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Inspection services are one of the most hyped and fastest growing verticals in commercial drones, with good reason.  When it comes to return on investment, the drones have it – saving large energy and infrastructure companies millions over conventional methods.  Now Intel and Cyberhawk have partnered on a major use case, one that demonstrates that return for the entire industry.


Intel introduced their Intel® Falcon™ 8+ system last year.  It’s an aircraft built to meet enterprise (and regulatory) requirements for safety, engineered for stability and featuring numerous built-in redundancies. Cyberhawk, as global leader in aerial inspection and surveying and a respected figure in the industry, was a perfect choice of partner to demonstrate the drone in action and the value of drone technology to the industry.


Inspecting a gas terminal in St Fergus, Scotland, the companies say that they were able to save the client $1 -$5 million per day,  while significantly reducing the risk to employees.


The return is so large because of the way these inspections are performed conventionally.  Inspectors have to climb structures with harnesses and cable equipment – and one glance at the towers involved is sufficient to grasp the inherent danger in the job.  In order for them to inspect the structure, it must be powered down.  That’s a long and costly process: one that not only takes time but has a high cost in lost production for the plant.


The Intel Falcon 8+ captured over 1,000 images in 1 -2 days.  A conventional inspection would have required a 3 man team to work for 3 days. “In the last 20 years that I’ve worked in the inspection industry, drones are the biggest single change we’ve seen to-date,” said Chris Fleming, Cyberhawk CEO.


“Unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) technologies allow for large and complex facilities to be inspected while in operation, capturing accurate and precise data to better inform business decisions on asset maintenance,” says a company press release. “Drones are an important tool for the oil and gas industry, and the Intel Falcon 8+ system delivers reliable performance and best-in-class safety, especially critical when faced with challenging environments or dangerous situations.”




11/12/2017

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With many mines maturing and productivity decreasing, the companies behind them are trying increasingly hard to maximize the value of their operations. It’s not an easy thing. It requires efficiently combining people, processes, and equipment, and mining companies have been scrambling to improve operational efficiency. However, it’s possible many of them are looking in the wrong place.


While many are perhaps understandably focusing on what they could do better on the ground as well as below the surface of the earth, not nearly enough of them are looking to the sky. They should, though. Automated unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), or drones, offer a versatile set of productivity advantages that are poised to revolutionize the mining industry.


A million uses for automated drones


Automated drones, such as those that have emerged thanks to leading manufacturers like Airobotics, boast a variety of impressive drone uses and are able to complete an entire mission, entirely on their own. They can take-off and land - without the intervention of a human pilot, both scheduled and on-demand - yet precise flying missions are just one feature of these automated drones. They can be equipped with a portfolio of sensors, cameras and corresponding analytics software in order to inspect assets, identify risks like gas or chemical leaks, create 3D maps of their environment, and even perform hands-on (rather, robotic-pincers-on) work in the field. All data capturing and processing can be completed without requiring human operators.


Further, leading automated drones can charge themselves, swap batteries if necessary, and even swap payloads and sensors, eliminating much of the maintenance work that goes into having an on-site drone. All told, automated drones eliminate the significant expense of human pilots as well as the delays associated with waiting for human operators when a drone needs to fly on-demand - precious minutes that are not only costly but can present a risk to human lives. This advanced technology offers benefits to a wide range of industries, very much including mining.


Digging deep on drone capabilities


In the mining industry, automated drones provide more efficient alternatives to traditional human-based approaches. For example, they can be deployed to conduct asset inspections, as they can quickly and safely reach areas that are difficult for humans to access. Or, automated drones could be used to quickly complete surveying or take measurements of stockpile volumes, to ensure a blast plan is being followed precisely, and to conduct essential inspections of haul roads.


However, beyond replacing traditional operations, automated drones also offer this industry unprecedented opportunities. For example, drones are increasingly being used for surveying and terrain mapping, as they can automatically render three dimensional maps and models based on a fly-over visual inspection. The simplicity of obtaining such detailed models surpasses anything that was previously possible, opening the door to unforeseen productivity solutions.


As important as improving business processes is for mining companies, perhaps the most important thing automated drones do at a mine site is provide emergency response capabilities. Whether it’s a potential incident at a blast site, at a haul road, or anywhere else, an automated drone can immediately launch and begin transmitting live footage of the incident, providing essential information to responders.


The advantages of autonomy


Mines and other industrial sites can be dangerous places, and human fatalities are not unheard of. Using automated drones for the most dangerous of tasks eliminates personal risk, and the possibility of emergencies and other productivity delays.



11/12/2017

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American Robotics, a drone developer specializing in agricultural automation, has unveiled unveiled its flagship product, the Scout, a self-charging, self-managing drone system capable of autonomously carrying out daily scouting missions.


American Robotics  in their release state that “By 2050, the world population is expected to grow to 10 billion. As a result farmers will need to increase food production by 70%. This issue, coupled with a reduction in arable land and the shrinking number of farmers across the globe, will require new tools to increase automation and efficiency in agriculture.”


The solution may enable some future agriculture remain outdoors rather than move it indoors. There are a number of significant technology firms looking at indoor agriculture techniques. While drone technology cannot address the issues of water and climate control, it can provide in depth crop analysis and the intelligence needed for efficient use of resources.


As AR notes, traditional scouting techniques, including first-generation and consumer drones, are inadequate at detecting plant stress early enough to offset the billions of dollars of lost yields. These methods are often time-consuming, complicated, and uneconomical. To improve agricultural decision-making, optimize inputs, and maximize yields,  automation must be delivered in a reliable industrial solution.


Scout delivers this automation in a turn-key package consisting of an autonomous drone with visual and multispectral cameras and a weatherproof drone station which handles housing, charging, data processing and data transfer. Once installed within a farmer’s field, it requires no manual intervention to plan, fly and manage the drone operations. Health reports and analysis are seamlessly sent to the farmer. The system has already been deployed in a range of agricultural locations across the United States this summer.


American Robotics is headquartered in MassRobotics in Boston, an emerging hub for robotics startups.



11/12/2017

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No one likes to think about worst-case scenarios—especially not in the context of a huge event with literally thousands of moving parts that have been aligned over months leading up to your show or exhibition. But if you’re expecting a crowd, you’re responsible for the safety of that crowd—and that means you’re responsible for planning and prevention of those worst-case scenarios.

Event planners are used to thinking about threats coming through the doors. We’ve got security in place, metal detectors, bag checks, perimeter barricades and on-site officers. But we’re less used to thinking about the threats introduced by the advent of unmanned aerial systems (UAS), and that needs to change.


A recent event in Japan demonstrated why drone security should be a fundamental part of event security planning. An overhead vehicle suddenly dropped into the crowd, injuring six people. In this case, injuries were minor, but they could have been significant. It’s only a matter of time before we see an incident where drones play a major role in injuring people gathered in a crowd—and we’re being warned about this likely event on several fronts. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security released its latest Terrorism Advisory on Nov. 9, warning about increased use of UAS by terrorist groups, and any gathering of a significant number of people represents a target.


Terrorist and malicious threats aside, anyone flying an unmanned system over a crowd represents a threat, and given the proliferation of drones and the lack of awareness about rules and regulations surrounding them, non-malicious incidents are on the rise as well.


In many cases the threats evolve inside the show—someone exhibiting sends up a drone to get an overhead shot of their booth, or an attendee decides to capture some video footage of the whole venue. In either case, if the proper waivers haven’t been secured and if the operators aren’t insured and licensed, you—as the show planner—incur a liability if something goes wrong.


There are several things event planners can do to protect their venues and events from the potential for a drone-related incident:


1.      If you are planning to hire drones to capture aerial footage of your event, ensure that the company/individual you hire is licensed and insured. If they are flying over a crowd, confirm that they’ve secured a waiver to do so—U.S. Federal Aviation Administration regulations prohibit flight over people. Know the rules—or better yet, bring in a specialist who knows the rules governing drone operation.


2.      Have a counter-UAS plan in place. From putting out pre-event publicity that your venue is a no-drone zone to on-site integration of an aerial observation and deterrent team, you should know how UAS might affect your event and how you’ll protect your crowd if one is identified. A good counter-UAS company will be able to integrate their teams directly with your show security center, and will implement defensive tactics when unauthorized drones are spotted—minimizing the chances of an incident.


3.      Work with local law enforcement to enforce regulations. Not all local law enforcement agencies are well versed in UAS regulations. They may not know all the rules, but integrating your counter-UAS partner with your local authorities will ensure that rapid and appropriate action is taken when an incident arises. Because UAS proliferation has been rapid and the threat is relatively new, your counter-UAS team should be prepared to educate on-site authorities where necessary.


Part of the challenge is education. Any time a new technology is introduced, innovation can outpace awareness, and that’s certainly been the case with drones.


While there are companies who will suggest that they can “shoot down” any unauthorized UAS, or “jam” them, be wary. Counter-UAS should be part of your plan, but these types of drastic actions should only be employed when all other options are exhausted.



08/12/2017

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It’s almost eerie. The first time you hear it approach, if you’re like my neighbor Ernesto, you may think it’s a bumblebee – or, to be more precise, the aggressive solitary bees called ronsapas that inhabit stumps of dead wood and defend their territory by way of nasty stings. From a jungle perspective, you’d surely be forgiven for hitting the deck or breaking into a run when the sound first reaches your ears – that characteristic buzzing hum.

It may not surprise you to learn that in our almost unbelievably technology-saturated, increasingly globalized world, even rainforest farmers know exactly what that sound is – a drone. Call it tech appeal, or the stereotypical gadget fixation of the grown-up boys of the world, but drones are just about everywhere these days, including in the Amazon of Peru.

Over the course of the last 15 months, Camino Verde has had the opportunity to put these instruments to valuable and surprisingly varied use – and save an incredible amount of work at the same time.

Consider this: Last year, our Reforestation Center team, under farm manager Olivia Revilla and with the help of several interns, set out on an ambitious mission to document the trees we’ve planted. That totals around 50 acres of trees, tens of thousands of trees, representing our reforestation efforts of the last 10 years and the tangible manifestation of our donors’ commitment to Amazon restoration.

As you can imagine, making a map that includes every single tree and keeping track of basic data for each – such as species, botanical family, height, diameter at breast height, etc. – was an incredibly time-consuming task, a labor of love aimed at helping us better measure our impact. Months of work later, we had our first map for wide swathes of the farm – though not the whole planted area.

We celebrated this first achievement and prepared ourselves mentally for the work involved in finishing the task. It was right around that time, as we were contemplating methodologies to improve our efficiency for this arduous data collection, that a small group of Wake Forest University students paid us a visit and flew a drone over the reforestation center for the first time ever. The images captured were incredible. It was frankly breathtaking to see the trees from above – to see how clearly the mixed agroforestry systems we plant resemble the wild forest.

Given the meteoric rise of drone technology, maybe it doesn’t come as a surprise to learn that in the following months, there were many more drone flyovers to come. Our friends from Pacha Soap paid us a visit in February and captured breathtaking video of one of the largest, most impressive trees in 200 acres of primary rainforest areas we protect. And then Wake Forest’s Centro de Innovación Científica Amazónica (CINCIA) research group – our staunch allies in reforestation and restoration activities in Madre de Dios, Peru – returned and flew again.

To my amazement, after the last of these visits, we were presented with a map that the drone had made for us. By taking pictures of the ground at regular intervals and using software to stitch the images together, we got a better and more detailed map than from satellite or GPS. Beautifully photographic, the map showed us our trees as they appeared from above. And further, it did the work of months of hand data collection in the span of a day.

As you may know, Camino Verde values monitoring and evaluation, which means we follow up on the trees we plant so that we can say clearly and unequivocally what our impact has been. Drone technology is allowing us to greatly reduce the time and energy we spend on this necessary activity – so we can spend more time on our real work, our real passion, the planting of trees.



08/12/2017

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Drone videographers just got some new tools.  PolarPro has expanded their library of video editing solutions with Helios Cinematic Light Effects.


The Helios Cinematic Light Effects software includes 32 drag-and-drop lens flares, light leaks, leads and transitions. “These simple-to-use effects can easily be dropped into any video composition to help streamline post production workflow,” says PolarPro.  “With effects ranging from light leaks and lens flares to light transitions, Helios offers a variety of colors, styles and looks to that can easily fit the mood of any video edit.”


Retailing at about $30, the new software is available for any drone videographer – and as it is compatible with most video editing platforms (Adobe® products such as Premiere 9.0 or later, After Effects CC or later, as well as Apple® Final Cut Pro 7 or later, and the Avid Media Composer) the system is available to operators with a wide range of experience.  (PolarPro has compiled a video tutorial for beginners here.)


“Featuring 11 flare effects, eight organic light leaks, and 13 light leads/transitions, Helios offers a wide range of 4K elements that can quick help pilots and post production teams refine their video edits to a fine production quality,” says PolarPro.  The Helios Cinematic Light Effects have been optimized for the lens profiles of the Mavic Pro and Phantom Pro 4 and Advanced, and PolarPro is planning to expand on that library soon. “With the effects properly optimized for each drone’s native camera, editors can easily splice together footage from multiple flight platforms without concerns for distracting color shifts,” says the company.



08/12/2017

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For the first time, drones were used to inspect all 264 turbine blades across the 88 offshore locations at Sheringham Shoal wind farm

Sheringham Shoal, operated by Statoil, a key player in the UK’s offshore wind sector, partnered with Martek Aviation to carry out the inspections. Using 200 UAS, the drones took eight minutes each to collect the relevant data. This allowed Statoil to instantly assess the condition of their assets on site.

“Martek Aviation is a professional company providing world-class wind turbine inspection services,” says Dale Symonds, Senior Engineer at the Sheringham Shoal offshore wind. “The UAS high-resolution camera has allowed us to perform excellent quality inspections on all turbine blades providing us with confidence and clarity. The service has allowed us to become more efficient, safe and profitable with our wind turbine inspections moving forwards.

Due to the advancements in UAS technology, the challenges faced with traditional inspection methods are being transformed into a safer and more streamlined data collection process. Previously, blade turbine inspections were performed from the ground using a simple camera for visual inspections or by risky human rope access. The use of drones has removed the requirement to climb the turbine by flying from the 40-meter vessel.



08/12/2017

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The best real estate agents know that presentation is key in attracting serious buyers. And the bigger the property, the more ambitious the marketing plan needs to be. Today’s savvy buyers do their research online before they even pick up the phone to call an agent.


Any agent working to sell a luxury property makes significant upfront investments in professional photography in order to have the kind of “glamour shots” that attract buyers’ interest. The interiors may have looked beautiful, but other selling points, like landscaping, outdoor features or vast acreage, have historically been harder to capture. Some agents would hire helicopters to hover over properties in order to get aerial shots-- and choppers certainly aren't cheap.


Today, technology has made it possible to capture amazing Hi-Def images hiring a manned aircraft. You can create an immersive virtual experience that gives potential buyers the option to tour a property without ever leaving their house. Recent changes to rules governing the use of small unmanned aircrafts – or drones – have made it possible for real estate professionals to use them for photographic purposes.


Many hobbyists in the U.S. already fly drones. But that doesn’t mean you can just go out, buy a drone and start filming properties from the air. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) governs the use of drones for commercial purposes. And because the FAA is a federal agency, the rules are strict. So before you run out and spend $1,200 on a drone of your own, you need to educate yourself. 

Once you have obtained certification, there's a host of operational rules you must learn and observe. While drones can be flown indoors or outdoors to highlight all the best features of a property, they must be flown in daylight hours. There are insurance considerations and state and local privacy rules that must be observed; there are limitations on height and radius, and on speed. You must register your drone, and file a preflight plan.


And then, of course, you need to learn how to actually fly the drone — and how to get the best pictures possible while doing so.



08/12/2017

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With superior eyesight, swift agility and the gift of flight, aerial drones are proving better than humans in many forms of detailed data collection. These superpowers are driving drones’ interest and investment across a growing number of industries, including agriculture.


Greg Emerick (pictured), co-founder and executive vice president of business development at Sentera LLC, applies the efficiency of drones’ cutting-edge technology to the oldest industry on the planet, farming.


“We’ve taken the sensors that we build … and integrated them onto different DJI platforms. … We pull the data out, pull it into our software, do the analytics on it, and then push it into other analytics tools that are used for agricultural purposes,” said Emerick about the streamlined process drones and DJI afford Sentera. The company utilizes DJI’s software developer’s kit to fly its drones via a mobile app, making crop inspections easier, safer and more affordable than ever, according to Emerick.


Emerick spoke with Jeff Frick (@JeffFrick), co-host of theCUBE, SiliconANGLE Media’s mobile livestreaming studio, during the AirWorks 2017 event in Denver, Colorado. They discussed the impact of drones on agriculture and mused on where the technology may take the industry in the future.


Greater insights for improved crop health

Prior to the development of drone technology, agricultural inspection was based largely on sampling, often resulting in inaccurate readings that risked the health of the crop. Farm owners could calculate fertilizer, soil levels, precipitation and other aspects of their operation but lacked essential information about the status of their crop.


“What they need is this real-time opportunity to look at them … [to] identify what they might want to do, and then from there create an application,” Emerick said. Armed with drones and DJI’s software, Sentera’s tools can ensure all crops are accounted for and inform better business decisions, he explained.


Drone’s enable far more for Sentera than plant counts. Using a variety of cameras and other tools, Emerick and his team scan, detect and treat farms for any threat to the crop. “We’ll … identify the location of weeds in the field and then push that into other tools … that can … help improve the crop production,” he said.


Excited by the progress he’s seen so far, Emerick is confident the future will only bring new advancements to drone technology. “Tighter integration into the platforms themselves … and a lot more data,” he said, naming just a few items on his wish-list.


Efficiency is a high priority for Sentera as the company continues the work of improving agricultural processes and increasing food production for all. “That’s what gets us up every day,” Emerick concluded.




01/12/2017

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ELKO — The use unmanned aerial vehicles at mines is taking off in Northern Nevada as operators apply the technology to tasks such as surveying and inspections.


The Federal Aviation Administration made way for the commercial use of drones, such as work at mines, when it updated commercial operation rules for small UAVs effective August 2016. Instead of requiring a pilot’s license, the federal government allows an operator to pass an aeronautical knowledge test to be able to fly commercially under certain restrictions.


Drone-based businesses have since launched to answer the growing demand for drone equipment and services.


Pennsylvania-based Identified Technologies serves the SSR Mining Inc. Marigold Mine in Valmy by providing a drone and data-processing services. In January, the company began training its staff and started to work flights into its routine at the run-of-mine heap leach operation.


On a blue-sky day in early October, Marigold Mine Chief Surveyor Alan Clayson unpacked a tote containing a DJI-brand drone with four helicopter blades and coordinating equipment for a demonstration flight.


Watching was Identified Technologies CEO Dick Zhang, visiting the mine on a customer service call. Zhang started the business almost five years ago and got his start serving the construction industry.


“We’ve come so far. It’s so satisfying, so fulfilling,” Zhang said, explaining how his role at Marigold has morphed from trainer to spectator now that the mining staff is trained and certified.


Clayton and another employee earned their remote pilot certification through the FAA by completing an aeronautical knowledge test at an FAA-certified testing center. Marigold staff said they could have another person certified by the end of the year.

After the startup protocol, everyone stood back while Clayson launched the craft. It ascended with a buzzing sound like a mob of mosquitoes and stirred a low cloud of dust. Soon, the small flyer was a mere speck in the sky.


The drone automatically followed a line pattern according to the flight plan and captured data for about 14 minutes while Clayson monitored the object and tablet.


“Most of the magic of the process is after the flight,” Zhang said, describing his company’s data processing services.


At Marigold, the technology is used mainly for making topographic maps for reports and audits; taking detailed aerial photos of leach pads for solution application management; and inspecting slopes and high-walls in areas with limited access to search for tension cracks, settling and bench integrity.


Future uses at Marigold could include providing power infrastructure inspections, and creating multispectral and thermal maps to improve solution application management and detect hot spots in equipment.



01/12/2017

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