Administer hundreds of users and keep your team connected with one-click management and collaboration tools

The ability to quickly process, manage, and share drone data anywhere — on any device — is one of the key benefits to using a cloud platform like DroneDeploy.

We’re willing to bet you’re not the only one who will use drone data in your company. That’s why we’ve made it simple to share the aerial data you collect, process, and analyze with DroneDeploy.

Today we’re going to look at the newest tools available on the DroneDeploy platform and discuss how you put them to use for better collaboration with the pilots, analysts, and decision makers on your team.

DroneDeploy’s New Admin Panel Simplifies Team Management


DroneDeploy’s Admin Panel makes team management simple

As more people become involved in your drone operation and generate more data, managing those people becomes a bigger challenge. It can be tough to keep track of your pilots—and the mapping data they create.

Large organizations need to keep track of the data they are generating, as well as safety issues and data breaches. That’s why we created our new Admin Panel.

Manage Security Settings

Using the Admin Panel, you can add and remove users from your account, manage permissions, and require Single Sign On (SSO) to keep your data secure. Who’s authorized to fly? Who should have edit access or view-only access? This new tool makes it easy to assign permissions, so you can be sure your data is safe, and shared with the right people.

Keep Track of Important Account Activity

Our new tool makes it simple to keep track of any activity that takes place on your account. Who’s flying? When did they collect data? Who’s uploading and analyzing that data? Now you have all the answers right at your fingertips. You’re able to see when new data is created, or deleted.

Maintain Visibility Across Your Organization

What good is data if you can’t access it quickly? The Admin panel gives you instant visibility into your company’s mapping data. It’s never been easier to quickly scan all of your flight plans and maps — and see who has access to the data.

These rollouts make it easy to track hundreds of pilots and collaborators at a glance — seeing where they have flown, the routes they have mapped, and the data they have gathered and analyzed. Check out the Admin Panel in action below.

https://medium.com/media/e31f43aa70e7bf0ade637d43d06763db/href

The Admin Panel becomes available for all DroneDeploy Business and Enterprise customers starting the week of November 6th, 2017.

Keep Your Team Organized with Folders

You no longer need to scroll through hundreds of maps to find the one you’re looking for — instead you can sort them into folders for easy navigation. Create a folder, and add maps to it. It’s that simple.

Not only do folders make it easier to navigate maps and stay organized, but they also make sharing projects and plans easier.

Let’s say you have a construction site that you’re mapping multiple times a week. You probably want to share those maps with your team or client, right?.

Now you can create a folder for that site and share it with the project team. Then each map made made of that site is housed in the folder. Once you do this, the whole team automatically gets access—without the need to individually share each map with your team. This saves time and makes collaboration simple across projects.

Folders can also be used to organize your workflows more effectively. If you work in insurance, you’re likely flying a different site for each claim. And organizing by workflow makes the most sense. Maybe you would have a folder for the stage where the inspector plans the flight — then your drone program coordinator might review it — before delegating it to pilots, QA, or other team members.

Check out a short demo of folders below.

https://medium.com/media/1575255dcaf5885d7dd22d6f9e77c0f5/href

Folders are now available to all DroneDeploy customers.

Share Maps, Models, and Annotations Externally with One-Click Public Sharing

In addition to folders, we’ve also made it easy to share individual maps with just a single click.

Now you can share a complete view-only map with a client, external partner, or someone else who does not have a DroneDeploy account. Simply click the “Share” button, copy the link, and share it with whomever you choose.

Before, a client that clicked a link to view a shared map would see only the specific map layer shared with them. To see the complete map, the client would need to create and login to a DroneDeploy account.

Now sharing a map via link will give the viewer complete view-only access to the map, including the ability to:

  • See the satellite base layer
  • Explore all layers of the map, including the 2D orthomosaic, 3D model, elevation map, and plant health
  • View any annotations or measurements on the map
  • View and toggle any overlays attached to the map
  • View and export any existing exports that the map owner has already generated

Did you know that you can include your company’s logo on any map you share with a client? Check out our support center to learn more about this and other sharing options or give us feedback on the forum.

Public sharing is now available to all DroneDeploy customers.

Where to Learn More

Read more about some of our recent product updates and releases including:

Have questions about any of the latest updates, features, and capabilities?
Get in touch with our team for more answers.

Start Using 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.



Manage and Share Drone Data Across Teams with DroneDeploy’s Collaboration and Admin Tools was originally published in DroneDeploy’s Blog on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


The latest software updates, features, and partnerships bring drone mapping to small and large companies alike

2017 has been a banner year for commercial drone adoption. The FAA certified over 60,000 commercial drone pilots in the first year of its Part 107 Rule, enabling commercial operations for service providers and large organizations alike.

At DroneDeploy, we are seeing major companies fly fleets of drones to increase productivity, improve safety, and deliver significant ROI. This expansion of operations poses new challenges for hardware and software providers, requiring increasing scale, sophisticated controls, fleet management, and compliance tools.


Over the last year, DroneDeploy has seen significant growth in enterprise drone adoption.

That’s why we’re excited to announce major updates to our enterprise solution — allowing companies of all sizes to scale their drone operations and gain access to valuable drone data faster than ever before.

“More and more companies are moving past early drone technology adoption to roll out larger, enterprise deployments — and their software platform needs to expand with them.” — Mike Winn, CEO of DroneDeploy

Manage Large Teams, Workflows, and Operations with DroneDeploy

Because large organizations need to keep track of the data they are generating, as well as safety issues and data breaches, DroneDeploy now offers an Admin Panel to simplify team and data management.


DroneDeploy’s new admin panel makes it simple to manage teams, set permissions, and track user activity.

We’re also excited to provide SAML based Single Sign On, user roles (administrators, view only, etc.), an audit trail view to track exactly where drones have gone, and folders to group related maps and projects.

These rollouts make it easy to track hundreds of pilots and collaborators at a glance — seeing where they have flown, the routes they have mapped, and the data they have gathered and analyzed.

“We’re passionate about providing these team-oriented features to all our customers. Drones are transforming workflows, and every company deserves software to help them make smarter decisions with aerial data.” — Mike Winn, CEO of DroneDeploy

New Industry Partnerships Bring Best-In-Class Solutions to the Enterprise

Setting up a drone program and taking it to scale can be complicated. Selecting the right hardware and software is just the start. Training, insurance, and compliance can prove to be a challenge for a company of any size.

That’s why we’ve partnered with industry leaders to provide a best-in-class solution to support drone service providers, multinational corporations, and everyone in between.


DroneDeploy has partnered with some of the best in the industry to provide a complete enterprise solution.

Together with our partners, we’re providing customers with a broad and integrated technology stack to power drone operations, including: software, hardware, insurance and training. It encompasses all the tools companies need to launch and scale their drone operations.

Training

Our partnership with DARTdrones offers companies enterprise-class training from the world’s leading drone instructors. DroneDeploy customers now have access to in-person team trainings to cover the FAA Part 107 Knowledge Exam, flight with DJI drones, and aerial mapping and modeling with the DroneDeploy platform.

Hardware

Support for the Latest Drone Platforms


DroneDeploy now supports DJI’s Matrice 200 Series.

We’ve long been partnered with DJI, but we’re excited to announce that we’ve recently expanded our partnership with support for the DJI Matrice 200 series. With the Matrice 200 series, you can now make drone maps in even the harshest environments.

“These expanded features and collaborations showcase their commitment to helping companies of all sizes utilize the power of DJI technology in today’s rapidly expanding commercial drone industry.” — Jan Gasparic, Head of Enterprise Partnerships at DJI

Making Survey-Grade Maps More Accessible

Creating accurate maps is a requirement for industries such as construction, surveying, mining, and insurance. That’s why we’ve partnered with GeoCue. With GeoCue’s Loki direct geopositioning system, customers can create highly accurate drone maps in record time, reducing or eliminating the need for ground control points or traditional surveying.

Insurance

We’re partnering with Droneinsurance.com to offer comprehensive insurance to our customers. More details on the partnership will be announced soon.

Putting the Power of Enterprise Software in the Hands of Everyone

These updates aren’t just for our enterprise customers — they’re available to all drone mapping professionals or organizations seeking drone capabilities regardless of size. Our latest updates put the power of enterprise-grade software in the hands of everyone — from small organizations just getting started to international teams scaling operations.

Drones are already increasing the efficiency of companies across industries by five-fold, and soon there will be drones on every job site. Our mission is to provide the technology and partnerships to make it happen.

Where to Learn More

  • Over the next few weeks, we’ll be exploring these new features and partnerships in greater detail. Stay tuned to our website and blog to learn more.
  • Read our recent case study to learn how our SunPower is using DroneDeploy to manage an international team of drone pilots.
  • Learn how McCarthy Building companies expanded an in-house UAV program from one drone to twenty in less than a year in this post.
  • Have questions? Contact our team to learn more about our latest enterprise update.

Start Using 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.



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


Monitor, Measure, and Communicate with Drone Maps and 3D Models

Keeping tabs on a construction project is no small task. Every job has many moving parts. From tracking progress to managing subcontractors, communicating across teams can be challenging — no matter the size of your organization. The good news is, by spending less than an hour each week mapping your jobsite with drones, you’ll gain an entire toolkit to help you and your team work more efficiently, make more informed decisions, and communicate with ease.

Drone maps and models not only provide an aerial view of your project, but each map includes a rich set of data that can be used to further measure and analyze just about anything on a site.

Here are three ways you can improve communication on your jobsite with the use of drones and aerial maps.

1) Project Monitoring and Site Inspection

60% of DroneDeploy customers make maps weekly. This regular, overhead view is invaluable when it comes to tracking progress and inspecting for safety issues on construction projects.

As Matthew Forster, Project Engineer for Choate Construction, points out, an aerial view gives his team a different perspective, helping them catch issues they might not notice at ground level.

“Drone maps give my team a bird’s eye view of the site, which looks a lot different than being on the ground. It gives them a full picture.” — Matthew Forster, Project Engineer for Choate Construction

Monitor More Efficiently

Although nothing replaces boots on the ground, weekly drone maps can significantly reduce the amount of time you spend walking an entire site for the purposes of inspection and monitoring. If an issue stands out on the drone map, and warrants closer inspection, DroneDeploy’s built-in annotation tools allow you to mark the exact location of the issue and make shareable notes for efficient follow up.


Inspect the site from above and make annotations for follow up or closer inspection.

Regular mapping flights have the added bonus of creating a complete, visual record of a site’s progress, which many project managers and site engineers find invaluable when it comes to exploring trends over time.


See a site’s progress from start to finish in this time-lapse. Learn more by reading the full case study.

Catch Conflicts Sooner

For more advanced oversight, you can import and overlay site plans right in the DroneDeploy interface, or export your maps into industry software like BIM, GIS and CAD. You can easily export your data in the format you need, including TIFF, KML, SHP, DXF, LAS, OBJ and XYZ, or use open APIs to sync your data with everyday tools.


Overlay design plans to manage large projects from design to completion.

Contract Project Manager Nick Johnson of Tilt Rock of Texas does this to help him manage large, custom home projects. Homeowners make frequent changes to house footprints, models, and orientation, so Nick overlays drone maps with utility, wastewater, and communications plans to help him can catch conflicts with services before they actually happen and redirect them at minimal cost.

Aerial imagery identifies conflicts I wouldn’t normally see from the ground level. Now, I find out about conflicts in a matter of days, instead of months.”- Nick Johnson, Project Manager, Tilt Rock of Texas

2) Take Volume and Area Measurements, Estimate Stockpiles, and Monitor Earthwork

Every location on a drone map is geotagged, so you can take basic measurements almost instantly, from any device. Many teams use standard drone maps, combined with DroneDeploy’s built-in tools, to take basic area and volume measurements and estimate stockpiles for on-the-go decision making.


Instantly calculate area, cut, fill, and volume of a stockpile on your site.

For situations that require centimeter-level accuracy, ground control points (GCPs) can be added to a map. These marked targets help mapping software accurately position your map in relation to the real world and afford the accuracy needed to make precise volumetric and linear measurements. Learn more about GCPs here.

“I can tell how many square feet of roof we’ve put down, how much square footage of concrete is left to pour. If we’re trying to figure out truck access, we can measure the width of a road or gate or how much room we need to clear out for material to make the site clean and organized.” — Ryan Moret, Field Solutions Manager, McCarthy Building Companies

Make On-the-Ground Decisions Quickly

Measurement tools can be used to help your team make more informed decisions about a whole host of everyday site issues. The staff at McCarthy Building Companies uses DroneDeploy to assess everything from the volume of a topsoil stockpile, to the width of a road for truck clearance. As Field Services Manager Ryan Moret puts it, “For what we’re doing on a commercial site, the measurement tools are killer.”

Reduce Downtime by Monitoring Contracted Work in Real Time

Many construction professionals also use drone-generated measurements to review the work of site contractors. With quick access to this type of information, a site manager can easily hold a contractor accountable, and save downtime by requesting changes to work before the contractor leaves the jobsite.

During work on a 61-acre hospital construction site, the VDC team at Brasfield & Gorrie used drone-generated elevation data to monitor the site grade on contracted earthwork, saving days compared to on-the-ground data collection methods.

3) Share Insights, Align Teams and Inform Stakeholders

Drones make collaboration and information sharing, both internally and externally, easier than ever before. DroneDeploy’s platform is cloud based, so it’s easy to share annotated maps between team members, or keep external stakeholders up-to-speed on the progress of a project.

In contractor meetings, having a clear display of any current site issues is a powerful communication tool. Likewise, having an up-to-date drone map helps distribute information efficiently, even among large teams. Streamline the decision-making process by referencing a drone map any time changes need to be made to a project.

“If I need a contractor to be aware of a design change before he lays pipe, I simply walk over to him with my tablet, blow up a particular section of overlaid plans and show him exactly what he needs to know. I have it all in a PDF, so I can pencil in the new route of the pipe right there in front of him and then send the information over to the engineers. This cuts out weeks of back and forth and boils it all down to less than an hour.” Nick Johnson, Contract Project Manager, Tilt Rock of Texas

The McCarthy Map Wall

McCarthy Building Companies uses drones in many high-tech ways, but at the end of the day, “paper is still the common denominator for jobsites,” says Field Solutions Manager Ryan Moret.


McCarthy Building Companies’ Drone Map wall improves internal communication across teams with aerial maps to document site progress over time.

On every McCarthy site, the wall of the job trailer is covered with weekly drone maps posted in sequence, giving anyone who walks into the room a clear picture of the project’s progress over time, as well as a snapshot of any current issues on the site.

The trades love it, being able to walk up to the wall and see nine weeks of construction photos. They pull these up in every sub meeting, every owner meeting. We have data from that week to show contractors, ‘Hey, the site’s a mess, you guys need to go clean it up.’ You can see rebar spread out all over the place, so there’s no arguing. They see it for what it’s worth.” — Ryan Moret, of McCarthy Building Companies’ drone map wall

Getting Started with Drones on Your Jobsite

Like what you see? Have more questions about getting started with drones on your jobsite? Learn more by downloading our free guide to drones in construction. Read the eBook to get a comprehensive look at how you can put drones to work, create instant ROI, and set up a drone program at your company.


Read our free guide to drones in construction.

Where to Learn More

  • If you’d like to learn more about how drones can make a difference on your construction project, watch our Drones in Construction webinar, Part 1 and Part 2, and Part 3.
  • Learn more about scaling your construction drone program in our recent post featuring McCarthy Construction.
  • Looking for an all-inclusive construction mapping package? DroneDeploy recently partnered with DJI to develop a turnkey drone mapping solution for the construction industry.
  • Learn more about comparing design plans and drone maps with our new overlay tool.
  • Find out how drones are improving safety on commercial jobsites in this post.
  • Once you’re ready to get started, our construction onboarding is a great place to begin.

Start Using 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.



3 Ways to Improve Communication on Your Jobsite with Drones was originally published in DroneDeploy’s Blog on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


The drone industry is quickly becoming a crowded marketplace. So far, more than 60,000 pilots have been certified by the FAA to fly drones commercially — and that number is expected to increase 7X over the next 5 years. As more drone service businesses emerge, you’ll need to find a way to stand out from the crowd to be successful.

To do this, you have to be good at selling drones and the benefits they can deliver your clients. It might also require stepping out of your comfort zone and into new industries to provide mapping services.

A recent report from Skylogic Research suggests that the agriculture, inspection, construction, and surveying industries are a good place to start. These industries are among the most likely to outsource drone services to contractors. If you’re not familiar with these industries, it can be hard to get your foot in the door.


Source: 2017 Drone Market Report: Opportunities and challenges in key market segments, courtesy Skylogic Research

So how do you pitch mapping services to these companies? It’s one thing to read all of the information yourself and understand the business value your services bring to the table, but it’s an entirely different challenge to explain that value in a 3–5 minute pitch.

As a company that has spoken to thousands of businesses around the world, we have found what resonates with industry buyers that are skeptical about the value drones provide. And we’re happy to share some of the lessons we’ve learned along the way.

To make things easier, we’ve put together some industry applications and talking points to help build the perfect pitch deck to sell your services in the fast-paced world of drones for hire.

Market #1: Agriculture

In agriculture, it’s all about understanding what’s happening in the field, in order to increase yield and improve efficiency. Mapping with DroneDeploy gives growers and agronomists detailed insights about crops that would not be noticeable on foot or by traditional land-based methods.

Applications and Talking points

How does the agriculture industry apply drones to everyday workflows?

  • Crop scouting. Using drones is a much quicker, simpler way of scouting crops to find irregularities and issues, so that you can reduce variability and solve problems faster.
  • Soil mapping: Identify crop variation and damage across an entire field in a matter of hours.
  • Irrigation optimization: Drone imagery helps identify irregularities in irrigation based on vegetative cover and other indicators that you can only see from overhead, so you can make adjustments and achieve irrigation uniformity.
  • Drainage repair: Fix drainage issues so that water is consistent across the crop.
  • Yield optimization: Make the right crop adjustments faster with instant data and detailed mapping.
  • Yield projections: Make accurate projections based on detailed, high-resolution mapping.
  • Nitrogen application: More easily see nitrogen deficiencies in your crops.
  • Emergence/Stand count: Determine if you need to replant in any areas.
  • Equipment malfunction detection: Catch equipment issues that result in uneven seeding, pesticides distribution or replanting or gaps in plants.
  • Pest issues: Determine if any areas are having pest issues, and assess the effectiveness of pest control strategies.

Market #2: Construction

The construction industry is complex. Construction pros need technology that won’t add to the complexity of a project, but instead help to simplify it. Drone maps and models are a cost-effective, user-friendly way to help achieve this goal.

Speed is also essential to construction projects. Contractors are constantly working against timelines, and they need to have access to real-time insights to make smart decisions. Drone maps make it easier and more efficient to manage work as it is happens, and monitor site progress overtime.

Applications and Talking points

How does the construction industry apply drones to their businesses?

  • Management oversight: Keep real-time tabs on projects with regularly updated overhead maps. For in-depth analysis, zero in on key areas, often with enough resolution to see individual studs.
  • Site progress: Track progress against 3D models and aerial views. How many floors have been built in the past week? Are the builders following the plan? Are we on track to complete the project by the deadline?
  • Improved communication: Share maps and models with internal and external stakeholders for streamlined communications. Keep everyone in the office up-to-date and informed — even if you’re still on site.
  • Site planning & surveying: Instead of hiring a survey team to survey a greenfield site, you can hire a drone business to perform the same job faster, with as much accuracy, and at a lower price point. In some cases, this information is even more accurate because drone-generated point clouds gather millions of points compared to the hundreds gathered in a ground-based survey.
  • Stockpile measurement: Instantly measure stockpile volumes so you can make on-the-spot decisions about your materials needs.
  • Safety improvements: Identify safety concerns in real time, so your team can address them quickly. Reduce the time employees and contractors spend on roofs, steep slopes, and other dangerous areas.
  • Virtual design and construction: Export drone-generated point clouds into 3D design software for powerful insights. Ensure site progress is in step with original design plans.

Market #3: Inspection and Insurance


Image Courtesy of The Sequel Group

As a building or insurance inspector, you can use drones to inspect sites and infrastructure more efficiently and in a safer manner.

Building inspectors: Use drones to identify issues on roofs, building exteriors, and elevated towers without the need to spend hours walking or climbing a site. Collect better data, save valuable man hours, and reduce the need to send contractors into unsafe conditions.

Insurance inspectors: Use drone data as a way to streamline inspection claims by quickly and comprehensively assessing damage to property, homes, and commercial real estate.

Agriculture insurance: In the case of agricultural insurance, gather a complete picture of an entire field so that you can make the most accurate damage assessment.

Applications and Talking points

What role do drones play in the commercial inspection industry?

  • Improve safety: Perform remote inspections to identify problem areas that need further attention. Reduce the amount of time crews spend on roofs, elevated towers, and other dangerous areas.
  • Thermal imaging: Gather accurate thermal imagery to identify structural issues and remotely identify problem areas.
  • Enable complex simulations: Drone-generated 3D models aid with forensic inspections by providing a cost-effective way to reconstruct incidents.

Market #4: Surveying

Drones are quickly becoming an integral part of every surveyor’s toolkit. Survey teams see huge time savings and decreased costs thanks to UAV technology. In some cases, sites can be surveyed 20x faster than they would through traditional ground methods. Not only do drones increase efficiency, but for many surveyors drones can be a safer choice too.

Applications and Talking points

How can drones help surveyors?

  • Create topographic maps: Use drone data to save time and lower costs while creating accurate topographic maps.
  • Produce survey-grade maps: When paired with powerful drone mapping software, and ground control points, drones can produce survey-grade maps and accurate 3D models in hours, as opposed to days.
  • Improve safety: Reduce the amount of time crews spend walking sites or navigating dangerous areas.
  • Lower costs: Lower costs for yourself and your clients by performing surveys in a fraction of the time compared to traditional ground methods.
  • Integrate with industry software for additional analysis: Drone maps and models can be easily imported into most industry software. As a surveyor, you can provide your clients with additional information that they may not otherwise have, like 3D models that can be used for inspection and compliance.

Market #5: Mining & Aggregates

The mining industry is highly-regulated, technical, and potentially dangerous. Overall, the industry faces tough market conditions and operators are constantly working against skill shortages, labor unrest, cost inflation, reserves exhaustion, safety concerns, public image challenges, and government revenue expectations. Operational efficiency and cost is crucial; And safety is paramount.

Drones help mine sites improve efficiency, lower costs, and increase safety by gathering powerful aerial data.

Applications and Talking points

How do drones fit into the mining and aggregates industries?

  • Site surveying: Surveying a potential mine site is faster, safer, and more cost-effective using drone technology.
  • Information sharing: Easily share maps and site information between on-site supervisors, explosive technicians, and employees in the lab.
  • Material/aggregate volume analysis: More accurately determine material volumes that can be extracted, or calculate material volume on site.
  • Fragmentation analysis: Fly over blast sites to photograph the rock and ensure that the blast was done correctly. Flying overhead to plan a future blast.
  • Equipment and materials tracking: Keep track of the location of equipment and the amount of materials remaining.
  • Terrace/ramp evaluation: Determine how much to add or remove for efficient operations.
  • Bench evaluation: Verify the face of the bench to understand structural integrity. Maintain safety by ensuring equipment is protected from falling over the side.
  • Regulatory and environmental compliance: Easily survey your site to ensure environmental compliance (e.g., measure the elevation variation to protect against material and/or chemical runoff)
  • Improved safety: Measure materials with drones instead of dangerous and labor-intensive manual methods.

It’s Time to Fine-Tune Your Pitch Deck

So, what’s next? We recommend you get to work by updating your pitch deck, outreach emails, or other sales materials with some of our talking points. If you aren’t speaking the right language to your prospects, you’re bound to have a hard time conveying the value your drone services can bring to their business.

If you ask any salesperson, they will tell you that a good pitch can make or break an opportunity. Get started by finessing your approach. Practice your pitch. And go into your next call, presentation, or meeting with the confidence—and good talking points—to close the deal.

Where to Learn More


Read More in DroneDeploy’s Guide to Starting a Commercial Drone Business

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.



Pitch Perfect: Creating the Ultimate Sales Pitch to Sell Your Drone Mapping Services was originally published in DroneDeploy’s Blog on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


Monitor, Measure, and Communicate with Drones in Construction

By now, there’s no denying it: drones have made their way into the construction industry. And they are here to stay.

Today’s drones pack a big punch, helping project managers, site engineers, and virtual design + construction (VDC) teams build instant ROI with jobsite-ready maps and models. Time and again, drones save money, reduce downtime, and improve safety on construction projects.

But if you are like many construction professionals, you probably have a few questions about implementing drones on your own jobsite. Sure, you’ve heard all the hype, but are they really worth the effort? Exactly what types of results will drones deliver? And most importantly, are they safe?

We’ve got some good news: We put together a new eBook, and we think you’re gonna like it. It digs into some of the most common questions we get from construction pros and highlights the fastest ways to get value from drones on the jobsite.

If you’ve been thinking about implementing drones, then this eBook is for you. Head on over to our resources page and download it today.

In our latest industry resource, we explore how construction teams use drones to generate collaborative maps and 3D models, leverage data from high-resolution point clouds, and even create accurate contour maps. We also give examples of how industry leaders like Brasfield & Gorrie, Choate Construction, and McCarthy Building Companies handle safety, implementation, and scale in their drone programs.

Drones are quickly becoming a must-have tool on any jobsite. Whether your team already has a drone, or you’re just beginning to consider the idea, we’re confident you’ll come away with a better understanding of how drones can help you streamline and improve your daily workflows, save time, and create more informed, collaborative teams.

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.



Build Instant ROI with Jobsite-Ready Drone Maps and Models was originally published in DroneDeploy’s Blog on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


With the right tools, you can improve your efficiency, expand your services, and help your business succeed. But choosing the right solutions to power your business is never easy. As a drone service provider (DSP), the many hardware and software choices on the market present an even bigger challenge.

So how do you know which solutions to consider, and who you can trust to get the job done when your company’s success is on the line?

We’ve done some legwork to make it a bit easier to decide. Whether you’re a new DSP just getting started, or a veteran to the industry, here are some of the top drone mapping tools we recommend.

Drone Hardware

Multi-rotor or fixed wing aircraft? Mavic or Phantom 4 Pro? Visible spectrum (RGB) or multispectral camera?

Deciding which drone hardware to invest in can be daunting. New drone businesses often ask us for recommendations, so we created a Drone Buyer’s Guide to help make sense of it all. We hope the information helps you navigate the different options available on the market and decide which drone model is the right choice for your business. Download the free guide today.


Read the 2017 Drone Buyer’s Guide to get tips on choosing a mapping drone, and side-by-side comparisons of top drone models available today.

Drone Mapping Tools

As the drone services ecosphere grows, so does the number of software tools available to help UAV businesses succeed. In addition to DroneDeploy, here are some other helpful tools to enhance your mapping services.

AirMap

Airmap charts up-to-date airspace restrictions and advisories based on your flight area. Millions of drone users and hundreds of partners rely on AirMap’s data and services for safe and efficient drone flight. No drone service provider should leave home without it.

Skyward

Skyward is an innovative drone management platform that helps connect pilot networks, track equipment, and manage processes. Check airspace, coordinate with your flight crew, and minimize risk with Skyward’s platform.

SkyVector

Skyvector is another leading online resource for worldwide aeronautical charts. Check your airspace and keep up to date with notices and flight alerts in your area.

DarkSky

This app provides hyperlocal weather information and up-to-the-minute forecasts, so you can plan for the conditions at your exact flight location. You don’t want to get caught in a weather event that puts you or your business at risk.

The Best Apps to Power Your Business

The DroneDeploy App Market enables your business to unleash the full power of aerial data with enterprise software integrations and specialized tools built right within the DroneDeploy user interface.

There are over 50 great apps available on the market. Here are a few that you’ll find especially helpful as a drone service provider:

Flyte

The Flyte Lite app creates automated pre-flight checklists for any flight plan, helping pilots identify and address unidentified ground or airspace issues before takeoff.

AirData UAV Sync

Airdata UAV Sync simplifies the process of uploading DroneDeploy log files from the DroneDeploy App to Airdata.com. Discover ‘under the hood’ information and review early signs of problems before you take off again.

Report Solutions

Report Solutions makes it simple to generate a flight summary report using your flight maps. Share reports with your customers and colleagues to provide a valuable post-flight deliverable. Recipients receive an interactive report branded to your company, showcasing your maps and flight details.

DroneLogbook Mission Uploader

This plugin allows you to automatically upload DroneDeploy missions to your DroneLogbook. A flight record is created with location, drone, and battery — based on settings from your inventory.

PDF Annotation Report

This app generates a printable PDF report for a map. The report includes all annotations along with any associated measurements like distance and volume. It also includes a view of the map showing the location of these annotations.

Maptasks

With Maptasks it’s easy to create and import flight plans into DroneDeploy, assign pilot tasks and deadlines, and track progress across your team. You can use Maptasks to improve collaboration and drive client projects to the finish line.

Accuracy Report

This built-in app allows you to view and download an accuracy report of your DroneDeploy map. The report contains a summary of the map details, camera and image information, and processing results. If GCPs were used, the report will also include GCP results.

Where to Learn More

Interested in discovering more tools to simplify your workflow? Explore all the apps available to you on the DroneDeploy App Market.

Trying to get your new drone service business off the ground? Check out our free Guide to Starting a Commercial Drone Business. It’s the ultimate playbook to surviving and thriving in the world of drones for hire.

Need help navigating UAV insurance, commercial drone regulations, or your Part 107 Certification? Read our recent post to learn more.

Not sure where to focus your commercial efforts in this fast-paced industry? Learn more about finding your niche, marketing your services, and finding customers in this blog post.

If you are new to drones, and especially drone mapping, our Zero to Hero video series is a good place to start. Here, you’ll get advice on everything from unboxing your drone, to engaging in advanced flight planning.

For information on obtaining your Part 107 certification, check out commercial helicopter and drone pilot Ian Smith’s post outlining the process.

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.



Tools of the Trade: The Best Hardware, Software and Apps to Power Your Commercial Drone Business was originally published in DroneDeploy’s Blog on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


In a few short weeks, the harvest will draw to a close. Listen carefully, and you’ll soon hear the collective sigh of relief coming from fields and farmhouses everywhere. Time to clean up the combine, service the tractor, and take stock of the past six months.

But wait a minute. Do we see you getting ready to put that drone away for the winter? Not so fast. If you plan to keep your UAV out of commission until next season, you might want to reconsider.

There are still plenty of ways to put your drone to work between now and April. From scouting for weeds to assessing drainage tiles, growers are increasingly using drones as an indispensable, year-round field management tool.

Here are some of the best ways to harness the power of drones all year long.

Assess Irrigation Systems and Drainage Tiles with Drone Maps

Before the ground freezes, chances are you’ll spend time repairing drainage tiles and optimizing irrigation systems. Why not make your work more efficient, and more effective, by firing up the drone first? A bare earth map is a great way to catch drainage and irrigation issues early, before they turn into bigger problems next growing season.


Use drone maps to assess drainage tiles and determine if irrigation systems are functioning correctly

Subsurface drainage tiles

To best view drainage tiles, map your field in the morning after a rain, when the soil is still wet but beginning to dry out. In the RGB imagery above, the red areas are the most dry and the green areas are still relatively wet, signifying that they might not be draining as fast as the rest of the field.

An elevation map is also useful tool here. Although a standard drone map (without the use of ground control points) shouldn’t be used to determine the actual coordinates for laying drainage tiles, it can still help you assess how a field slopes, decide if tile is needed, and make a general plan for the location and number of tiles. If you would like to incorporate ground control points (GCPs) for laying drainage tiles, be sure to read our introduction to GCPs, or sign up for our upcoming webinar to learn more.


An elevation map helps assess the slope of a field, decide if new drainage tile is needed, and make a general plan for the location and number of tiles.

Pivot irrigation systems

To detect potential problem areas with an above-surface irrigation system, an RGB or crop health map is ideal. Because excess water builds below the surface before any issues can be seen above ground, a lot of irrigation issues, like flat or sunken tires, or plugged nozzles, can be spotted early this way.

Use Historical Field Data to Make Smarter Crop Management Decisions

One of the best things about drones is that they allow you to analyze issues in real time, as they happen. But those same drone maps that were a life-saver at the height of the growing season are also invaluable when it comes time for a post-season debrief.

By reviewing side-by-side maps and integrating these with historical field data — such as soil type, soil sample, planting, and yield data — you gain a truly holistic view of your fields. With a greater understanding of what happened, exactly where it happened, and at what point in time, you can make smarter crop management decisions to maximize next year’s yield.


Compare maps over time with DroneDeploy. This series appears in chronological order from left to right showing the same field from Late June through Late July.

Review side-by-side maps for a historical perspective

DroneDeploy automatically organizes and stores your maps by date and geographical location, so it’s easy to track a crop’s progress over time. After the busy harvest, this is a chance to dig a little deeper into problem areas, take a closer look at patterns, and visualize how crop emergence and plant health played out through the entire growing season.


Access maps of the same area flown by date, just click on the top left menu of the DroneDeploy Dashboard.

To access maps of a particular field by date flown, just click on the drop down menu on the top left of your DroneDeploy screen and choose the date you’d like to view.

Integrate drone maps with other field data

If you want to dial down even further, compare your drone maps with other information, like harvest, yield, variety, and spraying maps. All of this is done seamlessly by importing field maps from software like AgLeader SMS or John Deere Operations Center directly into DroneDeploy. Or, if you need to use the built-in tools from another platform, you can also export orthomosaic, plant health, and elevation maps.


Easily export orthomosaic, plant health, and elevation maps to your John Deere Operations Center account. The exported maps will appear in the Field Analyzer Section of your account.

Scan Soil to Detect Pre-Season Issues

As spring arrives and planting approaches, it’s a good idea to map your bare field one last time. A pre-season barren earth map, combined with targeted ground-truthing, can help you understand what pests and weeds have come up as a result of heavy rains or severe weather. And, if any issues do exist, you can use DroneDeploy’s plant health tools to assess how much treatment to order and where to apply it. When it comes time to plant, you’ll come back to the field with a little more confidence in its overall health.


Mapping a bare field in early spring helps catch weeds or other issues that might affect planting.

Prepare for the Coming Months with a Seasonal Flight Plan

Just as the off season is the time to take stock of equipment, maintenance, and staffing needs, it’s also the the time to create a seasonal flight plan. Flying at regular intervals creates a consistent record of what a field looks like over time and gives you more information to work with when it comes time to make those big, mid-season decisions. If you go into the busiest months with a pre-established calendar, you’ll be more likely to stay consistent even when things get busy.

So exactly how often should you fly your fields? This varies depending on your situation, but in general, consider the value of a particular crop and the distance of the field from your headquarters. Strive for flying the most convenient and high-value crops each week, and the less convenient crops biweekly.

Hopefully, we’ve given you a few new ideas to leverage your drone on the farm all year round. However you choose to use your drone this fall and winter, one thing is certain: you’ll return next season a little more prepared, and ready to dive in when it really counts.

Where to Learn More

Buff up your drone skills in time for spring planting, and learn more about using drones in the off season, by watching our agriculture drone clinic series.

If you’re curious about what to expect from drones in the years to come, check out our take on the evolution of UAV technology on the farm and in the field.

The DroneDeploy App Market is full of ag-focused tools to help you analyze your drone data and operate your farm more efficiently.

Download our eBook to learn the basics about NDVI and VARI plant health formulas and become more familiar with your options for putting drones to work in the field during the growing season.

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.



From Pre-Planting to Post-Harvest: Harnessing the Power of Drones Year Round was originally published in DroneDeploy’s Blog on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


Maritime archaeologists use drone maps to survey shallow-water shipwrecks in marine sanctuary

Lake Huron’s Thunder Bay is known as shipwreck alley for a reason. Nearly two hundred ships met their end here, and at least half were never found.

If this sounds like a maritime archaeologist’s dream — it is. But there’s just one problem. It’s difficult, and in some cases impossible, to use traditional underwater survey tools in much of the bay’s shallow, rocky shoreline.

Researchers are now turning to drones and mapping software to locate wrecks in the shallow waters of inaccessible coastlines. Drone-focused nonprofit Oceans Unmanned recently set out to help marine archeologists leverage drone data to find the lost shipwrecks of Thunder Bay.

Oceans Unmanned Helps Researchers Crack the Code on UAV Technology

For those of us who fly drones on a daily basis, it’s easy to forget that UAVs are still a foreign technology to most people. Even maritime archeologists, who often work with complex tools, might not immediately feel comfortable around drones.

That’s where professionals like Matt Pickett and Brian Taggart come in. Through their nonprofit, Oceans Unmanned, the pair helps oceanic researchers and maritime archeologists learn how to leverage drone data in their everyday work.

As retired pilots with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), both men spent the majority of their careers working with scientists and flying research and mapping aircraft for the agency.

“Matt and I have been flying scientists around for twenty-five years, helping them get what they need for their research,” Brian says. “UAVs can be intimidating to researchers. We have the background to understand the science mentality, so we can roll in and help them crack the code.”

When a group of scientists came together to develop technology-centered solutions for locating shipwrecks in Thunder Bay, they called on Oceans Unmanned to lend its expertise. Earlier this year, the organization helped the scientists design a drone-based survey program for the bays’ shallow shorelines.

Drones Offer Alternative for Underwater Survey Along Shallow, Rocky Shorelines

Traditionally, maritime archeologists use underwater survey tools to locate shipwrecks. A sensor is mounted and operated from a manned research vessel, or an autonomous underwater vehicle is equipped with sensors. At Thunder Bay this becomes problematic.

The shallow-water shorelines — under twenty feet deep — house large, rocky reefs, making underwater survey tools impractical and unsafe. Even in sections where the bottom is sandy, these methods are difficult, because research vessels can’t operate in the shallowest depths.


This orthomosaic drone map shows two timbers from a historic shipwreck in Thunder Bay.

Archeologists need a way to locate shallow-water shipwrecks from overhead, but until drones entered the picture, this was difficult. Existing satellite imagery is spotty in the area, and images that do exists are low resolution. Researchers can sometimes detect the presence of an underwater object this way, but they can’t get much other information about it. Collecting images with an airplane is equally problematic due to regional weather patterns, not to mention expensive.

Over a two-week period, Matt and Brian mapped three small sections of the bay’s shoreline, gathering data, refining flight specs, and creating techniques that can be applied by researchers on a larger scale throughout the bay. The goal of this project was to demonstrate how drones can transform the daily work of maritime archeologists, and by all accounts, they did just that.


Geo-tagged maps pinpoint the exact location of shipwrecks, making the job of research divers safer and more expedient.

Launching their drone from a vessel parked in deeper waters, the Oceans Unmanned team was able to survey even the most rocky, inaccessible areas of the shoreline. DroneDeploy’s mapping software took this one step further by turning these drone-generated images into a powerful set of data that can be used to improve safety, reduce costs, and allow scientists to do more with limited research dollars.

“DroneDeploy turns any off-the-shelf drone into a professional mapping and survey tool. It’s the natural choice for our work.” — Brian Taggart, Oceans Unmanned [click-to-tweet]

Researchers can now take initial measurements of wreck debris from directly within DroneDeploy and then export that data into GIS software for further analysis. This doesn’t eliminate the need to send divers down to a site, but it does help prioritize wreckage, so divers only have to be sent to targeted areas. Reducing the time divers spend in the water cuts costs and reduces the chance of diving accidents.

Diving time is further eliminated with geotagged drone maps — giving researchers the precise GPS location of a shipwreck. Divers can now go right to a wreck, instead of spending time searching with only a rough idea of its whereabouts.


Scientists take measurements of shipwreck debris after importing DroneDeploy data into Quick Terrain (QT) Modeler software.

All of this data is made even more powerful by the fact that it can be gathered in real time, as needed. Weather in the bay changes minute-to-minute, and shifting sediments on the ocean floor regularly expose, then re-cover shipwrecks.

Now that Oceans Unmanned has turned drone mapping over to Thunder Bay researchers, those researchers don’t have to weigh the cost of hiring a manned aircraft pilot, or bringing in expensive survey equipment. Maritime archeologists are now empowered to gather the data they need, when they need it. Research needs now drive data collection, instead of the other way around.

Drones for Good: ECO-Drone and DroneDeploy’s FLYlanthropy Program

Matt and Brian recognize that as drones grow in popularity, so do the risks posed to marine resources. They know they are in a unique position to help educate the public about responsible drone use. To further this goal, they developed the ECO-Drone program. Partnering with marine professionals, drone manufacturers, and educational institutions, they are developing a standard set of best practices that minimizes the effects of drones on wildlife and marine environments.

At DroneDeploy, we see an increasing number of mission-driven organizations, like Oceans Unmanned and its ECO-Drone program, taking to the skies for the greater good. Oceans Unmanned recently became one of a growing group of mission driven organizations to join our new FLYlanthropy program.

Member organizations like Oceans Unmanned receive DroneDeploy mapping software free of charge. We want our product to enable organizations that are having a positive impact on the health of the world’s people, habitats, and history — providing them with the data they need to make informed decisions. Because at the end of the day, we believe the sky should be productive and accessible for everyone.

Where to Learn More

Want to keep up with the exciting work being done by Oceans Unmanned? Follow them on Twitter.

If you are a private nonprofit or mission-oriented organization and would like to learn more about joining our FLYlanthropy program, you can do so here.

Interested in hearing how other organizations are using drones for the greater good? You can read about how one research group uses drone maps to create a digital record of endangered archaeological sites. Or learn about a drone service provider in south Texas that helped environmental scientists monitor a nature conservation site.

Have a story about using drones for good that you’d like to share? Join the conversation with us on Twitter.

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.



Drones Seek Out Lost Shipwrecks Below Lake Huron was originally published in DroneDeploy’s Blog on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


Quickly tag ground control points and process maps with DroneDeploy

Many common uses of drone maps such as crop scouting and site documentation don’t require a high degree of accuracy. But accuracy is vital to professionals in the construction, surveying, and aggregates industries.

Project managers must compare site maps over time to detect changes, and architects visualize design plans in building information modeling (BIM) software on top of a drone-generated 3D model of actual site conditions. To effectively compare maps and 3D models to each other, they have to be precise — the data needs to line up perfectly.

“Because we are analyzing quantifiable work related to dollars, we need highly accurate maps,” — Michael Lambert, a Virtual Design and Construction Manager at Chasco Constructors

Processing a drone map with GCPs — ground truth data — solves this problem. GCPs are large visible targets spaced throughout the mapped area with precise known locations typically measured with highly-accurate ground-based GPS equipment. The GCPs and their coordinates are then used to help drone mapping software accurately position your map in relation to the real world around it.


GCPs are typically measured with highly-accurate ground-based GPS equipment. Photo courtesy of Trimble.

A New Way to Achieve Survey-Grade Accuracy

Including GCPs has long been the most complex and time consuming part of processing accurate drone maps. Users would either need to overcome the steep learning curve of traditional GCP processing or pay high per-map fees for manual processing solutions.

Now, instead of waiting hours for initial structure from motion processing, DroneDeploy customers can tie ground control data into a map using a workflow that takes 20 minutes or less with a user interface that is intuitive and largely automated. The workflow also makes accurate map processing in projected coordinate systems accessible to users with limited geographic information systems (GIS) knowledge. Simple prompts help these users understand what they need to do to deliver a map in the right spatial reference system.

“Assisting our users in tying in ground control data will save them time and make the process of generating maps with ground truth simple and faster than ever before. We’re excited to take this first step toward making survey grade accuracy achievable on any map, for any user.” — Dr. Nicholas Pilkinton, co-founder and CTO at DroneDeploy

Easily Upload and Tag Ground Control Points in DroneDeploy


Quickly review and tag GCP targets with DroneDeploy’s self-serve workflow.

The new self-serve GCP workflow in DroneDeploy makes uploading and tagging GCPs simple for any customer — no matter your level of expertise. When uploading images from the mapping flight, just specify the correct spatial reference system and upload a spreadsheet with the GCP coordinates. Then, fifteen minutes later, you can use the self-serve GCP tool to review photos of GCP targets and tag the center in each photo.

“The Self-Serve GCP processing tool allows us to turn around mission data in a much more timely manner” — Michael Lambert, Chasco Constructors

To learn more about the new DroneDeploy self-serve GCP workflow, watch our tutorial video below.

https://medium.com/media/23cfb18d0ce64bc2fa3121787306eb30/href

Self-serve GCP processing is available for $49 per map to customers on the Business plan of DroneDeploy and an unlimited GCP package is available for our Enterprise customers.

Where to Learn More

Learn more about the importance of GCPs and the new self-serve workflow by signing up for our upcoming webinar, Streamline Your Workflow with Automated Ground Control Points.

Need more background on GCPs? Read our two-part blog series on using GCPs:

Curious about drone mapping accuracy with and without the use of GCPs? Read our new whitepaper, Linear Measurement Accuracy of DJI Drone Platforms and Cloud-Based Photogrammetry.

To learn more about processing ground control points, consult our support documentation:

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.



Create Survey-Grade Maps in Minutes with Self-Serve Ground Control Points was originally published in DroneDeploy’s Blog on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


The Evolution of UAV Technology on the Farm and in the Field

Here at DroneDeploy, we usually consider ourselves future-focused, but today we’re dialing the clock back a few years. It’s 2013. “Selfie” is the newest word in the Oxford dictionary, the pope just signed onto Twitter for the first time, and DroneDeploy is a newly launched startup. For the most part, the general public’s knowledge of commercial drones begins and ends with Jeff Bezos’ dreams of UAV-powered package delivery. As for drones in agriculture? At this point, most farmers would say it’s a nonstarter. But all of that is about to change.

Fast forward to August 2017. Today, agriculture is one of the fastest growing markets for the commercial drone industry. Thousands of DroneDeploy users create ag-focused drone maps and models on a regular basis. In just under five years, drones have gone from a toy for gadget junkies to an essential tool in any ag professional’s toolbox. So how did we get here? And what can we expect from drones in agriculture over the next five years?

Read on to learn about the evolution of drones in agriculture, and hear what you can expect from UAVs in the months and years to come.

The Early Days of Drones in Agriculture: High Price Tags and Low Usability

The early challenges of drones in agriculture can be boiled down to two things: cost and usability. For starters, five years ago a fixed wing drone with a high-definition camera, capable of flying midrange distances, cost between $10–30K. The computer hardware and stitching software required to process drone maps cost several thousand more. For all but a handful of major agronomist companies and co-ops, this was a tough price tag to stomach, especially for a technology that had done little to prove its worth to the average farmer.

But aside from the obvious cost barriers, why hadn’t drone technology proven its worth to the agriculture industry back in 2013? For starters, user-friendly mapping solutions like DroneDeploy weren’t yet on the market, so a farmer had to possess a good deal of technical knowledge just to stitch a map of his fields. All of this had to be done locally, as opposed to in the cloud — requiring a powerful desktop pc — and it took upwards of two days just to process a map. When you’re talking about a disease that’s killing your crops, two days might as well be a lifetime.

For those persistent few who pushed through to create drone maps of their fields, the resulting data was not as useful as people initially hoped it would be — growers had been promised big things. To be fair, this wasn’t for lack of trying on the part of the commercial drone industry. But for all intents and purposes, drone technology was in its infancy.

Five years ago, high-resolution sensors like Tetracam were already available and capable of capturing quality data. But the industry was just beginning to figure out what to do with all of that data. In short, the UAV industry needed to figure out how to take a 160-acre map of a cornfield and make it useful for a farmer standing at the edge of that field and worried about the upcoming harvest.

Drones Today: Cloud Computing and Advanced Analytics Bring Real Value to Growers and Agronomists

Over the past several years, advances in technology have made the price of drone hardware far more accessible to the average agriculture professional. Quadcopters are easier to produce, motors are more efficient, and battery life has increased. With DJI leading the way, a farmer can purchase a mapping drone for between one and three-thousand dollars, lowering the barrier of entry and making the risk of investing in drones far more palatable.

Once a farmer does take the plunge and purchase a drone, the mapping process is far more user-friendly than it once was. For starters, household internet speeds have increased considerably, making it possible for much of the world’s computing to move to the cloud. Drone mapping is no exception. Now, instead of gathering data, returning to a desktop computer and going through the laborious process of stitching a map locally, a farmer can take his tablet or smartphone, fly 160-acres on just one battery, and upload the imagery to the cloud for processing once it lands. Mapping software companies like DroneDeploy do the rest and a farmer doesn’t need to have any technical knowledge about photogrammetry to make this happen.

As an industry, we also have a far better idea about what to do with all of this drone data. Although we still have much to learn, companies like Agremo, Aglytix, and Skymatics have developed solutions that count plants, analyze stand counts, and calculate crop damage. Major players like John Deere, Case IH-New Holland (CNH), and Climate Precision have begun to recognize the value this level of analytics brings to the world of agriculture, and have thrown their hats in the ring to create field solutions for the DroneDeploy App Marketplace.

For our part, DroneDeploy users recently reached the milestone of 10-million acres mapped using our software. Our large base of users in the agriculture field consistently challenges us to improve and refine our software and analytics. Some of our most recent ag-related advances include:

  • Improved image stitching that removes 90% of holes in late-season crop maps.
  • Compatibility with Sentera and SLANTRANGE, advanced near-infrared and multispectral sensors designed specifically for agriculture.
  • Fieldscanner: Create real-time maps and use drone data to act quickly against crop threats before the drone even lands.

As an industry, we’ve come a long way over the past five years. But no one will deny that there is still so much to learn about drones and their possibilities for the world of agriculture. So the real question is: where do we go from here?

Looking Ahead: The Future of UAV Technology in Agriculture

There is a reason we’ve made DroneDeploy easy to use, affordable, and compatible on all devices. We want users to be able to collect the most data possible. As we look forward toward the next five years, it’s time to flex the computer vision and machine learning muscle — and put that data to the best use.

“We’re just seeing the beginning of what’s possible with drones. In the near future, I expect drones to be present in almost any industry, operating autonomously on schedules to produce highly accurate data in real time.” — Mike Winn, CEO and co-founder of DroneDeploy

As an industry, we’re working hard to better understand remote sensing and how we can fully integrate machine learning analytics with drone data to deliver insights that are meaningful to farmers. We will undoubtedly see advancements in sensor technology and new information about weed signatures that allow us to better analyze crops and differentiate specific types of weeds and pests.

Looking ahead a little further, we expect Internet of Things (IoT) technology to begin to make itself into the world of UAVs. In the next five to ten years, we hope drone technology can identify specific types of crop stress, complete financial calculations about the feasibility of treatment, and then send that data directly to equipment in the field.

Sound like science fiction? We don’t think so. After all, CNH recently released a fully-autonomous tractor that allows farmers to be far more efficient, only involved directly in the deployment of the machine. In the future, we hope human labor will be taken out of the equation for drones in much the same way. Autonomous, timed deployments and beyond line-of-sight flights are all within the realm of possibility. It may sound like an overstatement now, but we can imagine a day when owning a drone on the farm is no more cutting edge than owning a tractor or a combine. If drone data helps growers and agronomists gain better insights, make more informed decisions, and reduce losses in the field — the real question is: why not?

Where to Learn More

If you haven’t tried our Fieldscanner and it’s ability to create agriculture maps in real time, now might be the day to do it. Learn more about it here.

Our July product release wrap-up has more information about other recent ag-related advances.

Or, if you are a pro looking to advance your skills in crop scouting and field management, our agriculture drone clinic series is a useful tool.

Watch our recent webinar to learn how to use drones for more accurate identification of crop trends over time using multispectral imagery

Want to put your drone to work in the field today? Read our guide to crop scouting with drones.

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.



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