aerial drones and drone technology will not be as widespread as some might expect. Instead, it will grow in select industries like agriculture, construction, insurance, mining and aggregates, public safety and first responders, oil & gas, survey engineering, telecommunications and utilities.

Last year, companies began to move beyond the provisional use of drones—where they were outsourcing to determine a drone program’s feasibility—to standing up or expanding internal teams to manage workflows and data. This year, expect to see reports about companies expanding their teams and adding use cases that take advantage of the waivers allowing limited beyond visual line of sight operations.

Trend 2 – Slower, more steady growth

The number of certified remote pilots is the benchmark for commercial drone industry growth. That’s because, almost uniformly around the world, regulations demand each drone operation have one pilot. Last year, the number of FAA-certified remote pilots grew about 50% over the previous year, to approximately 115,000. That increase was mostly made up of pilots who work for companies, enterprises or public agencies with internal drone programs as opposed to pilots who operate for drone-based service providers. It’s clear that commercial industries are now driving growth rather than individual interest as in years past.

One thing to keep in mind when looking at FAA numbers is that the month-over-month growth rate is beginning to slow. That may worsen given the current partial U.S. Government shutdown, which will delay the grant of new certificates. It may also slow further because some drone-based service providers who are not making money (most aren’t) will choose not to re-certify as a remote pilot.

Trend 3 – Further vendor consolidation

Much of the industry’s growth so far has come from the early hype about how drones were going to “transform” industries as well as huge forecasts that fueled investment. Over the years, we’ve seen those dreams turn to smoke as vendors like 3D Robotics and GoPro fell out of the sky. Last year was no exception. The $118M collapse of Airware and the release of Parrot’s disappointing financial results give us a glimpse into what will come.

Still, there is good news, and you can expect more moves like PrecisionHawk’s acquisitions as vendors seek leadership positions in key industries and secure new revenue streams.

Trend 4 – Public distrust and civil liability

Despite the benefits of commercial drone use, the general public still has concerns about drones with regards to safety, security, privacy and public nuisance. After the Gatwick debacle, expect more headlines in 2019 of unauthorized drone sightings and the coming drone apocalypse. In many ways these stories hurt legitimate commercial operators who often need to gain permission from reluctant land owners so they can perform inspections and survey maps for infrastructure unreachable by other means.

Here in the U.S., there is another tea kettle about to boil over. A little-known but highly influential group known as the Uniform Law Commission (ULC) will continue to work on a proposed “Tort Law Relating to Drones Act,” which concerns drones and privacy. If their proposal is adopted by states, we could see an arbitrary line drawn 200 feet in the sky that would establish a new aerial trespass zone giving property owners the right to establish no-fly zones. Right now, their draft goes much further than any existing state or federal law and, if enacted, would create a complicated patchwork of differing state laws that inhibit commercial operations. Until then, expect to see more local and state laws like this one in Pennsylvania aiming to protect people’s privacy from drones.

Trend 5 – More regulation – maybe

Some predict 2019 will be the year the FAA finally implements a requirement for remote identification for all drones, recreational and commercial, flying in the U.S. It’s expected this will be combined with a new rule for flights over people for small drones. But there is a big difference between the FAA proposing a rule (called the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking or NPRM) and that rule becoming law. The difference can be anywhere from six to nine months. So it’s likely we’ll see a proposed rule, but implementation will be like Waiting for Godot.

To be clear, Drone ID is not a slam dunk, and the specifics of the ID signature are still being debated within the FAA. Even so, Drone ID needs to exist for Unmanned Traffic Management (aka UTM) to become a reality. UTM should help enable some of the most talked-about use cases for drones, from package delivery to aerial taxi services, but don’t expect this first iteration of remote ID to live up to the headlines or vendor expectations of a global autonomous drone network – as that would ignore the arduous political processes in each country or region to make UTM even possible.

Trend 6 – DJI’s continued dominance

SZ DJI Technology Co., Ltd. (a.k.a. DJI), a Chinese company, continues to dominate the market and has made gains this year in every product category, from drone aircraft at all price ranges, to add-on payloads, to software. Recent survey data shows DJI is still the dominant brand for drone aircraft purchases, with a 74% global market share. Much of DJI’s dominance can be attributed to its aggressive product development, technological advancements and partner development in the enterprise channel. Last year, the company released two new series of enterprise products (Phantom 4 RTK and Mavic 2 Enterprise) that target industrial users. It’s safe to predict their leadership will continue given their strategic investment with Hasselblad, their recent investment in an R&D facility in Palo Alto, California, and their partners in the enterprise space such as Microsoft.

Trend 7 – Sensors, software, and AI advancements

Along with the new imaging sensor integration announcements in 2019 (such as smaller, more lightweight LiDAR), expect to see imaging software advancements as companies seek to combine RGB, thermal imaging, orthomosaic, and data from IoT sensors. More aerial imaging and mapping software firms will likely announce artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities. Right now, most of this is cloud-based machine learning (a.k.a. deep learning and predictive analytics), where datasets are trained by specialized teams. Already, there are some drone-based AI solutions for image recognition/machine vision, but it’s still early in the technology development cycle and AI is near peak hype.

Some big news for 2019 could be workflow integration of drone data and workflow into predictive maintenance and service solutions, as well as enterprise asset management systems such as those from IBM, INFOR, Oracle and SAP. Capabilities could include documentation, tracking and GIS data integration. That may bring a yawn to some, but when you can connect the dots and show the effect of drone data on the balance sheet, CFOs and CEOs will take notice and drive further enterprise adoption

Image credit: Mark Kauzlarich/Bloomberg

The post Seven Trends That Will Shape the Commercial Drone Industry in 2019 appeared first on Drone Analyst.

Cresolus uses aerial surveys to support sustainable design and minimize environmental impact in tropical regions.

The environment is on everyone’s minds these days. And for good reason. The impact of changing climates is being felt around the world as heatwaves, wildfires, and draughts become more common. As we consider more sustainable business practices to lessen environmental impact, drones shouldn’t be left out of the conversation. A good place to start is construction— which was the leading industry to deploy drones in 2018.

Reducing the impact of construction is a key global goal because, according to the United Nations Environment Program, buildings make up 40% of annual energy consumption and as much as 30% of all energy-related greenhouse gas emissions. A third of humanities resource consumption comes from the building sector, including 12% of all fresh-water use, and produces up to 40% of annual solid waste. By helping architects and builders identify low-impact construction sites and develop green construction processes, drones can help ensure a sustainable future.

Enter Cresolus, an architectural firm focused on sustainable construction designs for tropical regions. It often works with governments and non-government organizations (NGOs) to build resorts and other structures, mostly in Central America and Central Africa.


Gabon’s national parks agency recently hired the company to survey one of its parks and make recommendations about where to situate sustainable lodge complexes. To speed up the process while minimizing impact to the environment, Cresolus turned to drones to take photographs and gather topographical survey data safely and efficiently with DroneDeploy.

Developing an Extraordinary Place

Gabon’s National Agency for Natural Parks (Parks Gabon) oversees the Loango National Park. Located on the country’s Atlantic coast, the 600-square-mile park protects coastal and inland habitats that are home to elephants, gorillas and many other charismatic species. The legendary Loango surfing hippos may be its most famous residents. Largely uninhabited and unexplored, the park encompasses forests, savannas, wetlands, lagoons and 63 miles of pristine beach. It’s one of the most beautiful spots on Africa’s eastern coastline.

A lodge sits along the waters of Loango National Park in Gabon. Source: Wikipedia.

Parks Gabon plans to grant concessions to private businesses to build and operate three separate ecolodges inside the park. The agency asked Cresolus to identify ideal locations to situate high-end, sustainable lodge compounds. To preserve the feeling of remoteness and ensure tranquility for lodge visitors, Gabon Parks also tasked the company with drawing boundaries around each of the proposed concession sites so guests at one lodge would not encounter guests staying at another lodge. The agency will use these boundaries to create a zoning map for a prospectus informing potential lodge operators about the concession opportunity. The zones defined by the maps will become the legal boundaries for each lodge concession.

Simplifying Aerial Surveys with Drones

To locate potential lodge sites and define separate concession zones, Cresolus needed to survey the entire park. Parks Gabon provided a team of experienced park rangers, a small helicopter, a speedboat, a 4×4 and a radio to assist.

Loango National Park Concession Zones. Source: Cresolus

The Cresolus crew started its work by getting a firmer grasp of the big picture. It studied SAT imagery and existing park photos and then used a drone to conduct a general flyover of the park. It also tapped into local knowledge to gain additional insights.

After a detailed analysis of all the initial data, the crew identified 23 potential lodge sites and began the process of visiting each site. A ground survey in this remote wilderness would have been an extremely challenging process that would require a significant amount of time and manual measurements. Instead, Cresolus used a drone to substantially reduce the complexity of its mission, lower the safety risks to its crew and park personnel, cut down the time needed, and gather accurate data and measurements.

Cresolus team members survey a site on the coastline of Loango National Park.

The Cresolus crew spent several hours — or in some cases several days — surveying the area. The team walked each site and took notes for later analysis. It also flew a DJI Phantom 4 Pro to survey the areas surrounding the sites and used DroneDeploy for flight planning and processing image data. Over a 12-day period, the crew conducted 48 flights in total, and the drone took more than 8,000 photos.

To capture the images for its survey, the crew had to overcome a serious problem. The drone sustained damage to its gimbal, which is a mount that adjusts the position of a camera. The crew had to improvise, taping the camera to the gimbal. This repair enabled the crew to attach the camera on the drone, but it meant that the camera remained in a fixed position throughout the flights. This circumstance made it much more difficult to manage the images, which often came out either upside down or reversed.

a 2D orthomosaic map of a proposed site in Loango National Park.

“Despite our gimbal difficulties, DroneDeploy’s processing still provided highly accurate maps,” raved Cresolus CEO Andrew Coates. “DroneDeploy allowed us to measure distances and, importantly, because the data was processed so fast, we could return to the most promising sites and look at things we could not see by walking on the ground.”

A Cost-Conscious Approach with Lower Impact

By using a drone to survey Loango National Park, Andrew’s team collected aerial data quickly and efficiently within a single platform. DroneDeploy enabled the company to use the drones’ photos to create a model for Parks Gabon that provided accurate topographical and vegetation maps. These maps included recommended sites for lodge concessions and drew boundaries for each concession. The model also identified potential access points, including abandoned roads dating back to the 1800s.

Plant health maps were used to recommend sites where construction presented a lesser impact to the park.

Even better, the drone survey had no impact on the park’s unspoiled environment. “I could launch from almost anywhere — a boat or the front of a 4×4,” said Coates. “The old surveying methods required cutting sight lines and a huge crew.” The drone survey also made the project feasible. The cost of doing a land-based survey on the same scale would have been cost prohibitive for the national parks agency.

Thick brush often made it difficult to traverse the property, so Andrew took off from the safety of his boat.

Supporting a Greener Future from Above

Drones have many potential uses beyond surveying that will support sustainable design and architecture. Equipped with a thermal imaging camera, a drone can easily detect energy loss in a building and identify areas with poor insulation. In the future, drones will deliver construction materials to work sites, saving energy costs.

UAVs will also play an ever-increasing role in environmental protection. “For conservation, drones will become an incredible tool,” predicts Coates. “Anti-poaching units can send drones up to survey vast areas, and the data they gather can be analyzed for animal counts, anti-poaching camps, deforestation and many other uses.”

Where to Learn More

  • Read about the many ways drones transform construction workflows around the world in this eBook.
  • See how drone-based surveys helped one quarry increase safety and generate results 20x faster than traditional methods.

Get Started with DroneDeploy

Want to learn how DroneDeploy can help your business? Visit www.dronedeploy.com to start your free trial or request a consultation with one of our team members. The DroneDeploy mobile application is available for free download for both iOS and Android devices.

Sustainable Design and Construction with Drones was originally published in DroneDeploy’s Blog on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

This was a big year for the commercial drone industry as a whole. It saw a significant increase in the business adoption, the expansion of the FAA’s LAANC program (the Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability that provides access to controlled airspace near airports), the launch of the UAS Integration Pilot Program from the FAA (aka IPP), new products like the Phantom 4 RTK from DJI, and some significant developments for new regulatory frameworks for drones in Europe and in India.

In this post, I’ll illustrate some of the market trends over the past year using data from our third annual drone industry benchmark report and describe what I think shaped the drone industry.

Listen to this companion Drone Radio Show podcast here for the complete assessment.

If I was to distill the key forces of 2018 on the drone market into three things, I would say they are:

  1. Business adoption
  2. Vendor contraction and expansion
  3. The DJI effect

Force 1 – Business adoption

Adoption of aerial drones and drone technology was not widespread, but it did grow in select industries such as insurance, utilities, construction, and survey engineering,

In 2018, we saw companies begin to move beyond the provisional use of drones—where they were outsourcing to determine a drone program’s feasibility–to standing up or expanding internal teams to manage workflows and data.

You can see this trend, particularly in the U.S. when you realize the growth in the number of certified Part 107 remote pilots. The U.S. began the year with about 74K certified remote pilots, and as of the end of November, we had about 112.5K. So we’ve added about 38,500 pilots this year. That’s a 50% increase over last year.

The thing about this increase is that it’s mostly pilots who work for companies, enterprises, or public agencies with internal drone programs.  We saw this trend in the data from our annual benchmark survey conducted over the summer.

Force 2 – Vendor contraction and expansion

There were some winners and losers this year in the race to gain more customers and satisfy investors.

Probably the biggest contraction story was the $118M collapse of Airware. Fortunately, Delair acquired Airware’s software solution, which ensures the continuity of service for existing customers and dealers. The agreement also included keeping the team from construction and mining specialist Redbird, which Airware initially bought in 2016.

The other contraction was from Parrot. Earlier in the year, Parrot released its ANAFI work drone for the commercial drone market. But then just last month, Parrot’s CEO announced disappointing financial results because of what he called “a significant consumer drone market contraction.” Suffice it to say they are running on thin cash flow, and it will be interesting to see if there will be a right-sizing of Parrot and its affiliates like senseFly and Pix4D in 2019.

Another big move this year was PrecisionHawk’s acquisitions of both HAZON and InspecTools. These businesses specialize in inspection services and technology for the energy sector. They bring PrecisionHawk the domain expertise that will enable tighter integration between collecting and analyzing drone data—something customers want. We think these acquisitions position PrecisionHawk as a leading service provider for companies wanting to perform asset inspections—specifically those companies in the oil & gas, insurance, and utility industries that need beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) operations. If you recall, PrecisionHawk was part of the FAA’s Pathfinder Program, so they have extensive experience in BVLOS ops.

Force 3—The DJI effect

You can’t talk about the drone industry without mentioning market leader DJI. The company continues to dominate the market and has made gains this year in every category, from drone aircraft at all price ranges, to add-on payloads, to software. Our survey data shows DJI is still the dominant brand for drone aircraft purchases, with a 74% global market share in sales across all price points.

DJI’s current global market share is two percentage points higher than it was last year (72%), and is a significant change from 2016, which showed them with 50% market share.

On that note, many industry and UAS news pundits speculated that security concerns about DJI small drone aircraft would be the death knell for DJI (a China-based company), but clearly these fears did not affect their sales. To stem concerns about DJI’s data security practices, the company hired a forensic investigation company, Kivu Consulting, Inc., to independently review DJI’s UAV data transmission and storage practices. Kivu’s analysis of the drones and the flight control system (drone, hardware controller, GO 4 mobile app) concluded that users have control over the types of data DJI drones collect, store, and transmit.

As I’ve have noted in our report, much of DJI’s dominance can be attributed to its aggressive product development, technological advancements, and partner development in the enterprise channel. DJI’s leadership role existed as early as 2015, when we looked at FAA data on commercial drone registrations. The company continues to release new product after new product, and it leads other manufacturers with technology and enterprise ecosystem partnerships.

We predicted last year that this would continue well into the future, given their current lead, their strategic partnership investment with Hasselblad, their recent investment in an R&D facility in Palo Alto, California, and the continuation of their AirWorks Conference enterprise partner ecosystem event.

That’s it for now. Look for a follow-up piece on our specific predictions for 2019, which will include investments, technology improvements, ecosystem partnerships, and software innovations.

Listen to the companion podcast here: http://bit.ly/2EynyIY

If you have questions about what’s in the report I mention or would like to comment, write me at colin@droneanalyst.com.


Image credit: Shutterstock

The post Three Forces That Shaped the Drone Industry in 2018 appeared first on Drone Analyst.

An all-new way to explore job sites and generate aerial insights over time with DroneDeploy.

There is a lot that you can learn about your project by looking at a single drone map. But a single map doesn’t mean as much without context. And when it comes to a changing job site, mine, or field, the most crucial bit of context is time. You can understand so much more about what’s happening today if you know what happened yesterday — and what’s supposed to happen tomorrow to stay on track.

Meet Projects: an entirely new DroneDeploy interface designed to help you better manage drone data over time. From flight to insights, it’s now easier to capture, explore, and share drone data across your organization.

Extract More Valuable Insights Over Time

With the new Project UI, it’s easier than ever to organize your drone data and analyze changes over time. Projects automatically group drone data by location. This feature makes it easier to plan flights, process and explore maps, and most importantly, generate insights as time goes on. This reduces the complexity of comparing changes throughout the project lifecycle — such as stockpile volumes or building progress — saving teams time in the field and the office.

Unlock Greater Consistency on Every Site with Flight Templates

Our new flight templates make it simple to capture consistent data across each job site, at any stage of your project. Create custom flight templates that can be applied to any mission, eliminating the need to copy old flight plans each time you want to fly. These templates can be stored and used by any member across your job sites, bringing greater consistency and repeatability to your drone program as you scale operations.

Keep Your Entire Team Up to Speed with Improved Sharing

Data isn’t powerful unless you can share it easily. And you shouldn’t have to share a map or report at every stage of a project — it’s not efficient. This is why we’ve changed the way you can communicate progress with teams. Share an individual project with a collaborator once and each time you generate a new map or report, they will be notified. You can also set permissions, including editing or viewing capabilities. It’s that simple. With Projects, your team never misses a beat.

Get Unlimited Organizational Access with Site-Based Licenses

For many customers, it just doesn’t make sense to purchase dozens of DroneDeploy seat licenses. We’ve heard your feedback, and now we’re excited to announce a new site-based pricing option. Purchase a site-based license for your project to provide anyone at your organization with access to DroneDeploy for the entirety of the project. Think of it as an unlimited pass to aerial insights for an entire team. Interested in purchasing a site-based license? Contact a member of our team.

Try Projects Today

Excited about Projects? Us too. The good news is that this new interface is generally available to every DroneDeploy customer starting today. Sign in to your DroneDeploy account and give it a spin. We know you’ll be impressed. If you’re not a DroneDeploy customer, don’t worry. Sign up for a 14-day free trial and try Projects out for yourself.

Make sure you stay tuned for future updates to the new Projects interface. We’ve got some exciting new features right around the corner.

Where to Learn More

Introducing Projects was originally published in DroneDeploy’s Blog on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.