As the drone industry matures, we’re quickly moving towards an era of automation. But what does that look like in practice?

Drone adoption is skyrocketing. UAVs have made their way into the daily workflows across the world’s largest industries. As builders, growers, engineers, and miners scale their drone operations, the amount of drone data collected will only continue to grow.

So, how will drone technology adapt to manage the influx of data generated by millions of drones in the years to come? And how will DroneDeploy help companies digest massive amounts of aerial information collected on job sites every day?

The answer is automation.

Learn more about the future of commercial drones and automation in our recent webinar.

A New Era of Automation is Coming

The commercial drone industry is on the cusp of a new era of automation. While automated drone flight is nothing new, measuring and analyzing aerial data is still very much a manual process. As our industry matures — and large enterprises scale their drone operations — automation will be necessary to ensure consistent and accurate results. The only way ten different people on ten different job sites will be able to generate consistent data is through automated flight, measurement, and reporting.


The industry is maturing. We’re currently seeing large companies scale operations and deploy fleets of drones at the national and international level.

DroneDeploy has been here since the beginning, and we have seen an evolution in the way companies adopt drones. What began as pilot programs and outsourced contracting has quickly moved in-house as companies realized the value drones provide. We’re currently seeing early adopters start to scale their programs to national and international levels. And they need more advanced software solutions to keep up with their growth.

Watch our recent webinar to hear more about the future of drone automation.

What Does it Take to Scale Drone Operations?

The way we see it, scaling operations comes down to three things:

Repeatable Workflows

For any company to grow a drone program, they must be able to produce a repeatable workflow that is easy for workers to integrate into their day-to-day operations. If a workflow can’t isn’t easily replicated, it’s harder to train. And it surely can’t scale.

Reliable Hardware and Software

Any scalable solution has to be reliable. Companies need solutions they can trust every time to work and deliver the insights they rely on to make smarter business decisions. That is why reliability is a tenant of any widely adopted technology. Drones are no different.


To ensure consistent results, we’re using computer vision and machine learning to automate measurement and analysis with tools like Roof Report.

Consistent Results

Consistency is necessary if a company is to implement a drone solution at scale. And unfortunately, manual measurement and analyses are not only time-consuming but also prone to error. Machines can help. Which is why automation will rely on algorithms and deep learning to drive consistent, accurate results every time. We’re already putting this into practice with Roof Reports.

Machine Learning, Computer Vision, and Artificial Intelligence Lead the Way

The key to scaling is automation. But how do you automate the analysis of aerial data? This is where machine learning and artificial intelligence come in. We can teach machines to detect patterns and objects, make accurate measurements, and transform large data sets into digestible reports.

There has been a lot of talk about these technologies in the commercial drone industry, with little action. Why is that? Well, as a new industry we’re just getting started. And to deliver true AI-assisted solutions to automate workflows you need data, lots of it. That’s why DroneDeploy is poised to provide the best solutions in the industry. We’ve built the largest drone dataset in the world, consisting of more than 30 million acres worth of data collected in 180 countries across 400,000 job sites.

Now we’re putting that data to work to build industry-leading machine learning solutions to solve real-world challenges companies face as they put drones to work in the field every day.

Learn the practical applications of machine learning and computer vision in drone software by watching our recent webinar.

Looking Ahead: What’s in Store for DroneDeploy’s Customers

Our team has been working hard over the last year building a proprietary photogrammetry engine to solve the industries toughest problems. The work is already paying off. We’ve cut processing times and now stitch more than 99% of maps processed on our platform — even in challenging environments like late-season crop fields or dense urban areas. But this is just the beginning.

Now we’re starting to flex our machine learning muscle, and some exciting new releases are on the horizon. Here’s a look at some of the ways we’re streamlining workflows to make drone insights more accessible, and opening the door for true automation.

Real-time Analysis and Decision Making

Earlier this year we released Live Map. Despite being launched just 3 months ago, more than 10% of all maps made are real-time Live Maps. On the heels of this powerful new real-time mapping tool, we just expanded it’s capabilities with Thermal Live Map. The future of our industry is real-time. There’s no reason you should have to wait for aerial insights. Moving forward, we’ll continue to improve the features and enhance the functionality of Live Map.


Thermal Live Map uses the latest advancements in edge computing to generate thermal drone maps locally on iOS devices as a DJI drone flies.

Machine Learning and AI-Driven Software

As we said before, automation is key to scaling operations. So we’re building tools to automate workflows. We’re starting in three primary areas: Flight, Accuracy, Measurements, and Counting.


Using our massive drone database, we are teaching machines to identify and measure objects automatically. Soon, measuring stockpiles will be as simple as clicking a button.

In the coming months, we’ll be releasing entirely autonomous workflows for measuring buildings and stockpiles, detecting objects and structures, and improving flight planning to collect high-quality data with the push of a button.


With 100 million images worth of drone data, we’re making it simple to automatically count objects like cars, trees, and houses in seconds.

Completely Autonomous Operations

While we’re not there yet, we’re moving to a world where drones will operate entirely on their own. When regulations catch up with technology and the industry is ready to embrace truly autonomous drones without human intervention, we’ll be here ready to meet the demand head on.

We’re excited about the future of our industry and the challenges we’re going to solve for our customers. And we hope you are too. It’s hard to believe we’re only beginning to see what’s possible with drone technology. Just like the flying robots we all know and love, there is only one direction we can go from here: up.

Where to Learn More

  • Watch our recent webinar Drones in the Age of Automation to hear our vision for the future of automation straight from DroneDeploy co-founders Jono Millin and Nicholas Pilkington.
  • Read our 2018 Industry Trends Report to see the state of the drone industry and gain insights from 30 million acres of drone data collected across 180 countries.
  • Download our 2018 Drone Industry Predictions to get a better idea of where the industry is going in 2018.

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

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