1. Start Small

Cody McLainIf you’re keen on integrating this relatively niche technology into your business’ logistics strategy, my recommendation is to start small. Test the product on short distances (and low premium products) first and get educated about regulations in your area to avoid any potential legal action taken against you for utilizing the technology in would-be protected “no-fly” zones.

– Cody McLainSupportNinja

2. Ask Yourself If You Really Need It

Ismael WrixenCertainly, it is cool. But you need to be thinking about how it makes a difference in your specific business. Product delivery might be one area. Delivering relevant and targeted ads might be another. But if you have no use for it, it’s just an unnecessary expense.

– Ismael WrixenFE International

3. Tout Fast Deliveries

Andy KaruzaNow local businesses can compete with the logistics abilities of large corporations. Customers can, and will, order local because they will get the products they desire more quickly. Drones could allow you the opportunity to market this capability as a unique value proposition, allowing customers to get products faster, rather than waiting for a product to arrive from somewhere further away.

– Andy KaruzaFenSens

4. Put Your Warehouse Near a Hub

Diego OrjuelaDrone deliveries as we imagine it today are far from becoming a reality. Instead, a first approach to drone delivery will be large shipments to a central hub and smaller, local deliveries made by drones. By setting up near freight hubs, you will be the first to benefit from faster, same-day drone deliveries, both procuring items from suppliers such as Amazon as well as shipping to customers.

– Diego OrjuelaCables & Sensors

5. Outsource Drone Management

Ben LeeDrone delivery sounds really sexy, but you have to be cautious – there are real logistical risks that can ruin your investment. Drone delivery is a major waste of money if you buy a drone only to have it knocked out of the sky by a red-tailed hawk (which does happen, especially in California). It’s a better idea to outsource to a company like Flirtey, so they’re handling the inherent risks. 

– Ben LeeNeon Roots

6. Set Up in Underserved Areas

Adam SteeleTechy metropolises will see drone delivery quickly, but this will be less so for smaller cities and residential areas. By serving these areas first, you could open yourself up for healthy business, and to the possibility of being bought if a national partner does show up in the area. 

– Adam SteeleThe Magistrate

7. Partner with Other Companies to Share the Technology

Angela RuthWhile it may be too expensive to adopt as a small business, more local businesses can consider a cooperative model where they share the delivery technology, investing together to build a local delivery service for those within their cooperative.

– Angela RuthDue


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New research issued today from the Real Estate Institute of New Zealand (REINZ) has found that more than half (51%) of real estate agents surveyed across New Zealand state they have invested in using drone footage to help market their properties.

A further 30% have considered using drones, but are yet to take up the advantage of providing the bird’s eye view when marketing homes for sale.

Bindi Norwell, CEO, REINZ says: “Gone are the days of having to clamber up a ladder to take a picture of the house that you are marketing or looking at Google Earth images. Drones can provide potential purchasers with a 360-degree view of the house, the street and the wider neighbourhood and its amenities if need be – all in high definition viewing.

“As the cost of using drones continues to decrease, and there is a higher demand for seeing properties marketed in this light, we expect that we will see an even higher uptake in the future,” continues Norwell.

“We are hearing that more real estate agents are offering vendors the opportunity to include drone footage as an additional option as part of the overall marketing package of their properties, by using professional organisations who understand the regulations and requirements surrounding drone usage,” points out Norwell. The REINZ research also highlighted that agents are making significant use of social media with 50% having used unpaid social media to market a property and 20% considering it. Additionally, 39% have used paid social media advertising with a further 37% considering.

“New Zealand has more than 2.2 million active daily users on Facebook, 1 million Instagram users and 529,000 Twitter users, so the use of social media as part of the overall marketing of a property makes absolute sense and it’s an excellent place to reach potential purchasers who are extremely active in this space,” says Norwell.

Still to make a significant impact in New Zealand is the use of 3D walk throughs with only 19% of agents surveyed having used such technology. However, emphasising the potential opportunity of virtual walk throughs more than half of agents (52%) had considered this.


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As a central hub of offshore development, the US Gulf of Mexico (GOM) offers an opportunity for companies to examine the monitoring capabilities of drone systems on deepwater production platforms. At a presentation hosted by the SPE Gulf Coast Section’s Health, Safety, Security, Environment, and Social Responsibility Study Group last September, Balaji Ramachandran, an associate professor of geomatics at Nicholls State University, discussed the work being done by his department with operators and US government agencies to test drones in the inspection of offshore platforms and overall infrastructure monitoring.

Ramachandran said the drone sensors had several potential applications, both in visual-line-of-sight (VLOS) and BVLOS. In VLOS, they can help operators remotely monitor and inspect critical offshore infrastructure. They can also provide air pollution monitoring and monitor marine mammal and bird activity near a given facility. With BVLOS, they could help with onshore pipeline corridor mapping and monitoring, disaster response and recovery, oil spill detection, and facility security operations.

“We know a bit about the remote oil monitoring sensors. Everybody knows about optical, thermal, infrared, LiDAR [light detection and ranging], SAR [synthetic aperture radar], and so on. They are good. But then, we want to design something active. Can we put a dipping sensor on there, or a dropping or towing sensor, from the drone that goes and grabs the data? We’re putting the vision out there,” Ramachandran said.

For facility inspection, Ramachandran said the industry needs to develop and validate a standard operating procedure for the technical requirements and safe use of drone technology. This includes the testing of any additional sensors that are part of the inspection regime, as well as the geo- and time-tagging of images for archiving.

The Draganflyer X6 is a drone that Nicholls State has worked with for this purpose. It has a 335-gm payload, carbon-fiber body, and was equipped with the Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS20, a 14.1-megapixel camera, for surveillance and real-time monitoring workflow.

Shell paid approximately USD 250,000 for use of the Draganflyer X6 over its Mars platform. The Nicholls State team performed a system review, double-checked the safety protocols, and submitted an application containing key plots and coordinates of the deepwater platform to the air traffic controller responsible for the necessary waivers. Ramachandran said the primary goal was to develop effective operating procedures. His larger goal was to develop a full-scale model using the drone that could, in time, gather useful data. However, in the initial stages of the project, Shell wanted it to capture high-resolution images of the flare stacks and any structural instabilities on the platform.

“What happens when you take a drone on? What happens to the battery? Is it safe? Can it fly? Potentially, in Phase 2 [of the project] we’d want to look at testing of the sensors. They were very happy if we could take an image, geotag it, time it, and put it into a report without turning off the production platform. That was a big thing for Shell at the time,” Ramachandran said.

The drone took several images of the flare stacks, subdecks, and other areas of the platform. Ramachandran said Shell was pleased with the results, even though the drone did not gather any quantitative data for study. The value of performing unmanned facilities inspections will become more apparent for operators looking to reduce cost and risk in the future.

“You can go up close without putting someone in harm’s way, and you can capture some of the images,” Ramachandran said. “Then, you can use image processing platforms to automatically pick those [images to review]. That’s what the second phase of the project is something I really want to do.”


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How drones are changing mining

They’re performing with Lady Gaga at the Superbowl and taking over toy store shelves; drones are becoming ubiquitous. Our trials suggest they’ll help transform the mining industry too.

There are many examples where drones are making mining safer, most obviously by helping keep our people out of harm’s way. At some of our coal mines in Queensland, they’re used to ensure areas are clear before a blast takes place and to track fumes post-blast. They’re also used to improve road safety on sites, by monitoring traffic, road conditions and hazards. At our Olympic Dam mine in South Australia, the maintenance team use them to help inspect overhead cranes, towers and roofs of tall buildings to avoid working at height.

We’re also becoming more productive. We’ve been trialling drones fitted with military-grade cameras to provide real time aerial footage and 3D maps of our sites. This is far cheaper than using planes for survey work, and the savings at our sites in Queensland alone are estimated to be A$5 million a year. With drones, we now gather more information about our sites than ever before. We can more quickly and accurately measure our stockpiles, review compliance to design against mine plans and understand where we need to make changes to improve safety or boost productivity.

At our Onshore US oil operations, drones have been used to inspect the flare tips at our processing plants. Flares form part of the plant's safety and environmental management system and must be operational 100 per cent of the time. Visual inspections can normally only happen during a complete plant shut down. Drones have allowed the inspections to be carried out while the plants are online.

It’s not just on our sites that drones are being employed. Heritage Manager, Daniel Bruckner uses drones to map and digitally record areas of cultural heritage where they exist near BHP Billiton sites in Western Australia’s Pilbara region. “For me, the bigger picture is what this technology allows us to do that could never have been done before, and for us that means being able to share and preserve cultural heritage that might otherwise have been lost,” Daniel says.

“We’re now able to share all our footage with local Aboriginal groups, and they’re excited about that possibility.”


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More than 50 area farmers made their way to Memering Ag Service just outside of Washington on Thursday morning to learn more about the use of unmanned aerial vehicles or UAVs, better known as drones, on farms.

Jim Love, light robotics manager with Beck’s, the largest family-owned retail seed company in the country, put on a demonstration illustrating the role drones and other UAVs can play on the farm.

“Our whole goal is to help farmers be more successful,” said Love, as he watched the crowd react to the drones soaring over the glossy, emerald green field of corn. “We’re trying to provide them with information that will help make more informed decisions about their crops. We want to make using drones affordable and we want to help teach how to properly use them and what the rules for using them are.”

Love said drones have become easier to operate legally over the last several months. “Last year at this time, it was hard to fly a drone legally,” Love said, adding that Beck’s offers drones available for purchase and can also service the UAVs. “Now, the rules are pretty easy for people to follow.”

“Drones are so fresh and so new the etiquette for using them hasn’t been taught,” he said mentioning that the next big thing in agriculture aside from drones may very well be ground-based robots. “There’s a lot of things drones can do, but there’s a lot of things the ground-based robots can do as well.”

Drones, Love said, are often tricky to use to get stand counts, or the approximate number of plants in a field. Ground-based robots, however may be able to more easily accomplish the task.

“The bottom line is the problem with stand counts is getting the corn big enough to count but not big enough that the plants are touching,” he said. “A lot of times in demonstrations, they’ll show you tomato plants because they are easier to count.”

Love said the drones, while sometimes tricky to initially figure out, can be quite beneficial on the farm.

“Through the use of drones, we able to help determine cropping patterns and identify issues within their fields,” he said, noting that drones come in a variety of sizes and price ranges to meet the needs of nearly every farm.”Never buy a drone you can’t afford to lose. When you’re trying to figure out what you are doing and how you are going to use it, you want to get in on the low end and then want for more." While not all the data collected by the drones as they sail over the fields is useful, Love said, there are times the information provided can be put to good use.

“It’s kind of like a cell phone. You have all these pictures on there you’ll never get printed out, but every once in awhile, you’ll get a pearl of value,” he said, adding that Beck’s has been involved in aerial technology since 1992, although the images collected weren’t always useful. “It was like getting an old, really expensive newspaper. What they were getting wasn’t a valuable tool two weeks later when they were getting the images back. With the drones, you can get images back the next day.”

Over the last few weeks, Love said he’s been doing several drone-related programs at no cost at the farms of Beck’s seed retailers like Memering Farms.


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1. Aerial Pan Shot

Pan shots are typically captured while the camera is mounted on a tripod. In the case of drones, the tripod is replaced by the gimbal, in addition to the moving drone, away from your position. It’s quite a bit more complicated than a simple pan obviously, but the visual effect you can achieve is that much better. I prefer to do a pan left or a pan right while actually moving the drone forward or backward to add some sophistication to my shots, but many artists prefer to stay in “hover mode” while panning to maintain the stability of the shot. It’s a matter of taste and what effect you’re trying to achieve, so keep that in mind. Simply rotate your drone across the landscape or your subject, and you’re golden!

2. Tracking Shot

Usually used while moving parallel with the subject, tracking shots are choreographed in synchrony. The whole essence of this technique is matching the speed and being able to maintain focus on your subject at the needed composition point. We see these types of shots in motion pictures all the time, as well as at sports events and in car commercials. The trick here is to coordinate and rehearse as many times as needed. The easy way is to strafe your drone with the controls, with the camera at the same height, distance, and focal length, but you can add more movement if you feel comfortable or if it’s necessary.

3. Pedestal Shot

This is a type of shot where the drone is flying up or down without moving the camera/gimbal at all, and it’s strictly relying on flying. This technique of camera movement can be also achieved through a crane or jib arm, but obviously the range we can get through drones for how far up or down we can go is tremendous, and gives us way more freedom. Pedestal shots are used a lot to show statues, monuments, and even views above the clouds. This can be as easy as adjusting your altitude control and going straight up and down, without having to worry about camera movement or focal distance.

4. Fly Over

We see these shots all the time, everywhere from commercials to music videos to TV shows — you name it. An easy way to go about filming a good fly-over shot is to choose one object or specific landscape and focus the whole camera movement around that one subject, while the drone is continuously flying and covering the distance until it passes the object from above. Fly-over shots are used for various purposes, but you can mainly think of it as a type of shot that helps you place the subject in a geographical perspective and show the scale of it.

5. Reveal Shot

A reveal shot pretty much does exactly what the name suggests. It serves as a technique to reveal the point of our interest or what we want the audience to focus on. It’s probably my favorite aerial technique to create big “WOW” effects and show a specific time of the day, as well as serving as an intro and outro for a specific scene. Start your drone in a spot that’s out of view of your subject, then move it until your subject is in view — it’s as easy as that! Some classic motion pictures employed a reveal shot to create memorable scenes, such as the opening sequence of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, which uses these type of shots to introduce us to the infamous Overlook Hotel.


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Sustaining sustainable energy

One of the areas you’re most likely to find drones at work these days are on solar farms. Solar farms can cover anything from one to one hundred acres, and maintaining them manually can be both impractical and dangerous, especially as engineers often want to inspect panels for defects when the sun is at its most powerful.

But companies like the French UAV operator Dronotec have fitted drones with thermal imaging cameras which provide an aerial overview to pin-point panels that might be damaged, covered in dust or obscured by invasive vegetation. Engineers then process this information and return to these specific locations to fix the panels at convenient times, making for more efficient maintenance.

Another sustainable industry that benefits enormously from drone technology are wind farms. Traditionally, inspections involve hooking people up to wires and hanging them off the structure, but companies like the UK’s Cyberhawk use drones to send back real-time video of power cables and 3D images of turbine blades. Only when faults are discovered do engineers need to ready their ropes and slings.

A mission on emissions

Just as drones are being used to support sustainable energy, they’re also being adapted to monitor pollution. One start-up in Finland called Aeromon is able to detect and analyse 70 different industrial emissions and map air quality over large areas. In the past, these emissions might have gone undetected because emissions sensors at ground level or higher altitudes would have missed them, but the versatility of UAVs means that’s no longer the case, and the data provided gives authorities more clout when it comes to enforcing emissions legislation.

This kind of use for drones is also happening elsewhere. They are being deployed to monitor methane at landfills in the UK, ship emissions in European waters and gas leaks in the US.  Similarly, drones are also increasingly being modified to detect contaminated water, such as the MIT project called the Waterfly which looks for deadly cyanobacteria in water and can be deployed in remote, hard-to-reach areas.


It’s precisely the drone’s ability to access difficult or problematic areas that’s proved most effective when it comes to conservation. Over savannah, a tropical rainforest or vast river-ways, drones can detect and monitor animal populations, deforestation and water levels. They can also spot poachers and alert their whereabouts to the police, or observe where illegal logging might be occurring.

They have already been used to great effect to protect whales from illegal hunting thanks to the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, while the similarly named Air Shepherd flies drones at night to stop poachers killing rhinos and elephants for their ivory. And in the future drones may even be able to help restore the natural habitat of wildlife. A company called BioCarbon Engineering has designed a drone that quickly and efficiently plants trees by using a tiny cannon to shoot pods at the ground containing germinated seeds.

Disaster watch

Concerns with environmental conservation are closely linked to those of environmental disaster, and drones are in action here too. The Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory monitors ice melt in the Artic, using drones to get to awkward places. Equipped with infrared cameras, the drones collect data on temperature changes and meltwater. At the other end of the scale, drones have proved useful in tracking lava flows, as well as detecting and limiting forest fires. When Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines back in 2013, they were used to assess damage and plan shelter reconstruction, and they are also employed to drop urgent medical supplies to remote areas more quickly than could be done any other way.

Farming drones

Finally, drones are hard at work down on the farm. They specialise in crop spraying, UAVs being able to apply fertilisers more accurately than planes and thus reduce waste by 20 percent. They are also ideal for monitoring the health of crops, the whereabouts of livestock and the condition of water levels, all of which helps to improve yield and provide cost efficiency.


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Anyone who has watched coverage of a festival or sports event in the last few years will probably have witnessed commercial drone use — in the form of breathtaking aerial footage. But a collaboration of universities, research institutes and broadcasters is looking to take this to the next level by using a small swarm of intelligent drones.

The EU-funded MULTIDRONE project seeks to create teams of three to five semi-automated drones that can react to and capture unfolding action at large-scale sports events. Project coordinator Professor Ioannis Pitas, of the University of Bristol, UK, says the collaboration aims to have prototypes ready for testing by its media partners Deutsche Welle and Rai - Radiotelevisione Italiana within 18 months.

‘Deutsche Welle has two potential uses lined up – filming the Rund um Wannsee boat race in Berlin, Germany, and also filming football matches with drones instead of normal cameras – while Rai is interested in covering cycling races,’ said Prof. Pitas. ‘We think we have the potential to offer a much better film experience at a reduced cost compared to helicopters or single drones, producing a new genre in drone cinematography.’

But before they can chase the leader of the Tour de France, MULTIDRONE faces the hefty challenge of creating AI that allows its drones to safely carry out a mission as a team. Prof. Pitas says safety is the utmost priority, so the drones will include advanced crowd avoidance mechanisms and the ability to make emergency landings.

And it’s not just safety in the case of bad weather, a flat battery or a rogue football. ‘Security of communications is important as a drone could otherwise be hijacked, not just undermining privacy but also raising the possibility that it could be used as a weapon,’ said Prof. Pitas.

The early project phase will have a strong focus on ethics to prevent any issues around privacy. ‘People are sensitive about drones and about being filmed and we’re approaching this in three ways — trying to avoid shooting over private spaces, getting consent from the athletes being followed, and creating mechanisms that decide which persons to follow and blur other faces.’

If they can pull it off, he predicts a huge boost for the European entertainment industry and believes it could lead to much larger drone swarms capable of covering city-wide events.


According to Gartner research, sales of commercial-use drones are set to jump from 110 000 units in 2016 to 174 000 this year. Although 2 million toy drones were snapped up last year for USD 1.7 billion, the commercial market dwarfed this at USD 2.8 billion. Aside from pure footage, drones have also proven their worth in research, disaster response, construction and even in monitoring industrial assets.

One company trying to open up the market to those needing a sky-high helping hand is Integra Aerial Services, a young drones-as-a-service company. An offshoot of Danish aeronautics firm Integra Holding Group, INAS, was launched in 2014 thanks to an EU-backed feasibility study.

INAS has more than 25 years of experience in aviation and used its knowledge of the sector’s legislation to shape a business model targeting heavier, more versatile drones weighing up to 25 kilogrammes. And they have already been granted a commercial drone operating license by the Danish Civil Aviation Authority.

These bigger drones have far more endurance than typical toy drones, which can weigh anywhere from 250 grams to several kilos. INAS CEO Gilles Fartek says their bigger size means they can carry multiple sensors, thus collecting all the needed data in one fell swoop, instead of across multiple flights.

For example, one of their drones flies LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) radar over Greenland to measure ice thickness as a measure of climate change, but could also carry a 100 megapixel, high-definition camera. While INAS spends most of the Arctic summer running experiments from the remote host Station Nord in Greenland, Fartek says they’re free to use the drones for different projects in other seasons, mostly in areas of environmental research, mapping and agricultural monitoring.


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If your neighbors place a “for sale” sign in their yard, you might soon hear the sound of a small aircraft flying outside your window. Don’t be alarmed; it’s just a drone taking aerial photographs and making a video of their property. It’s a sound being heard more and more. “Drone photography is a standard thing. The drone is so easy,” said Monica Neubauer, a Realestate agent. Drones, or unmanned aerial systems, are transforming the way homes and developable land are marketed, said Bruce Jones, broker for Re/Max Homes. Good visual images, including dramatic aerial photographs and videos, are “an expectation” when potential buyers are searching on the Internet, he said. “The listing nowadays is all about the online presence, photos,” said Jones. 

Carbine & Associates, a Williamson County-based home builder, uses drone video to introduce new subdivisions such as Southern Preserve, Water Leaf and Natures Landing in Franklin. “With the advent of social media, videos are the No. 1 thing for buyers,” said James Carbine, the company’s president. He operates the drone, as do other members of the staff. The company also uses its drone to inspect sites it is considering for new subdivisions. Previously, that was done on the ground.“

You can launch that drone without having to four-wheel or walk through the woods. It’s a whole lot less stressful and more informative,” said Carbine. The number of drones in use in the United States is constantly changing, but the FAA recently reported that more than 1.1 million have been registered. That number is expected to grow to more than 3 million within four years.

Monica Neubauer is a believer in the value of drones. She trains Realtors across the country and hosts a podcast for the National Association of Realtors. “I’m telling them (the Realtors she trains) that drones are ‘it,’” she said. There are some limitations. In a big subdivision, aerial photographs might make a house look crowded. And if a home is expected to get multiple offers and sell instantly, there’s no reason to spend a few hundred dollars to hire a professional drone operator. But when a home is surrounded by a bit of land or is in the country, Neubauer always makes a point of getting drone photography. When she listed the home at 4646 Peytonsville Road in Franklin for sale at $1.295 million, she hired HomePix Media to get aerial images.

“Let’s impress people,” said Neubauer. Re/Max’s Jones did the same thing for the home at 4114 Trinity Road in Franklin. The house, which is new, is on the market for $1.475 million. The drone gave a bird’s eye view of the house and the private, 5-acre lot surrounding it.“That’s 5 acres, in Franklin, said Jones. “You get a panoramic view of the house,” he said.


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The concept of big data was once thought to be a route to improving wind turbine inspections. Somehow, more data would provide deeper insight into turbine conditions. Then came high-quality images and meta-data from aerial blade inspections.

Instead of big data, actionable intelligence is the preferred result of unmanned aerial systems (UAS) or drone wind turbine inspections. More recent advances, such as “deep learning” technology lets computers recognize damage, pinpointing exact areas that need attention. In addition, with time, patent-pending analytic software can track trends in wear and damage, and help operators determine proactive plans to maximize infrastructure lifecycles and deliver a return on repair investments.

The three process pillars we have found most useful are Capture, Compute, and Consume. These and more have come from collaborating with wind farm owners and operators. By cultivating partnerships with industry leaders, we’re training the next generation of inspectors to capture data so it provides actionable information.

Turbine inspections by drones are still new, but dedicated groups are forming standards for flight procedures. Earlier this year, we participated in developing flight operations procedures and processes for flying near wind infrastructures. Interested readers may find this useful: An Early Survey of Best Practices for the Use of Small Unmanned Aerial Systems by the Electric Utility Industry. It appeared in a publication from Oak Ridge National Lab’s publication. It’s here

One program intended for use in the field, the BladeEdge Capture Assistance Tool, ensures that every drone captures quality images. It also packages the images for processing by deep learning algorithms. This is a step toward automated flight assistance. The future of drone flights is being shaped by efforts of the faculty at North Dakota’s Lake Region State College (LRSC). Their Wind Technician Program now includes drone curriculum in which students work towards remote pilot certification under FAA regulations Part 107. They’ll train on the capture assistance tool and best practices for flight procedures that we helped develop. Students at the College will graduate primed for wind industry jobs.


With LRSC training new wind technicians and a network of capable partners, we can focus on our core competencies of software, big data, and deep learning technology. Each time a UAS collects data, the patent-pending BladeEdge Analytics further trains the software to recognize damage and wear. But not all flying conditions are created equal. In a perfect world, UAS inspections would be conducted on bright, sunny days. Of course, the weather doesn’t always cooperate. One useful software development is a tolerance for poor conditions, so operators will always leave the field with the data they need.

To store all the data collected, a 16,000-square-foot data center is being built at Grand Sky, a UAS Business and Aviation Park in Grand Forks, North Dakota. The highly secure facility will let us host an optimized environment for operations applications such as BladeEdge.


For the wind industry, this means operators will have access to better data and complete blade imaging. They’ll be able to make educated decisions for proactive maintenance and damage repair – maximizing energy output (AEP) while negating potential losses.


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