Drone News

We usually think of aerial drones as consumer technology or used by the military to fly pilot-less missions. But there is an entire industry dedicated to using drones in industrial settings like mining, construction, and insurance.

The technology of industrial drones is fascinating and involves components such as ruggedized flight bodies, GPS, and LIDAR, in addition to cameras. These industrial drones combine data collection from a network of sensors with advanced image processing techniques and artificial intelligence.

So I could learn more, public relations ninja, Laura Hoang, introduced me to George Mathew, CEO of industrial drone supplier, Kespry. The company provides a complete enterprise platform for industrial drones that includes hardware, software, and rich data analytics.

Because drones are both cool and important, I invited George to take part in Episode 277 of the CXOTalk series of conversations with the world's top innovators.

During our talk, George explains drone tech and talks about topics like volumetric analysis in mining, LIDAR on drones, photogrammetry, and 3D orthomosaic image processing.

Watch the video embedded above and read the complete transcript. Below is an edited transcript of key points raised in the discussion.

What are the use cases for industrial drones?

They can fly seamlessly over industrial worksites into broader, commercial use cases where you can easily and reliably collect data. Drones can collect information in a meaningful, easy, cheap, and safe way. The drone becomes not only a method of data collection but also a way to transmit all kinds of new sensory-based input into analytics and models for industrial use cases.


What is Photogrammetry?


One of the first industrial use cases that we started was measuring the volumetrics around a mining aggregate's operation. Mining in aggregates, you're digging things out of the ground. That's the primary product on which you're managing inventory. To understand how much material you have, you effectively have to be able to do a volumetric analysis of how much material you've pulled out of the ground.

Previously, the primary method to do that was taking survey grade equipment, whether precision laser-guided equipment or a GPS backpack, climb a stockpile and take 10, 15, 20 points of measurement. Then, go back to the home office and measure those volumes.

kespry drone site analysis

Site analysis with drones. Image from Kespry.

What's amazing about a drone now is you can fly over a worksite, a mine site, or an aggregates location, be able to take imagery of all of the stockpiles and material and convert those into three-dimensional models. Those models are hyper-accurate because you're taking 600,000, 700,000 points of measurement on a typical site and being able to get a level of accuracy on your inventory that was unprecedented. That's where we started in the industrial use cases that we're serving today by being able to do better and more accurate measurement in the mining space.

Since then, we've expanded into topological models for construction worksites around earthworks projects where John Deere is now reselling Kespry drones. We've expanded into the insurance and roofing world where we can do topological models of a roof and be able to assess the damage on a roof from weather events and, more recently, expanded into the energy sector.

What do drones add that is new?

Historically, there are two changes that drones, and other similar sensor-based technologies, introduced into the market. In effect, if you're getting information from a map, it's two dimensional. Drones now provide a level and a view in the third dimension: being able to understand elevation, being able to understand topology, being able to understand the volumetrics related to material that might be dug out of the ground. That capability of understanding the third dimension becomes quite relevant, particularly when you can do it in a super accurate way.

When we introduce precision GPS combined with data processing, what's incredible is we can create a topological analysis that's down to three centimeters of real space X, Y, and Z. Inaccurate, two-dimensional maps in your mining site are now realized as a fully available, three-dimensional, topology of that entire landscape as it changes over time. That's where we start to see the benefit of drones and added sensor-based input in this kind of industrial work.

What sensors do you include in the drones?

There's a visual sensor, a high-fidelity camera that can take imagery on the worksite itself. But, alongside that visual imagery, we have a one-dimensional forward-facing LIDAR.

The LIDAR, as a sensor, can be used for collision avoidance, obstacle detection, as well as a terrain map. We see use cases where, as the drone is autonomously flying on a worksite, you can have imagery autonomously taken, to see if there is an obstacle and avoid it in real time. That's possible because of sensor-based input.

On the top, you see GPS. We introduced precision GPS into the Kespry product about a year ago. Now we can fuse the data that comes off additional sensors like the visual sensor, the gyrometer, the accelerometer, with the precision GPS to get topological analysis coordinated down to three centimeters of real space X, Y, and Z.

This is why I think the drone is a new sensor network that can start to apply these insights in a combined fashion that you, frankly, couldn't do most seamlessly before technology like this was brought together into the market.

What's the difference between industrial and commercial drones?

Kespry has introduced industrial capabilities into the market for ruggedized work areas like a mining location or construction location. You can potentially fly a consumer drone, but the challenge is that a consumer drone will have difficulty being able to be operated on a mine site that's 8,000 feet in altitude. It'll have difficulty in flying in 25-mile-an-hour winds. It has difficulty flying more than 15 minutes, and our drone today flies for almost 25-, 30-minutes and covers 150 acres when it flies at about 150-, 200-feet in the air.

And so, these qualities of industrialized work being accomplished with a drone needs a different type of product in the market than a consumer grade drone that has typically been in the market for quite a few years. This is where Kespry's focus has been in not only delivering that industrialized drone, but also the data processing, the applications that support the use cases that are necessary for the markets we serve.

Integration with enterprise systems must also be important?

That's right. If you're bringing a consumer drone in, you can potentially collect all that data, but then how do you process that? That's going to be manual, right? How do you make the insights possible? Well, you're still going to be going through a bit of a kludgy, broken experience. Then how do you get that data into an application that's consumable or a set of APIs that could be exposed to downstream applications? All of that tends to be laborious work that we help effectively prepackage and deliver to the customer base we're serving.

What kind of analytics do you use on the drone data?

One of the things that we care about primarily is integrating and owning the physical model of how a worksite and asset area is effectively understood from an analytical perspective. One of the key things that have been a differentiating factor in the market regarding automating this data collection and being able to generate analytics from it is a technique called photogrammetry. What I mean by photogrammetry is that you can take the 2D images that are collected off of a drone and, if you have the right overlap available of imagery and the right angle that you've captured that imagery, you can convert those 2D images into fully realized, three-dimensional models.

We started with that idea to, first and foremost, generate that 3D model, generate what's known as 3D orthomosaic, and then layer in all the aggregations, calculations, machine learning algorithms, artificial intelligence directly on top of the three-dimensional model. This is a natural progression of how industrial work continues to get accomplished because better decision-making is available; the physical model is easily exposed to a level of unprecedented accuracy with data and analytics.

Where is drone technology going?

Historically, you've taken sensors, flown over worksites, flown over commercial locations, and figured out how to manually get insights out of that information.

The market needs better automation, better data processing, better capabilities to get those insights off of the sensors; and, make automated sense out of them using machine learning, using artificial intelligence.

We've never built a solution with even a joystick. With autonomous capability, you punch in the coordinates to fly by casting a geofence and then drawing out the area with your fingers on an iPad. Hit the start button, and the drone autonomously takes off and does the work that it needs to do.

We see this as natural automation and set of applications that support the data that's coming off the drone versus someone manually flying, which has been historically what the drone market has looked like.

It's not that the two are in violent conflict with each other. There are perfectly adequate needs to be able to fly manually. A good example is doing a bridge inspection, which is best-suited by a pilot manually flying a drone to collect that insight.

But, to look at shipping containers that might come to a port, or the dimensional analysis of a roof, or the operating efficiency of an entire solar farm, those things can be automated without pilots manually flying drones.


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Dolce & Gabbana used drones to carry its handbags down the runway at the ‘Secrets & Diamonds’ eveningwear event on Saturday night. While we’ve seen the use of unmanned aerial vehicles permeating all sorts of industries and occasions—as an interactive experience at sporting events, or to celebrate Chinese New Year—this is certainly something new. If one of the most prestigious fashion brands in the world is using drones as a vital part of its show, at which it’s unveiling a new line of products, then surely, drones are firmly locking themselves into mainstream culture. 

According to Elle, attendees were instructed by announcements in both English and Italian to turn off their cell-phone WiFi connections which could potentially affect the fleet of drones and thereby the integrity of the performance. The show reportedly began with the sound of church bells, followed by Kendrick Lamar and SZA’s “All The Stars” booming from the speakers. Finally, it was time for the aerial surprise: Drones carrying a series of handbags down the runway, to resounding applause from the audience.

Let’s take a look, shall we?

Quadcopters, parading D&G's new handbags down the runway.

The UAVs flying in tandem, and being recorded by spectators.

Drones at Dolce & Gabbana's "Secrets & Diamonds" event on Saturday night.

From the looks of it, it seems the drone's are commemorating the event's theme, diamonds, with the UAVs being adorned by them atop. As expected, a fairly traditional fashion show ensued thereafter, with seasoned designers Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana showcasing their most recent work. Us drone enthusiasts, however, are understandably more fascinated by the implementation of UAVs in a seemingly prestigious fashion event, than the clothes being promoted. In any case, it certainly seems as though drones are becoming fashionable themselves. 


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Real Estate and aerial photography go hand-in-glove. One of the most competitive areas of the rapidly expanding commercial UAV industry is real estate, and recent research has even shown that properties that feature aerial imaging in their marketing collateral generally sell between 20-30% more quickly than those that do not. In short, for Estate Agents, commercial drone operators are a dream come true.

But all too often, as with other sectors of the industry, rogue operators are creating chaos where there should be harmony, and accidents where there should be safety. So if you’re an estate agent, and you are thinking about hiring a drone pilot, here are some things you should know:

1.Always ask to see permissions and insurance

Every legally qualified drone operator will have a copy of their permissions from the CAA (Civil Aviation Authority) and a valid insurance certificate. They should have them ready for inspection whilst on-site and should also be able to send them via email. There are no circumstances under which a legal operator would not be able to show you these.

2.Ask to see risk assessments

A qualified commercial drone operator will perform two risk assessments. The first will be immediately upon you confirming a project, and the second will be when they arrive on-site. Don’t be afraid to ask for a copy of these for your records, or to ask them to talk you through it. The risk assessment should include the type of airspace being operated in, and also the telephone numbers of the local police station, Air Traffic Control and any other numbers pertinent to the project. 

3.Landowner’s permission and minimum separation distances

In order to operate from any specific site, the commercial operator will need to be in possession of the landowner’s permission. This will be a signed form giving the commercial operator permission to take off and land from the site. If the property is in a built-up area, minimum separation distances come into effect. This means that the pilot must not fly within 50M of any vehicle, person or property not under their control (this distance increases to 150M is you are an amateur). In essence, the pilot will have to use some mapping software to calculate all of those properties that fall within a 50M radius and speak to the relevant resident to let them know what will be happening, when it will be happening, and also to preferably get a signature stating they understand the safety briefing they have been given, and do not mind UAV operating within their vicinity.

Tell-tale signs of a Del-Boy Operator

These things are what Ely Aviation would consider being minimums of professional practice.

Here are some tell-tale signs of a rogue operator

  • Your hired operator turns up in a car with a Mavic Pro and has none of the above available for your inspection.
  • They do not have any safety equipment with them
  • They do not talk you through every step of the process
  • They do not examine the site prior to operating and mitigate any on-site risk
  • They charge 90% less than all of the other quotes you had (this is a dead give away)

We’ve all seen the chandelier episode of Only Fools and Horses - if you hire an illegal operator the star of the show could be you!


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The so-called 'digital mine' is no longer a future prospect.

It is already well and truly a fixture of the Australian mining landscape, and operators large and small, from front-end mining companies to the service industries, are a vital cog in the extractive industries supply chain.

The mining and resources sectors have undergone more change in the past 10 years than in the past 100 years.

Terms such as real-time data capture, automation and autonomous vehicles, wearable technologies and digital-twinning are part of the mining and METS sector lexicon in the 21st century.

But as Australian mining races to be at the forefront of a global trend, there are concerns about not only workforce availability and skill sets, but the traditional approach to tertiary education that is not necessarily geared towards the requirements of modern mining needs and practices.

What is the 'digital mine'?

The evolution of the 'digital mine' in Australia has been led by the the well established mining companies, known as the majors — large multi-national companies that tend to work in the bulk-commodities sectors such as coal and iron ore.

Rio Tinto led the charge when it moved its iron ore rolling stock to an autonomous model, and BHP Billiton followed with driverless trucks on some of its mine sites.

Trains that can be kilometres long are autonomously operated from a nerve centre in Perth, Western Australia, and driverless trains and trucks are now commonplace in the iron ore industry in the Pilbara in Western Australia's north-west.

Now the junior and mid-size miners and the companies that service them are operating or working towards the digital mine model.

A digital mine is a traditional mine that is using digital technologies, for example: autonomous trucks, trains, and drones to extract greater value from existing assets.

They work with the so-called internet of things that enables them to use advanced technologies such as real-time data capture with low cost sensors that feed information back to operators.

That information, known as big data, may also come from technologies such as 'wearables', is integrated in areas such as planning, control and decision making with the ultimate aim of extracting greater value at lower cost, while improving the health and safety of mine workers.

The rise of the robotic drone

Drones are increasingly being used across many industry sectors, but Israeli company Airobotics is the first to introduce fully autonomous drones to the Australian mining industry.

It has teamed up with South32 to trial the drone at the Worsley Alumina project in south-west Western Australia.

Joseph Urli is the director of flight operations in Australia, and said the drones aimed to remove the '3 Ds' from the jobs of the mine workforce — danger, and dull and dirty jobs.

"Instead of doing things like sending people out on surveys, or having them undertake a mission, the drone can do it all and it reduces the exposure of humans to risk," he said.

Airobotics is also working with aviation safety body CASA to use the trial to help develop regulations on the use of autonomous drones.

"Australia actually led the world in terms of regulating drones and issued its first set of regulations in 2002," Mr Urli said.

"Since then, however, other civil aviation authorities around world have caught up and in fact overtaken regulation in this space.

"There's a senate inquiry underway into safety of drones at moment, and we think that's a very positive move, it is very inclusive and seeking input across the board from people like airline pilots, air traffic controllers, and professional drone operators.

"We want to see the mavericks taken out of the equation, and the drone hobbyist sticking to their assigned, approved airfields."

Airobotics demonstrated its technology at Diggers and Dealers in 2016 and at the time no company in Australia was working with industrial level autonomous drones.

It now has three deployed across the nation.

Digital mine calls for specialist skills

Northern Star Resources has had a meteoric rise from start-up exploration company in 2003 to becoming Australia's third-largest gold miner by 2014.

Its focus is underground gold mines, which is a reflection of the fact that, after years of easy to access open pit surface mines, the future trend is definitely underground mining.

"We're looking forward and what we see is the surface mine deposits will be depleted," CEO Stuart Tonkin said.

"The industry has already moved from 75 per cent of the mines being open cut to now only 56 per cent.

"And with the push to remove diesel trucks from underground and move to autonomous electric vehicles, we need to be preparing for that future."

The company has just committed $50 million over 10 years to develop and expand an appropriately skilled workforce.

But Mr Tonkin warns against confusing technology with innovation.

"As soon as you move to those electric vehicles, there's a whole different skill set in trades that need to be involved in keeping that gear running, like diagnostics" he said.

"Everything in industry is driven by people, so we're investing in people, and the skills, and recognising what skills they will require in the next two decades.

"We need to start training them now, because it does take time."

Like many, Mr Tonkin refutes claims that the move to digital mines means a reduction in jobs.

"There's no point displacing labour," he said.

"You need the same labour and there is a shortage of labour, a shortage of people who are interested in going into underground mining.

"So just the sheer education and getting people excited about it is part of this whole program we've embarked on."

Need for tertiary education models to change

Mining Education Australia director Steve Hall said vocational training centres and universities needed to be prepared to quickly change the way they structured their degree systems.

Professor Hall agreed with Stuart Tonkin that getting people interested in mining careers was an issue that needed to be addressed.

"I think we've got two challenges," he said.

"We need to compete with the Ubers and the Goggles of the world and attract the IT, the mechatronics, the robotics people and get them to look at mining, and get involved in it.

"But we've also got to get the mining people to understand what's really going on in those same disciplines; it's got to come at it both ways."

Professor Hall advocated a new approach, known as micro-credentialing to produce suitably skilled workers much quicker.

"I think the old style of thinking was more around the 'double degree' but what we're talking about, is called micro-credentialing," he said.

"It might be a small set of subjects that a chemical engineer or a mechanical engineer or a geologist would do alongside their studies, so they come out with both at the end of just a single degree program.

"Double degree adds another year of study, another year of debt, and another year away from the workforce.

"And I also think the other thing that perhaps isn't well understood by students is that a lot of the employment [in mining] is going to be with some of these exciting METS companies, whether it's flying drones or big data analytics.

"Those skill sets are probably going to be in the consulting and service sector areas, not necessarily within the mining companies themselves."


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Researchers in the United Kingdom have successfully grown the world's first crop of barley using nothing but robot tractors and drones.

The project's aim was to have no operators in the driving seats of the machines or have any agronomists set foot into the 1-hectare paddock.

Researcher Martin Abell said there was a lot of farming already automated, such as GPS steering, but it was rare to grow an entire crop without anyone stepping into the paddock.

Hence the name of the project — Hands Free Hectare.

Mr Abell said the crop was seeded, sprayed, monitored and harvested autonomously, and it is something farmers could be doing soon.

"We have been able to show the public that this is something that isn't too far ahead in the future, and it could be happening now," he said.

"It has also allowed us to raise the perception of agriculture to the public, so they see it as a forward-thinking industry and something that might attract new people to the industry."

Drone technology automates processes

Researchers used drone technology to automate small agricultural machines, such as tractors and chaser bins.

They also used drones to monitor and bring samples for agronomists to check.

"They were essentially our eyes, so we would assess the field using a multi-spectral camera and get imagery from the field showing us where it was strongest and weakest," Mr Abell said.

"We would then send a little ground rover that would collect samples for us that we could conduct agronomy on.

"And this meant we aren't walking out and on the crop as much, therefore protecting the crop a bit more."

A man wearing earmuffs sitting in a control room looking a computer monitors, with windows and a paddock in the background.

Researcher Martin Abell checks the data from the Hands Free Hectare paddock. (Supplied: Hands Free Hectare)

To get the tractors to work for seeding and harvest, the researchers used an autopilot from a drone, which Mr Abell said was unconventional for research.

"We only had a year to do this project so we had to pick something that didn't require much development," he said.

"It also brought its problems, because the navigation algorithms within a drone are vastly different from those conventionally used for the auto steers on tractors to drive in straight lines.

"So we had to adapt that system to work like an auto steer system and achieve those straight lines that farmers are familiar with."

More testing needed to scale up

After a year of growing, monitoring and harvesting the crop of barley, the researchers were able to show the future of farming could be completely automated.

But there is still plenty of work and testing to be done on a larger scale.

Mr Abell said they were able to prove it could be feasible because part of the project was to do it on a small budget.

"It was roughly $350,000 we had and that was also to hire three people's time, as well as all the equipment we had to buy.

"I am sure if we can make it happen on that budget they can do it commercially with something that is user-friendly for farmers."

The barley crop was harvested completely hands-free. (Supplied: Hands Free Hectare)

Mr Abell said the barley that was grown in the Hands Free Hectare would be put to good use.

"We are currently getting our barley malted to produce a hands-free beer and it is in the process at the moment," he said.

"So hopefully in a couple of months we will have a hands-free beer, which will be nice finish to the project, to celebrate drinking some of that."


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This was my second year in a row going to the New York City Drone Film Festival and I have to say that I have yet to be disappointed. Year after year, they manage to find some of the best videos from a variety of different categories to share with the world. Without further ado, here are the winners from the NYCDFF:

Extreme Sports: Candide Thovex Quattro 2 - Candice Thovex

News & Documentary: The Big Ugly - Maquina Voadora  

Narrative: Donny the Drone - Mackenzie Sheppard

Dronie: The Last Drone - 
Chris Castor

Stills: Football Island - Brent DeBleser

X-Factor: Kingdom of the Wild - Mike Bishop


There were a lot of fantastic submissions this year. I even submitted my Oregon video from last fall, but that did not make it into the festival. It goes to show that the competition is tough, the work is good, and the amount of talent at this festival is truly amazing. I personally think that all of this work will inspire a lot of people to get out there and create more. I know for sure that it has inspired me to create better drone work and day after day, I work towards doing that. If you haven't seen all the films, I will include a link for you to check them out. If you haven't been to a drone film festival, I would also recommend getting out to one to see great drone work, meet new people and stay in touch with the rise of all this incredible technology.


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The geospatial industry has seen exponential growth in the adoption of unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV or ‘drone’) solutions in recent years, particularly in surveying and mapping applications. Photogrammetry has recovered from a decline during the analogue era and benefited massively from the light digital sensors on versatile UAVs. Innovative technologies and more integrated, customer-friendly solutions have enabled photogrammetry to stay on the radar of industry professionals. Today, photogrammetry is increasingly capable of meeting demands for faster, more precise and efficient data collection.

At the turn of the century, the survival of photogrammetry depended on its ability to adapt in the face of more innovative, competing technologies, such as airborne and terrestrial laser scanners (ALS and TLS) and other multi- and hyper-spectral sensors of remote sensing. This need was driven primarily by a growing demand for faster, more efficient and reactive data collection and imaging, with traditional photogrammetric methodologies like analogue cameras on manned aircrafts falling out of favour. This growth in demand has coincided with the rise of UAVs in the geospatial sector, which has played a significant role in changing the future direction of surveying.

Aside from serving as a more cost-effective alternative to manned aerial mapping systems, the precision and efficiency that drones provide has enabled them to become an essential surveying solution. Precise positioning is becoming the standard for UAVs, allowing highly detailed and highly accurate outputs in record time.

Indeed, advances in photogrammetric technologies have enabled this field to complement the rise of drones in the geospatial industry. For instance, there are now photogrammetric cameras that are lightweight and agile enough for use on drones during flights, e.g. the senseFly S.O.D.A. camera which produces detailed, vivid orthomosaics and highly precise digital surface models (DSMs). More complex and higher-quality camera sensors have also enabled a continuum, in terms of ground sampling distance (GS) and angle of view, ranging from nadir to oblique to horizontal to zenith.

Continued innovation

While developments have been crucial in enabling drones to thrive in the geospatial arena, further innovation is required to allow UAV surveying and mapping to continue its upward trajectory. Development of real-time processes is also expected to help streamline drone mapping techniques, further supporting faster image capture, processing and analysis.

With greater awareness of the benefits of drones in commercial applications, including agriculture, mining and humanitarian aid, it is vital that hardware providers continue to innovate. One way in which this can be achieved is through investment in strategic partnerships between hardware and software companies, to enable drones to become integrated, decision-making tools, able to inform project feasibility and operation. With ease of use being more important than ever, such partnerships will also facilitate greater interoperability and more holistic processes, supporting customers from data collection through to analysis and enabling smarter workflows.

Moving forward

As drone adoption becomes more widespread, safety is inevitably a key consideration for surveying and mapping professionals. Since the first European UTM Day in Geneva in 2017, global attention on unmanned traffic management (UTM) has increased significantly, with greater and safer access to airspace being an important focus for drone providers. At senseFly, we will be working with key stakeholders worldwide to ensure that UAVs are able to integrate more smoothly with manned air traffic, in line with drone regulations across the globe.

Today, the need for more integrated, dynamic UAV surveying and mapping methodologies is greater than ever, while traditional imaging techniques like photogrammetry are increasingly capable of meeting demands for faster, more precise and efficient data collection. Greater interoperability of processing and analysis software with UAV technology looks set to play a key role in ensuring that the geospatial field remains dynamic, while supporting more complete, end-to-end UAV solutions for industry professionals.


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Aerial modelling and inspections using commercial-grade drones offer compelling advantages for the resource sector by increasing safety, saving time and reducing survey costs. Airscope*, a Perth, Australia-based inspections and asset visualization company, has used the Intel® Falcon™ 8+ drone to extend these benefits further by developing computer-generated 3-D models of entire hydrocarbon processing facilities off the North West shelf of Australia and in the Cooper Basin, effectively bringing the field into the boardroom for more effective asset management.

Industrial digitization or “Industry 4.0” is predicted to generate US$421 billion in cost reductions and additional revenue each year for the next five years worldwide, according to a report by PwC. 3-D modelling of resource assets by companies like Airscope is one way of contributing to and driving this digital revolution that is transforming industry.

Airscope’s director, Chris Leslie, and its chief controller, Francois Alberts – both trained commercial airline pilots – saw the potential opportunities drone technology could offer to the resource sector. They reshaped their careers to work with software, survey and geospatial specialists to develop new ways for large resources companies to manage their physical assets.

“When people think of drones operating in industrial applications, they think of inspections collecting data from hard-to-reach places,” Leslie said. “Our business has evolved beyond this where the real efficiencies and return on investment for the client come from providing a digital 3-D representation of their physical assets.

“We made the transition to asset visualization because UAV inspection only gave clients a fraction of the story; without context, the full potential of images captured cannot be realized. So now we create a virtual canvas of the entire site using airborne photogrammetry, ground photogrammetry and laser scanning. Once the virtual canvas is created, you can paint any operational or planning data on it, to serve as a human medium to access and interact with big data.

“You could compare this technology to how our lives have changed with innovations such as the smartphone – the time savings and benefits are hard to quantify,” Leslie added. “The benefits are multiplied when looking at clients managing large-scale resource sites due to the number of employees and the potential cost to the business if decisions are made based on inaccurate or incomplete information. Early indications by clients currently implementing asset digitization into their operations suggest day-to-day cost reductions of between 3.6 and 10 percent dependent on industry, and capital works projects being reduced by more than 20 percent. We are entering a period where decisions are being determined by the data at hand and companies that haven’t started their transformation towards digitization will be left behind.”

Recently, Airscope worked alongside drone manufacturer, Intel Corporation, and local Australian distributor, Position Partners*, to deliver 3-D models of Santos*-operated facilities in Australia’s Cooper Basin. Santos enlisted Airscope to provide not only large-scale virtual models, but also inspection services of critical assets, which are challenging to monitor using traditional methods.

“When looking for the best drone for modelling these challenging landscapes, we compared 37 different aircraft that all claimed to be up to the specifications we needed,” Alberts said. “When Intel’s distributor, Position Partners, showed us the Intel Falcon 8+ drone, we found it to be the only aircraft which met our expectations, for its reliability, stability and true 3-D modelling capabilities.”

The Intel Falcon 8+ is a multirotor-style drone that, through pre-programmed flight plans, is able to capture hundreds of aerial images per flight. These images are then collated and stitched together to form a holistic 3-D model through the photogrammetry process. Due to the accuracy of images capture by the Intel Falcon 8+, Airscope can incorporate laser scanning data into photogrammetry to make the model accurate enough for use in detailed engineering design of major infrastructure projects.

“Intel is committed to producing high-quality, commercial-grade drones that will excel in challenging environments such as the Moomba Gas Plant,” said Anil Nanduri, vice president and general manager of the Drone Group at Intel. “Looking ahead, we will see a greater focus on automation of both the data capture and more importantly data analysis. This will unlock the ability for greater analyses and inference of large data sets that will be captured entirely by drones, allowing businesses to reduce operational expenses by assessing and predicting maintenance needs.”

The quality and rate of data captured from systems such as the Intel Falcon 8+ drone increases efficiencies and lowers operating costs, while around-the-clock access to a full model of the plant on the Airscope Visualize* platform reduces preparation work and disruption to the operation. It also eliminates risks for activities such as working at height or exposure to hazardous working environments.

“The quality and quantity of data we’re able to access from the Intel Falcon 8+ drone just wouldn’t be possible with any other method or technology,” Leslie said. “Moreover, our clients can see every asset from every angle and perspective, providing better situational awareness, insight and increased accuracy for making big decisions.”


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FOX Sports will be introducing new vantage points to its Daytona 500 coverage this weekend, utilizing a tethered drone for aerial views on the backstretch, a record number of in-car cameras including Visor Cams, a Hat Cam as well as a return of the so-called Gopher Cam, an HD lens buried in the asphalt track.

The drone, which will be affixed to a line to increase the duration of its flight time, will remain elevated outside the racing area and provide an unprecedented angle on the track.

As for its point-of-view cameras, FOX will deploy 14 in-car cameras; two Visor Cams (made by BSI and to be worn in the Daytona 500 for the first by Kurt Busch and Daniel Suarez); one Hat Cam (to be worn by two-time Daytona winner and FOX analyst Michael Waltrip on pit road before the race); and three Gopher Cams, which are provided by Inertia Unlimited and are said to have a wider, clearer picture than in years past.

“Each year, Daytona Speedweeks allows us to develop, test and deploy more and more technical enhancements than we are able to do at most other events,” Michael Davies, FOX Sports SVP for field and technical operations, said in a statement. “The sheer mount of multi-day, multi-platform programming FOX Sports has over multiple races, qualifying sessions and practice sessions allows us the reps to do so.

“This year is no different, as we are using the popular Visor Cam for the first time in a Daytona 500, our first fiber NASCAR IP transmission, different stabilized camera mounts to access different areas of the pits and our digital mosaic offering.”

The FOX Sports GO app will offer a variety of in-car camera views — building on the introduction of Car Channels in previous years — and telemetry for fans to analyze the ongoing race more closely. These elements are in addition to the network’s linear broadcast.

“With such amazing resources and technology around our NASCAR coverage, we are excited to provide the fans with some great additional content,” said Zac Fields, FOX Sports SVP Graphic Tech/Integration. “We look forward to growing this throughout the season.”


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When the small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) were first released commercially, they attracted hobbyists and those who loved flying machines. Now that these hobby-sized drones are getting more accessible and practical, both because of lower prices and ease of flight control, it is easy to start a business using this technology. Drone cameras are getting better too – they don’t only get smaller and lighter, but they are also now available in much higher resolutions with better lenses. The top rated drones in the market surely have this feature.

Here are ten ideas on how to start a small business with your drone:

1. Events photography and videography

This is an exciting and really profitable application of drones, as it is used to capture special events like sports competitions, graduation events, parties, weddings and many more. Drones capture amazing outdoor photos and videos, like in landscape photography, but this is getting more popular in the wedding photography field. The aerial shots bring out the beauty of the wedding arrangements and the spectacular location and scenery in a way that on-the-ground coverage cannot achieve. Couples are willing to pay top dollar just to ensure that moments of their big day would be beautifully recorded and so it can be treasured forever.

Same as with sporting events – all those action and splendor cannot be captured by cameras on land only. Drones are perfect for capturing out-of-the-way bike races and some skiers jumping off cliffs.

Tapping the aerial photo and video coverage business with drones is a great idea, especially if this is your area of interest. You would need an expert who knows how to use drones in events where there are a lot of people, since they can be unsafe and irritating due to the loud sound it can produce. If that expert is you, and you already own a drone, you’re good to go.

2. Agricultural surveying

Drones are the future of agriculture. To reduce the time required walking in the fields and making use of expensive piloted aircrafts, farmers can use drones armed with specialized cameras and sensors. This enables farmers to collect useful data regarding soil and field condition, variations in soil composition, pest or fungal infestation, overall health of crops and others. Other specialized agricultural drones can also deliver crop treatment and irrigation.

Agricultural drone renting and selling shops could serve the needs of farmers for a quicker, more sustainable and effective crop care. This could also lessen their needs for more workers to save more income. It’s a new market that has great potential, and if the farmers don’t want to rent and fly the drone themselves, you can provide flight services for them.

3. Aerial surveying

One of the most notable advancements in the field of land surveying is the use of programmed drones. Before, aerial surveying is dominated by commercially piloted airplanes and helicopters to perform topography, cartography, feature recognition and GIS applications on sites that are difficult to see or measure from the ground. But using airplanes or helicopters are expensive and labor-extensive, considering the logistics you need to take care of to use them. Now, UAVs make it easier do aerial surveying.

Small drone operators are already finding a foothold in digital mapping and ortho-photography services because of the huge cost savings it can offer. Drones are also capable of going slower and lower, creating a better visual imagery than larger traditional aircraft.

4. Resort, hotel and real estate advertising

Advertising for real estate, resort and hotel businesses is a growing opportunity for entrepreneurial video makers with experience on drones and aerial imagery. Real estate agents are now observing that low altitude aerial video footages capture the attention of buyers, and that those properties and homes with drone coverage sell more quickly. They are getting more listings as well. For hotels and resorts, those with drone-captured advertisements stand out from the crowd on booking applications. They are more than willing to hire drone video professionals to provide the visuals that can effectively market their properties and services.

Besides a nice pay, some of these business owners give UAV video companies free lodging, free admission and other perks they offer in return for their service. What a nice trade for doing something fun such as flying your drone!

5. Freelance video production

If you love video editing and capturing videos with your drone so much, why not turn your hobby into a profitable venture? You can offer a variety of creative and personalized videos used by individuals to send special messages to loved ones, friends and family; or by professional clients to market and promote their products or services. Not all people know how to fly a drone, plus not all of them knows how to edit videos – so you definitely have an edge. All you need to do is establish yourself as a freelancer and pick the scope of your potential clients.

Other entrepreneurial filmmakers are also offering drone video services on “micro job” or crowdsourcing websites, so that they can be exposed to more clients.

6. Low-altitude banner advertising

Using drones for advertising is still not mainstream, so it has a great potential in attracting customers for small businesses that target local markets. For instance, a businessman with a newly-opened small coffee shop could put up a banner that they are “now open” outside – only capturing the attention of people who happened to go past their location. But if he would use a drone to make his banner “fly” around the locality’s public places, he would surely capture more attention without needing to spend a lot of money. Plus, the drone can be equipped with speakers to blast promotional messages and music. It would be entertaining and intriguing for prospective customers.

You only need to have a reliable drone for this one and offer this idea to startup business owners. Handle your drone really well and you’d probably be hired again by others!

7. Independent film making

Okay, you need a lot more creativity and passion for this one. If you wish to create your own films, having a drone and knowing how to capture great videos with it is a step closer to your goal. In traditional film sets and studios, they own cranes, dollies, jibs and helicopters to help get the perfect cinematography. Hollywood is already using drones for aerial cinematography for TV and movie production.

Indie filmmakers are making a new wave in the film industry, breaking those Hollywood stereotypes and bringing in more culture to the big screen. If you have an interest for filmmaking and an amazing idea for a film storyline (plus a set of supportive friends and colleagues), go for it – you never know what could happen unless you try!

8. Security surveillance

Homeowners and people properties with large area of terrain, for instance a commercial fishery or a vineyard, need security from unwanted trespassers and thieves. Hiring many security officers to properly man it would be difficult as well as expensive. Drones can help with this one, and would be more cost-effective to just hire one person with an unmanned aerial surveillance system that could easily cover a large area. Drones with sensors could be set up to get notified when a possible trespassing or burglary is taking place, and then to capture a live video footage of the intrusion and transmits it to a smartphone.

UAVs are creating new business opportunities in the field security surveillance for wannabe drone-flying entrepreneurs.

9. Infrastructure and construction inspection

The construction industry would benefit a lot with drones. Construction companies, architects and engineers working on big projects are hiring drone operators to capture videos so that they can measure progress, and check if there are problems. Drones could also be utilized by structural engineers and law enforcement officials to survey damages in structures like dams, roads and bridges so that they can easily develop a plan how to fix or reconstruct them.

Periodic inspection of structures, usually done in buildings, would also be more cost-effective and safe with the use of drones than inspection by a hired worker. Roof inspection on multi-story structures, for instance, can be hazardous for the inspector and costly for the owner. With drones, they can perform a close-up survey and deliver high-resolution videos that would enable the owner to detect damages or potential trouble spots. If you have knowledge about construction and/or structural inspections, starting a drone inspection service could be an ideal business venture – or maybe an additional service if you’re thinking of an inspection business as a whole.

10. Drone sales, repair, customization and training

If you’re really into drones and are willing to invest a capital for other people to enjoy it as well, then a drone shop would be perfect for you. By their nature, drones are fragile and prone to damage or failure especially if misused. Although prices have gone down, broken drones are still too expensive to dump in most cases. If you are a technical expert in drones and has a background in electronics, then drone sales, repair or customization could be a suitable business idea for you.

If you have the skills and certification to safely fly a drone and has some interest in teaching, then you could also offer services as a drone trainer. You know that not all drones are friendly for beginners, and even the beginner-level devices might be hard to handle for some. These people need an experienced drone user like you!

You can truly change the way you do business with drones. However, before starting any business, do some preliminary market research and look for any existing demand or potential clients in your area that might benefit from your drone services. Check if the target market is already saturated.

If it seems like there is a need for these types of services, create a plan. Know what drones to pick, if you’re thinking of buying a new one. Make sure that you read a lot of drone reviews and search for the best drone deals to lessen initial costs.


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