Drone News

The drones are coming, whether your business is ready for them or not. Amazon Prime Air and Google’s Project Wing are working toward making drone delivery a reality. Despite significant regulatory hurdles in the United States, drone startups are multiplying like, well, drones.

The U.K. is well ahead of the U.S. in the regulation and deployment of drones. A London branch of restaurant chain YO! Sushi has experimented with delivery drones, and Amazon is moving forward with plans to roll out drone delivery in Great Britain. Even Royal Mail has hopped on the trend: The mail service believes that drones can help deliver the post in rural regions and give the government service an edge against commercial competitors. Airlines and oil rigs already use drones to inspect equipment that is hard for humans to access.

If you think that your industry has no use for drones, ask yourself if your competitors would agree. In the near future, the question may become not whether you should employ drones, but how many drones you can afford to deploy.

Regulations rein in drones

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) oversees drone flights in the U.S. The agency issued rules to govern the use of drones in 2016. These regulations included the requirement that the drone operator always have eyes on the drone. This places severe limits on the usefulness of drones for their most obvious application: delivery.

Most observers believe that U.S. regulators will need to find a way to accommodate a broader range of drone deployment. A sign that this is on the horizon came last October, when the Trump administration told the FAA to allow local jurisdictions to test their own drone regulations. The program laid out in the president’s memo would allow drones to fly out of operator sightlines and to fly at night, both of which are currently prohibited under FAA rules.

Drone innovation is already pushing the envelope well beyond the operations envisioned in the FAA rules. California-based Skydio recently released a drone that flies on autopilot. While the R1 has a battery life of only 16 minutes and is designed to follow a human subject (The New York Times dubbed it the “selfie drone”), it’s just one sign of how fast the technology behind drone flight has evolved.

Drones disrupt the media

Even under the FAA’s current strict guidelines (and under much looser regulations in other parts of the world), drones have already disrupted traditional media. Soaring aerial shots of remote landscapes are no longer the province of well-funded National Geographic camera crews. TV news helicopters are giving way to drone-mounted cameras that can deliver overhead shots of crowds and events for a fraction of the price.

The leading drone manufacturer, China’s DJI, sells drones for prices starting under $400. High-end drones range up to a few thousand dollars — about what a serious photography enthusiast might pay for a top-of-the-line DSLR camera.

The accessibility of drone technology has given enterprising photographers and videographers greater ability to disrupt the industry most disrupted by technological innovation: the media. A growing number of entrepreneurs are launching sophisticated media operations on a shoestring budget, thanks to drones.

The next industry to be turned on its head by this new technology is likely to be fulfillment. That will affect every business that sells products online.

Will drones give small businesses a competitive edge?

Here’s a scenario that may be common in the not-too-distant future: Your customer needs a book for her book group meeting tonight and you have it in stock at your brick-and-mortar bookstore. She calls you up, and you have it at her front door in less than an hour. You just beat Amazon, thanks to a drone.

Drones could become the secret weapon that gives local businesses a chance to compete against the increasingly speedy delivery of online giants like Amazon and Walmart. A restaurant needs last-minute floral arrangements for an event. The local florist flies them across town in an hour by drone. You need a prescription, but you’re too sick to go pick it up. That’s not a problem because your local pharmacy can send a drone to drop it at your front door.

The days of local drone delivery are not quite here. Regulations need to catch up with technology, so drones can coexist peacefully with humans and other aircraft. The technology is not yet mature.

Small businesses ignore drones at their peril. Amazon has a patent for a warehouse that’s a floating beehive filled with drones. The e-commerce behemoth hopes to station these fulfillment centers over every major city and offer nearly instantaneous delivery, siphoning off even more customers from local businesses. Drones could be the secret weapon that allows local enterprises to stay relevant in the age of e-commerce.



03/05/2018

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THE hills are alive but these days it’s not necessarily with the sound of music.

More often it’s the faint buzz of a drone shooting a mini Hollywood-style production to help sell a country property.

Drones are literally taking real estate photography to new heights.

Whether a country winery, horse stud or lifestyle property, drone photography can give an all-over picture of just what’s being sold, showcasing what normal photography can’t.

Suddenly those “breathtaking views” are being fully exploited, maybe with a sunset sequence from a drone creeping up and over a homestead to reveal the natural majesty beyond, all to the haunting sound of strings or panpipes.

Like a good movie, a well-executed drone video can convey emotion and romance. A lone quad biker zipping across green pastures shouts out the thrill of escape, or a flock of birds flying up from a pond, lagoon or even farm dam, conjures rural bliss.

Country real estate cliches such as “picturesque location” and “exceptional uninterrupted views” are made real. “River frontages” can be zoomed in on. “Close proximity to” beach, major town, national park or mountain range can be breathtakingly displayed in a seductive sweep.

Profitable pics

Scott Elks, managing director of Blue Sky Vision Media, says the use of drone photography, can be a game-changer, adding to a property’s selling price.

“It offers a completely different perspective. It’s about standing out, cutting through in a crowded market, providing a different perspective,” he says.

Matt Childs, of Pat Rice & Hawkins, and Nick Myer, of Elders, agree.

“Drones have revolutionised real estate, and brought a whole new dynamic,” Nick says.

Matt adds: “With rural properties you very often have a large amount of ground to cover, from river frontages to large paddocks of crops, and with a drone it just creates a magnificent aspect very different to what you would get from the ground.”

He says video tours in particular are invaluable when social media is being used.

What it costs

Drone shots, whether still or video, are generally built into the marketing package by real estate agents and undertaken by specialist companies. Prices vary greatly, from $200 to $1600 for a basic package of video and stills to $4500 or more for a 2 to 2½-minute narrated video.

“For less than $2500 we can get high-end production quality video plus all still images from drone and ground, internals and externals and floorplan,” Matt says.

If a drone pilot and a cameraman are used on a shoot, prices are usually higher.

For 360-degree panoramas, comprising individual shots “stitched” together in one continuous photo to be manipulated online by the viewer, Blue Sky Vision Media charges $1500 to $2000.

Scott warns people to do their homework before hiring a drone operator. “What’s happening is that you’ve got a lot of kids and unlicensed people flying drones and taking photos, especially in the real estate market because it’s such a price-sensitive area,” he says.

“Anyone can throw a drone in the air and take an aerial photograph but doing it and doing it well are two very different things. You get what you pay for.”

Under Civil Aviation Safety Authority regulations, the operator of a drone weighing more than 2kg needs to be licensed and/or certified to fly.

Professional operators must also carry public liability insurance.

Not for every property

While some agents differ, most agree drone photography, especially video, is not for every property.

If a property’s surroundings do not visually sparkle, or there’s less of a story to tell, conventional photography — maybe a static overhead showing boundaries — is generally good enough.



27/04/2018

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In the mountains near Ponce, Puerto Rico, after Hurricane Maria hit, the terrain made it incredibly difficult to repair power lines that used to stretch from peak to peak. For four months, people in the area lived in the dark. In January, Duke Energy started using a new approach to cross 1,000-feet-plus wide ravines: drones.

A drone, carrying a lightweight nylon cord, can quickly fly over dense, jungle-like vegetation to a pole on the opposite side of a ravine. A 3D-printed electromagnet attached to the drone makes it possible to drop the cord in the right position. Next, workers can attach a larger, stronger cord, and then pull the conductor wire into place, making it possible to restore power.

In some other areas, utility companies use helicopters to attach lines; some of the lines in the Puerto Rican mountains were originally installed that way. But helicopters weren’t available to make the repairs, and the work of flying them is also dangerous. After a helicopter pilot suffered a fatal accident in Indiana in 2017, Duke Energy looked for alternatives.

“The question was raised, is there another way to do this?” says Jacob Velky, manager of unmanned aerial systems at Duke Energy. The utility already used drones to inspect solar panels, wind turbines, and transmission lines. But by tweaking the technology, the team realized that it would also be possible to use drones to install distribution lines.

When Duke came to Puerto Rico in January, as part of a group of utilities helping with the recovery, it was the first opportunity to use the drones in regular operation. For six days, assigned to the mountainous area in the south-central part of the island, the team went from location to location flying the drones over hills and valleys. “We were doing upwards of 3-4 pulls in a day,” says Velky. “There was no shortage of work.”

Earlier, workers had attempted an older technique to cross ravines–shooting a brass projectile attached to the same type of nylon cord used by the drones. But the projectile can only travel about 800 feet; several crossings in the area were much longer. The drone strung one cord 1,200 feet, longer than three football fields. Without the drone, it’s also easy to miss the target, and if the cord is lost in the thick vegetation, workers will have to hike out to find it, using machetes to hack a path.

The drones were also used to survey the area, locating broken poles and other infrastructure buried under months of vegetation. “Being in the jungle, once the conductor is off and you just have a wooden pole out in the trees, it’s very difficult to see where the pole is,” he says. “So using the drone to do reconnaissance instead of somebody going out there and walking around trying to find it just minimized the amount of time that our employees are off a road.”

When Duke arrived in January, power had been restored to about 68% of customers in the area they were assigned. A little over a month later–with work that included a week of support from the drones–around 94% of customers have power.

The drones were so efficient that, in some cases, the team put up the cords before conductor wire was available. The island is still struggling to get supplies delivered. The embattled local utility, long criticized for mismanagement (and which will now, controversially, be privatized), is still moving slowly; it may take another month before the majority of residents on the island have power, and perhaps until May before everyone does. In the mountains, without the drones, the process also would have likely continued to be painfully slow. “I think it would have been a much longer time before these places were restored,” says Velky.



27/04/2018

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The Australian minerals industry has released the latest ad in its Making the Future Possible campaign, promoting the industry’s use of innovation including drone technology.

Australia’s world-class mining workforce is the result of industry innovation, attraction of talented employees and investment in employee skills and training.

Innovation is central to maintaining Australia’s comparative advantage in mining and helps drive high-value, high-wage jobs in a range of scientific and highly-skilled professional occupations.

Drones are important to the minerals sector’s environmental, cultural heritage, safety and productivity performance including:

  • conducting site environmental surveys and monitoring impacts on wildlife such as turtle nesting sites
  • improving road safety by monitoring traffic, road conditions and hazards and inspecting overhead cranes, towers and roofs of tall buildings to avoid working at height
  • making it faster to gather more information about mine sites, saving millions of dollars when compared with using planes for survey work
  • mapping and digitally recording areas of Indigenous cultural heritage.

The Making the Future Possible campaign – which is fact-based and non-political in tone and content – outlines how the Australian minerals industry provides jobs, raises living standards and builds future opportunities for young Australians.

The campaign also emphasises that the minerals industry is a major contributor to and driver of innovation in the Australian economy.

Future opportunities and growth make the Australian minerals sector an exciting place to forge a career in technology and innovation.

The minerals workforce is younger, better-paid, better-trained and has a much higher share of Indigenous employees than all-industry averages.

Average full-time weekly pay in the mining sector is $2,610, which is 67 per cent higher than the all-industries average, and almost all jobs (98 per cent) are full-time – the largest proportion of all industries.

The ad was filmed at Rio Tinto locations including their Perth head office and Remote Operations Centre and the Mesa A site near Karratha.



26/04/2018

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Drones, better known as unmanned aerial vehicle is the aircraft without the human pilot. It has been into existence for long time and are used in various industry including mining, construction, military and agriculture. The agriculture use of drones have recently gained traction after the world started witnessing the tremendous growth in population leading towards the growing demand for food. However, use of such UAV for precision agriculture has been in use since 1990s in some part of Asia-pacific, North America and Europe. These UAV were largely used for spraying pesticides, crops in farm area and are still being used for the same purpose in many parts of the world. The agriculture drone market is therefore the most attractive market that is expected to change the way farming was earlier done.

The global agriculture drone market revenue stood at US$ 293.6 Mn in 2016 and is anticipated to expand at a CAGR of 21.3% during the forecast period from 2018 to 2026.

Rising Awareness Regarding Vast Benefits of Drones to Drive Market

Major factor leading to the growth of agriculture drones market are growing awareness about precision farming, need to enhance the yield and government support to use advance technologies in agriculture. Drones are responsible for generating accurate data that can be helpful for farmers to monitor crop health, reduce the impact of climate change and efficiently detect weed. The drones are also helpful in uniform spraying of crops and pesticide for better result. For instance Yamaha RMAX, which is probably the first UAV crop sprayer which has 2×8 liter spray tank has proved effective for precise small scale spraying. OPtim Agri drone is the joint project among local government, university and IT Company of Japan that has the capability to identify insects so that it can initiate accurate attack on those areas with chemicals. These benefits, among several others are helping farmers do effective farming.

Fixed-wing Drones Witness Highest Uptake

The global agriculture drone market has been segmented on the basis of type, and application. The type segment has further been categorized into fixed-wing, multi-rotor (also known as quad copter) and hybrid drones. Fixed-Wing type of drones holds the largest market share globally. However, multi-rotor type of drones are expected to display comparatively healthy growth during the forecast period. On the basis of application, the market has been divided as spraying, crop scouting, field mapping and others. Spraying is one of the dominated application globally. Countries around the globe are increasingly using drones for spraying crop, pesticides on the farming filed. Application including field monitoring and crop scouting is expected to gain momentum in coming three to four year when framers across the globe will become familiar with drones and their capabilities.

Europe to Remain Key Consumer of Agriculture Drones in Near Future

The global agriculture drone market is expected to be driven by the North America region However, Europe is estimated to contribute major share in the overall agriculture drone market, closely followed by Asia Pacific. In Europe, France is anticipated to drive the growth of agriculture drone market. The growing deployment of drone in European countries are largely due to the growing need among countries to enhance the overall farm productivity. The European Union (EU) is also actively working in the direction of deploying drones for farming.

In Asia Pacific, countries including Japan, China and Australia are anticipated to drive the growth of agriculture drone market. Japan dominated the market in 2016 and is expected to continue its dominance over the forecast period from 2018 to 2026. China and Australia are expected to grow at a considerable rate. In the rest of Asia Pacific countries including India, New Zealand have witnessed relatively healthy deployment of drones than other Asia-pacific countries.

Key vendors in the market are continuously involved in introducing more easy-to-use drones that can effectively cater the needs of farmers. Major players profiled in the global agriculture drone market include Agribotix LLC, Delair Technologies Inc., Honeycomb Corporation, Precision Hawk, Drone AG, Ag Eagle Aerial Systems, Parrot SA, Aerovironment Inc., and DJI Innovate among others.




26/04/2018

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A Roomba-like ocean trash collector modelled on a whale shark and a microplastic filter made from jellyfish slime could prevent litter from entering our oceans and help tackle a growing problem that poses threats to wildlife, deters tourists and impacts on coastal economies.

The cost of sea litter in the EU has been estimated at up to €630 million per year. It is mostly composed of plastics, which take hundreds of years to break down in nature, and has the potential to affect human health through the food chain because plastic waste is eaten by the fish that we consume.

‘I’m an accidental environmentalist,’ said Richard Hardiman, who runs a project called WASTESHARK. He says that while walking at his local harbour one day he stopped to watch two men struggle to scoop litter out of the sea using a pool net. Their inefficiency bothered Hardiman, and he set about trying to solve the problem. It was only when he delved deeper into the issue that he realised how damaging marine litter, and plastic in particular, can be, he says.

‘I started exploring where this trash goes - ocean gyres (circular currents), junk gyres, and they’re just full of plastic. I’m very glad that we’re now doing something to lessen the effects,’ he said.

Hardiman developed an unmanned robot, an aqua drone that cruises around urban waters such as harbours, marinas and canals, eating up marine litter like a Roomba of the sea. The waste is collected in a basket which the WasteShark then brings back to shore to be emptied, sorted and recycled.

The design of the autonomous drone is modelled on a whale shark, the ocean’s largest known fish. These giant filter feeders swim around with their mouths open and lazily eat whatever crosses their path.

It’s powered by rechargeable electric batteries, ensuring that it doesn’t pollute the environment through oil spillage or exhaust fumes, and it is relatively silent, avoiding noise pollution. It produces zero carbon emissions and the device moves quite slowly, allowing fish and birds to merely swim away when it gets too close for comfort.

‘We’ve tested it in areas of natural beauty and natural parks where we know it doesn’t harm the wildlife,’ said Hardiman. ‘We’re quite fortunate in that, all our research shows that it doesn’t affect the wildlife around.’

WasteShark is one of a number of new inventions designed to tackle the problem of marine litter. A project called CLAIM is developing five different kinds of technology, one of which is a plasma-based tool called a pyrolyser. 

Useful gas

CLAIM’s pyrolyser will use heat treatment to break down marine litter to a useful gas. Plasma is basically ionised gas, capable of reaching very high temperatures of thousands of degrees. Such heat can break chemical bonds between atoms, converting waste into a type of gas called syngas.

The pyrolyser will be mounted onto a boat collecting floating marine litter - mainly large items of plastic which, if left in the sea, will decay into microplastic - so that the gas can then be used as an eco-friendly fuel to power the boat, or to provide energy for heating in ports.

Dr Nikoleta Bellou of the Hellenic Centre for Marine Research, one of the project coordinators of CLAIM, said: ‘We know that we humans are actually the key drivers for polluting our oceans. Unlike organic material, plastic never disappears in nature and it accumulates in the environment, especially in our oceans. It poses a threat not only to the health of our oceans and to the coasts but to humans, and has social, economic and ecological impacts.’

The researchers chose areas in the Mediterranean and Baltic Seas to act as their case studies throughout the project, and will develop models that can tell scientists which areas are most likely to become litter hotspots. A range of factors influence how littered a beach may be – it’s not only affected by litter louts in the surrounding area but also by circulating winds and currents which can carry litter great distances, dumping the waste on some particular beaches rather than others.

CLAIM's other methods to tackle plastic pollution include a boom – a series of nets criss-crossing a river that catches all the large litter that would otherwise travel to the sea. The nets are then emptied and the waste is collected for treatment with the pyrolyser. There have been problems with booms in the past, when bad weather conditions cause the nets to overload and break, but CLAIM will use automated cameras and other sensors that could alert relevant authorities when the nets are full.

Microplastics

Large plastic pieces that can be scooped out of the water are one thing, but tiny particles known as microplastics that are less than 5mm wide pose a different problem. Scientists on the GoJelly project are using a surprising ingredient to create a filter that prevents microplastics from entering the sea - jellyfish slime.

The filter will be deployed at waste water management plants, a known source of microplastics. The method has already proven to be successful in the lab, and now GoJelly is planning to upscale the biotechnology for industrial use.

Dr Jamileh Javidpour of the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel, who coordinates the project, said: ‘We have to be innovative to stop microplastics from entering the ocean.’

The GoJelly project kills two birds with one stone – tackling the issue of microplastics while simultaneously addressing the problem of jellyfish blooms, where the creatures reproduce in high enough levels to blanket an area of ocean.

Jellyfish are one of the most ancient creatures on the planet, having swum in Earth’s oceans during the time of the dinosaurs. On the whole, due to a decline in natural predators and changes in the environment, they are thriving. When they bloom, jellyfish can attack swimmers and fisheries.

Fishermen often throw caught jellyfish back into the sea as a nuisance but, according to Dr Javidpour, jellyfish can be used much more sustainably. Not only can their slime be used to filter out microplastics, they can also be used as feed for aquaculture, for collagen in anti-ageing products, and even in food.

In fact, part of the GoJelly project involves producing a cookbook, showing people how to make delicious dishes from jellyfish. While Europeans may not be used to cooking with jellyfish, in many Asian cultures they are a daily staple. However, Dr Javidpour stresses that the goal is not to replace normal fisheries.

‘We are mainly ecologists, we know the role of jellyfish as part of a healthy ecosystem,’ she said. ‘We don’t want to switch from classical fishery to jellyfish fishery, but it is part of our task to investigate if it is doable, if it is sustainable.’



19/04/2018

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Darren Aronofsky has broken the mold in terms of conventional filmmaking throughout his career. Whether it was the immersive implementation of the SnorriCam for the director’s Requiem for a Dream, or using microscopic photography of biological cells instead of computer-generated visuals for key scenes in The Fountain, Aronofsky prioritizes the viewers’ engagement with the content, instead of potentially dazzling them with computer-generated imagery-rendered visuals. The filmmaker’s latest endeavor, a 10-part National Geographic series called One Strange Rock, seems to combine Aronofsky’s lust for beautiful visuals with the filmmaking tools most adequate to capture them as they should be. In this case, he turned to drones.

According to Wired, Aronofsky had already signed on to the project being produced by Jane Root of Planet Earth fame, but felt that a key component for its actual production was missing. Even though this new series, which focuses on the natural wonders and biochemical processes of our planet, had enough organic appeal at the core of its content, the director was unsure of how to capture this material in a way it hadn’t been before. The narrative solution proposed by Planet Earth producers Root and Vanessa Berlowitz was to use astronauts as the focal point of how to see the earth from a new perspective. And while that may have done the job in regards to narration and theme, it was the use of drones that served as the physical, visual component that complemented that idea. 

“You’ll see a lot of drone shots and aerial shots and actually full frame camera shots where the camera’s spinning or turning, and this is something that you see a lot of in Darren’s films anyway,” said executive producer Arif Nurmohamed. “He’s always loved the spiral, and we had really strong justification for that particular visual. For astronauts, there is no up or down. What they see is something that’s constantly turning beneath them, and we wanted to reflect that.” 

While this approach in terms of production isn’t anything particularly new, as we’ve seen drones employed in films, tv shows, and even newsgathering operations, Aronofsky is constantly trying to use the best tool for the job, which often leads to stunning reinventions of how to photograph certain phenomena. From all accounts, it appears that he may have done so again, with unmanned aerial vehicles accomplishing the shots he conceptualized. “It’s stunning,” said astronaut Nicole Stott, who worked aboard the International Space Station two separate times. “Even watching it on a computer screen, you get immersed in it in a way that just isn’t normal for TV.” 

Speaking of watching One Strange Rock on your computer screen, take a look at the trailer for the 10-part series below. The cinematography certainly is stunning, with a lot of aerial shots prominentaly included. 

While we at The Drive have yet to watch One Strange Rock, which premiered on National Geographic Monday, it’s pretty safe to say that the global community of camera-drone enthusiasts will appreciate the inventive ways in which Aronofsky employed this tech, to capture the thematic content at the core of this new show. If an amateur filmmaker can produce something as engaging as Ethos using accessible camera-drones, just think of how incredible Aronofsky's use of modern drone tech likely was here.



19/04/2018

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To celebrate the Chinese New Year last Friday, the city of Xi’an in China’s northwest province of Shaanxi orchestrated a drone light show featuring 300 unmanned aerial vehicles. The synchronized drones, fitted with LEDs, formed various shapes relevant to the holiday while flying in formation. According to CCTV+, the performance was synched to various New Year’s music from the area and went swimmingly despite the pouring rain. 

Heading this celebratory light show was Xiong Yifang, who was responsible for programming the UAVs to fly in formation. “The entire drone performance was controlled by a single computer. We had programmed them through a software,” he said. In regards to the single-computer claim, we recently saw the same impressive feat accomplished by Intel at CES last month. “The display that features high-tech of the new era represents a brand new way of offering New Year’s greetings,” said Yifang. “By putting on the show in this city of great historical significance, we intended to wish the people of Xi’an as well as the people in the whole nation a happy Chinese New Year in a both innovative and environment-friendly way,” he added.

The formations and caricatures displayed by the UAVs above reportedly include the Chinese God of Wealth, the Chinese character Fu (good luck, fortune, and blessing), Xi (joy) and various other culturally notable concepts. As we've increasingly witnessed in the past few months, drone light shows are a pretty viscerally engaging way to announce or celebrate certain things. For those of you more inclined to celebrate historical, community-based events, as opposed to the home video release of a Hollywood blockbuster, the above video might be for you. It's certainly inspiring, not to mention impressive, to see such a coordinated effort being made using this modern, aerial tool of ours. Happy New Year, China.



19/04/2018

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We’re at the dawn of a revolution in the geospatial industry. More data, more frequently and at higher accuracy levels is changing how we work. It enables us to have maps and terrain models evolve in near-real time and, in turn, that enables the industries depending on geospatial data to make better decisions. Professionals need to embrace these new technologies; for example, by moving from traditional surveying methods to drones with onboard RTK technology to make surveying easier, faster and highly accurate.

Innovate in short cycles

Agile development methodologies clearly allow shorter innovation and product development cycles, so it becomes easier to release new products faster. This is also what we see in the market: new versions of major technology projects are coming out almost every year. Robotics — not just drones in particular but all kinds of connected devices, equipment and machinery — are allowing us to make processes more automated and efficient than ever before. We already have fully automated factories and production lines in certain industries including FMCGs and mining, but we will see much more in the future.

We are driving these trends and also benefiting from them as they allow us to continuously remain at the forefront of the industry. By being able to innovate in very short cycles, we remain at the forefront of the drone and geospatial industry. We are constantly feeling the pulse of our customers, speaking with them and learning what works well and what new features they need to be able to become even more effective in their work.

Automation is driving the world

Knowing the location of assets is already a key requirement in many industrial processes. It allows reducing inventories, enables just-in-time logistics, warehouse automation, traffic avoidance and autonomous driving. With high accuracy GPS and precise indoor navigation, more automation becomes possible.

In future, we will have a higher degree of automation in all aspects of our daily life. From autonomous drones to autonomous vehicles to automated factories, we will also see construction sites without workers doing manual tasks over the years.

Drones have made aerial imagery affordable and easy to obtain, and as a result, have replaced terrestrial data acquisition in many cases. We expect to see continued adoption of high precision drones in the geospatial industry as well as in related industries such as agriculture, construction, mining, energy and more. Today, our technology allows customers to perform their work more efficiently than ever before. It saves them time and provides better results. While a lot of surveyors and customers have started to adopt senseFly drones, overall market penetration of drones is still comparatively low. As regulation becomes clearer and our technology even simpler to use, we will see an increase in the coming years.



19/04/2018

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Marketing and technology have evolved significantly over the last few years. We explore how marketing for real estate has changed and where it might go from here.

With thousands of properties going under the auctioneer's hammer every weekend, standing out from the crowd has become harder for real estate agents. Increasingly sophisticated buyers have grown accustomed to getting more detail about properties than ever before. Yet while new technologies promise an immersive, unprecedented buying experience, agents have had to temper their enthusiasm to avoid compromising the time-honoured art of selling.

It's a fine line to walk given the real estate industry's longstanding enthusiasm over new online technologies, which have allowed them to extend their reach and effectiveness with a relatively small investment. Although, some realtors still believe in the demonstrable value of print advertising , today's buyers go straight to must-be-seen listing sites. 

Better availability of property-related data has also created ancillary markets for sites offering value-added information such as sales histories, property renovations, historical photos, and nearby planning permits. Taken together, the current real-estate landscape offers unprecedented information for buyers – and a myriad of ways for real estate agents to leverage new technologies to get buyers through the doors. 

Ready, set, action! 

Apart from online real-estate listings, the biggest innovation to take hold in real estate sales has been the explosion in the use of videos to provide value-added tours that highlight significant features of certain properties. 

Videos typically complement property photographs, offering a series of short walkthroughs that provide a better sense of what it's like to be inside the property. Panning shots can help convey a sense of size or scenic context.

Production values for real-estate videos have increased dramatically in recent years, thanks in no small part to the emergence of specialised video producers like Melbourne-based Real Estate Productions, Gold Coast-based PlatinumHD  and Sydney's Nuance Photography . Full-service firms like Real Estate In Motion  take the proposition a step further, with a stable of video producers as well as automatic video generating, mini-sites hosting all content from a particular branch office, video messaging to realtors, and more.

Video has been particularly useful in marketing high-end properties, where potential buyers may not be local and will gravitate towards a more detailed property listing that provides the richness a casual drive-by inspection cannot.

Around 50 percent of the properties marketed by Marshall White® - a boutique real estate agency concentrated in Melbourne's inner southern suburbs - now include video, says Kerrie Wade, the firm's general manager of marketing.

Video provides "a more engaging and realistic presentation of a property," Wade explains. "As we specialise in premium properties, this product also showcases more aspirational and lifestyle elements, which tend to be more compelling."

Use of video has another benefit, she adds: Google algorithms favour sites with video content, providing better organic search results and ideally more views for these properties from prospective buyers. 

Drone on and on

Videos may make real-estate marketing a more emotional process, but drones add another dimension - the third one.

Once a niche novelty, drone photography has become a staple of real-estate property photographers and video producers like Droneheadz  and Property Snaps® , which utilise a range of equipment to get new views of target properties that would have been unthinkable just a few years ago.

Whether through photographs or videos, drone-level imagery of a property can bring it alive in ways that conventional photographs simply can't. A photo from just 10m up, for example, will give a new sense of the height and grandeur of a property as well as better showing the type and state of neighbouring properties.

Drones also allow real-estate agents to demonstrate a property's proximity to CBD areas, parklands, or the beach. These can be key attributes for many buyers - particularly developers that may be looking for proximity to public transport lines or major roads.

Be careful when choosing a drone photographer: literally anyone can buy a camera-toting drone and fly it around the neighbourhood, but not everyone has formal certifications or public liability insurance for damage they may cause. Also, remember at all times that you must comply with all relevant Australian legislation for drones, including gaining a Remotely Piloted Aircraft Operator’s Certificate (or ReOC) if required. The Civil Aviation Safety Authority has information that can be found on their website.  

Drone photography and videography carries an additional cost, but it can pay off many times over by highlighting properties' particular characteristics. Use drones to help buyers see what's special about a property, or fly one around the corner to the local shops or park to give a sense of a particularly desirable neighbourhood. 

Get smart about voice and AI 

Artificial intelligence (AI) has become the buzzword in information technology and it is still in early stages within the real-estate industry. But new technologies are being refined all the time, and its rapid pace of development means it may be relevant to property sales in ways you can't even imagine.

Artificial-intelligence 'bots', for example, are already being used to handle routine technical-support enquiries for many different types of companies.  They could easily be adapted to handle front-line enquiries about marketed properties, answering questions about the size of a property, its proximity to particular locations, expected price, and so on.xvi

Most AI is trained over time, looking for patterns within large data sets generated from historical records. These techniques also work for images - producing computer-vision technologies that can catalogue large numbers of images based on their content.xvii

Carsales.com.au®  is already using computer-vision technology to automatically sort and label submitted vehicle photographs, and claims its Cyclops system has 97.2 percent accuracy - higher than humans' 85 percent accuracy rate.xvii Real-estate listing sites could easily do the same to allow visitors to search, for example, for all properties that have a white kitchen or large trees in the backyard.

While AI will offer increasingly intelligent analysis of property trends and features, it's also being paired with voice recognition to improve the experience of searching for real estate. A new breed of smart home speakers - Amazon Echo®, Google Home® and Apple's HomePod® are the highest-profile examples - allow buyers to interact with a range of information services. This has led to real-estate applications from companies like US-based Coldwell Banker® - which recently rolled out its second 'skill' , or extension, for Amazon's Alexa AI engine - and Voiceter, which recently launched a real-estate 'concierge'  also for Alexa. Expect voice-driven searching to become more relevant as real-estate providers continue to search for new ways to find and engage with potential buyers.

It's all about the data

Australia's vibrant and concentrated real-estate market has driven a significant investment in new technologies, as well as competition from providers that are fighting to present data about current and past sales in ways that provide new value for buyers.

Such services plumb massive archives of data - like the comprehensive property and market-related databases maintained by CoreLogic®, which can be paired with other sources to provide rich insight into property trends. Using this information allows them to educate consumers and potential buyers about potential purchases - and real-estate agents should assume that their buyers are now walking through the door knowing as much about the property as they do. 

That's not to say that real-estate data can't improve realtors' marketing as well. By investing in everything from customer relationship management (CRM) systems and market automation software to manage interactions with customers, to open-for-inspection tools that collect and cross-match data from prospective buyers, realtors can now maintain much closer relationships with past, current, and potential customers.

Getting real about virtual reality 

The above four technologies can improve the real-estate searching and buying process for buyers and agents alike. Another transformative technology - virtual reality (VR) - is still finding its niche amongst marketers who thought it was a natural complement when it was introduced.

VR is a natural way of presenting properties to potential buyers, who can don glasses and walk through properties from the agent's office, or their own homes. While a growing number of firms will happily build VR models of your listed homes, one early adopter has found interest restricted mostly to high-end properties.

"It hasn't really spread from high-end properties down to the mid-range marketplace," admits Alex Ouwens, director of Adelaide-based Ouwens Casserly Real Estate®, which in 2015 launched VR property tours  using Oculus VR® headsets.

VR had, he says, proved useful in the sale of a high-end home to Chinese buyers whose parents couldn't physically inspect the property. By sending a headset to the parents, Ouwens says, they were able to walk through the property as if they were onsite.

Yet VR still hasn't supplanted the good old-fashioned open-for-inspection walkthrough, says Ouwens, and it's about more than aversion to the technology.

"When you go and look at a property you can use all five senses to feel how the property feels," he says. "But on the VR goggles you're only really using sight - so you don't build a full intuition around how the property feels for you, or get the full perspective as if you were there in person."

Recent years have lowered the barriers to entry: while dedicated VR headsets are popular accessories for computers and gaming consoles, low-cost VR rigs like the Samsung Gear VR®  also allow smartphones to do the heavy lifting. This could drive a transformation in VR, which may well become much more accessible and relevant to property buyers once VR is as readily accessible as their phones.



13/04/2018

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