Drone News

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.


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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.


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The construction industry has had a tricky relationship with innovation. While it is well positioned to take advantage of technological advancements, it has been slow to adopt new technology, often choosing a reactionary approach over a progressive one. “In the past, regulatory changes drove a lot of innovation, forcing buildings to meet new requirements when constructed,” said Jono Millin, CPO and cofounder of drone mapping software developer DroneDeploy. However, he suggested that increasing costs, growing inefficiencies, a dwindling talent pool, and demanding clients are the new drivers for innovation. As a result, technology is finally replacing outdated workflows—saving time and money for construction management companies. In fact, Millin notes that construction was one of the top five drone adoption industry leaders in 2017.

Today, drones are making it possible to conduct site safety checks before workers are on-site, catch design conflicts early, and track progress to site plans so that project managers can stay schedule. “Construction teams are using drones to generate collaborative maps and 3-D models, leverage data from high-resolution point clouds, and even create accurate contour maps,” Millin said, noting that industry leaders like Brasfield & Gorrie, Beck Group, and McCarthy Building Companies are using drones to improve safety and communication between the job site and headquarters.

The recent proliferation of new models has driven down hardware prices, making drones an affordable investment. But beyond cost and necessity, the current most promising aspect of drone technology is its ability to provide real-time job site data to any mobile device. With the launch of Live Map earlier this year, DroneDeploy introduced a first-of-its-kind feature that gives drone operators real-time maps in the field on an iOS device.

How It Works

According to DroneDeploy, users plan a flight and take off. The maps can render on-screen during flight without the need for internet or cellular connection. With Live Map, construction professionals get an aerial view of their job sites, fields, or projects in seconds and instantly create maps, enabling them to make real-time decisions for better reporting, planning, and safety.

“By producing a real-time map of a large construction or solar project, I can stay on top of site progress by counting solar arrays or monitoring progress,” said Ryan Moret, a field solutions manager at McCarthy Building Companies. “Live Map helps me end each day with confidence knowing where a project stands and what our subcontractors have completed so that we can provide the best product for our clients.”

While the construction industry will see immediate gains from this technology, its potential in real-world applications is equally valuable and potentially life saving. Whether it’s coordinating disaster response or assisting authorities in locating missing persons, live drone mapping represents innovation at its best—and the construction industry is out in the lead for a change.


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Mining is one of the most ancient industries there is, and even with the centuries that have passed since humans began excavating minerals, fossil fuels and other precious resources from the earth, the core concept behind surface mining has remained much the same: make hole, get resource from hole, process resource, rinse and repeat.

In the case of surface mining, however, staying similar doesn’t mean staying stagnant. This enduring industry has long been known for its early adoption of emerging technologies, ones meant to modernize and optimize mining processes in order to minimize costs.

Mining companies constantly invest resources in technological solutions to generate greater data collection and analysis. After all, mining companies cannot afford poorly planned haul roads, or ore misclassification that may result in sub-optimal blending. The adoption of emerging technologies, meant to modernize, and optimize mining processes to successfully minimize costs, has led mining companies to leverage UAVs as an integral tool in the data collection cycle.

Automated drones have been tapped as one of the next game-changing innovations for the mining industry, largely because of the substantial cost savings they offer.

The age of automation

According to research by McKinsey & Company, automation promises to increase productivity at mine sites by a staggering 25%. Much of this automation has been focused on below ground or on-the-ground processes, but automated drones are revolutionizing industries ranging from energy, agriculture and construction to security and telecommunications, and with their ability to take on tasks that are dangerous, demanding, time-consuming and potentially imprecise when completed by human employees, they are the ideal solution for the mining industry.

Airobotics’ automated drone system is designed for end-to-end automation, which means it operates with no human intervention. It launches, flies, lands, collects data and processes data and even changes its own batteries and sensors, all automatically, no human pilots necessary. By housing itself in its Airbase – a robust shelter that protects against the harsh elements of mining sites equipped with a robotic arm for maintenance – this drone is always ready to fly scheduled, on-demand or emergency missions.

Without this level of automation, drones can be expensive due to the need for a pilot and/or payload operator, are vulnerable to human error in their flights, data collection and data processing, and struggle to fly on-demand or in an emergency situation without a costly and potentially dangerous delay.

Speaking directly

The indirect cost savings provided by automated drones begin with the benefits of more frequent and detailed inspections of critical infrastructure like haul roads, pits and tailings dams. These improved inspections not only help prevent infrastructural failure, they also help reduce and prevent damage to equipment by quickly identifying road issues like potholes that could affect hauling and digging equipment while in transit. Additionally, precise and regular inspections help an organization perform predictive maintenance by identifying emerging issues like cracks or overheating, keeping costs low by preventing acute issues. Inspections performed by automated drones instead of human employees using ground-based vehicles also reduce fuel costs.

Furthermore, automated drones make drilling and blasting more efficient, enabling more accurate drill-hole alignment, and therefore eliminating excessive blast material usage. Accurate drill-hole alignment, in turn, produces the sought-after fragment size which helps reduce wear and tear on hauling and crushing equipment. From there, automated drones help prevent ore misclassification through easy checks. Other data analysis processes are also made more efficient as experts can spend more time on analysis with data collection handled by the drone.

The importance of the quick incident detection made possible by automated drones can’t be overstated, and on the topic of indirect cost savings they help to minimize damage and resultant clean up as well as prevent environmental damage and the fines and reputation damage that can accompany it.

Lastly, automated drones make administration and management more efficient by making it faster and easier to track progress, locate equipment, manage contractors, and update asset quantities thanks to precise stockpile evaluations.

>>All of the above cost savings and other eye-openings information on automated drones in mining can be found in our paper on “Automated Drone Applications in Mining”.<<

Saving lives

While dollars and cents will nearly always reign supreme when it comes to business decisions, there is one other thing for which there can be no assigned price: the safety of human lives.

Airobotics’ automated drone system is designed to protect humans by taking on the jobs that present risks to human employees, such as inspecting blast sites and haul roads and surveying stockpiles. It also eliminates much of the need for manned security, which can present a tremendous risk to human security personnel. With the aid of a live video feed on an automated drone, security personnel can be fully informed, and keep their finger on the pulse regarding emerging and potentially dangerous situations.

In the event of an emergency, an automated drone can also begin transmitting essential information as quickly as possible, working to detect leaks and other hazards or transmitting live video to the people coordinating incident response. Optimus is particularly equipped for incident response as its payloads can be automatically changed by the robotic arm in the Airbase depending on the type of incident to which it is responding. These capabilities save time when it is most precious, and in turn save lives.

The full picture

Evolution in an industry doesn’t have to involve major shifts in product or even significant overhauls in processes. Now more than ever the improvements made possible by advanced technological solutions represent game-changing optimizations that translate to essential cost-saving measures.

For the decades and centuries into the future in which mining will remain an essential industry, there will always be an emphasis on reducing risk to human lives and increasing cost savings in order to make the mining industry more lucrative. This will require a continued commitment to technological innovation, very much including Airobotics’ automated system designed to revolutionize industrial business processes the world over.


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Drones are finding increasing use in Japanese agriculture as farmers start to use the unmanned aerial vehicles for crop inspection and other purposes.

Drones “are effective in promoting data-based agriculture and reducing agricultural work” at a time when many aged farmers are struggling to find successors, says an official at the farm ministry’s Technology Policy Office.

In Japan, it is necessary for unmanned helicopters that spray pesticide, fertilizer or seeds to be registered with a special organization.

Registration became necessary for drones in 2015. As of January, 673 drones had been registered, up about three times since last March.

Pesticide drones use 8- to 10-liter tanks. One hectare of rice paddies requires about 10 liters of pesticide. While it usually takes hours for a farmer to treat a hectare of paddies, a drone can do the job in about 10 minutes.

Unlike conventional unmanned agricultural helicopters, drones can make sharp turns and do not generate strong winds, which can damage leafy vegetables. They also cost around ¥2 million, which is far more affordable than unmanned helicopters.

Video cameras on the drones can be used to check the progress of crops. Computer analysis of the images can tell farmers where growth is slow and provide other valuable information.

Based on such analyses, farmers can change the amounts of fertilizer or make other adjustments to improve quality and shore up yields.

Researchers are also trying to establish a method to use drones effectively to reduce damage caused by birds and animals. This is done by flying drones at night, when deer and boars are active. The UAVs capture images on the ground using special cameras, and the data help researchers find ways to catch them.

Drones are also proving useful in examining damage to irrigation channels and other farm facilities caused by typhoons and other natural disasters.


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JOSH Carr’s films from Carr and Drone superbly capture the picturesque beauty of Western Australia’s Wheatbelt.

Growing up in Merredin, rural WA has always been close to Josh’s heart, and after purchasing a drone about two years ago, he has found a way to creatively express his passion through videography and photography.

Over the past year and a half, he has produced various films across the Wheatbelt, featuring shires such as Goomalling, Mukinbudin, Wongan Hills and his home-town Merredin.

Josh’s films all have a focus in portraying the spectacular natural and man-made features of the country, while telling a simple story through a seamless sequence of video shots and music.

His most recent film Harvest in Australia was filmed in the Goomalling Shire over the course of a day.

Josh said he had always wanted to make a harvest film and when one of his Facebook followers from his page Carr and Drone contacted him, he jumped on the opportunity.

The film, which goes for two and a half minutes, follows the story of harvesting in the Wheatbelt, with various video shots of headers, chaser bins, tractors, truck and follows the journey of the trucks through the Goomalling townsite to the CBH Group receival site where the grain is delivered.

Considering Josh’s impressive skills in capturing exceptional shots of landscapes and harvesting, you might be surprised to learn that he had no photography or videography experience prior to buying his drone.

Even more so, Josh never even had the slightest interest in such projects.

“Prior to this, I had never been interested in photography or videography at all,” Josh said.

“I bought the drone and thought it was really cool and it intrigued me to learn more through YouTube tutorials and I basically spent all my spare time getting better.”

Before he embarks on a new project, Josh usually has an idea of what shots he plans to film, which he then tailors according to the client’s requests.

Josh said filming usually takes him about four to five hours, depending on the client, but Harvest in Australia was one of Josh’s more timely films to shoot which took about eight hours.

After downloading the files onto his computer and compressing them, Josh edits the footage using Adobe Premiere Pro, first by looking through each shot and cutting them down to the most interesting parts or the sections he wants to use and then he finds a song to sequence all the shots together.

Josh said the editing process was by far the lengthiest task of the production process but it allowed him to experiment with new ideas and skills.

Editing Harvest in Australia took Josh at about 15 hours.

Over the past two years Josh has developed a portfolio of short films that all showcase country WA, with natural beauties such as Eaglestone Rock, an old mine site west of Mukinbudin, Lake Ninan Nature Reserve, Lake Hinds Nature Reserve, Mt O’Brien, Mt Matilda, Reynoldson Reserve and a dust and lightning storm.

For now drone videography and photography is just a hobby for Josh which he fits in between his full-time job as a storeman at Westonia, but he has seen a steady increase of interest which he hopes will enable him to grow his hobby into a business.

Josh’s films can be found on YouTube and Facebook under ‘Carr and Drone’ or on Instagram through ‘carranddrone’.


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OSLO — Norway’s fjords have long inspired the country’s artists and drawn streams of tourists. In winter, their ice-laced surfaces shimmer beside snow-capped mountains: a vision of natural beauty, blissfully untouched.

But lost in the depths of the fjord in Oslo, stretching out from the capital, is a trove that would please any intrepid archaeologist or Nordic noir sleuth: sunken Viking trinkets, bullion from Hitler’s prized warship and, possibly, a few victims of homicide.

Mostly, though, the fjord is filled with garbage, like unwanted cars. And that has alarmed environmentalists.

“Not many years ago, a mayor said if you want to get rid of a car, put it on the ice,” said Solve Stubberud, general secretary of the Norwegian Divers Federation.

Now, the capital is turning to new technology to help pinpoint the litter so that human divers can scour it off the seabed. This past Thursday, board members of Oslo’s Port Authority approved a pioneering trash-removal plan.

“We will test out drones,” said Svein Olav Lunde, the chief technical officer of the Oslo Port Authority, shortly after the meeting, explaining how these unmanned vessels will be used to help clear out underwater “islands of trash.”

Geir Rognlien Elgvin, a board member, says he believes that Oslo’s port will be the first in the world to try this sort of trash pickup. The drones will plunge into the depths of Oslo Fjord this spring. An electric-powered ship with a crane will join the cleanup fleet by next year.

Oslo is turning to drone technology partly because of a dead dolphin — bloodied, beached and ensnared in plastic. Gory images of the carcass, taken in January on a trash-strewn shore of Oslo Fjord, resonated on social media among Norwegians, who tend to see their jagged coastline as a paragon of untouched natural beauty.

Mr. Stubberud said that recent images of beached dolphins and whales have woken up Norway, but that “plastic is the real problem.” Politicians and the public have shown more interest in the cleanup campaign in the past two years, he said.

But it’s mainly driven by environmentalists. Ambitious plans to clean up the city’s industrial waste and sewage have been in the works for decades, along with a proposal for a car-free city center and a ban on using oil to heat buildings that is to go into effect in 2020. Campaigns like these won Oslo the European Green Capital Award for 2019.

Fjords are indelibly linked to Norway’s identity as a seafaring nation. The long, narrow, deep inlets form at the base of mountains where ocean water flows into valleys formed near the coast. The Oslo Fjord is 62 miles long.

But in the fjord — roughly one-third of Norway’s five million people live on its shores — the problems started with industrialization and increased shipping after the oil boom in the 1960s and ‘70s.

Even as the first drones are set to plumb the fjords, the national government is moving in another direction. Norway is one of the few countries that allow offshore dumping of mining waste, which can destroy vast numbers of fish stocks in fjords with hundreds of thousands of tons of sludge.

Norway has refused to sign an International Union for Conservation of Nature resolution outlawing the practice, putting it in the company of Chile, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and Turkey.

“It’s wrong, and I wish that we didn’t do it,” said Lan Marie Nguyen Berg, vice mayor for the environment and transportation in Oslo. Ms. Nguyen Berg says Norway should preserve the fjords “for future generations.”

But the national government has emphasized that the mining projects provide local jobs.

Now, to tackle the household trash in the city’s surrounding seabed, a drone bidding war awaits for the technology to map the trash spots.

“There are whole households of furniture,” Christine Spiten, 27, a drone operator and tech entrepreneur, said recently at Oslo’s Lysaker River, which forms the boundary between the municipalities of Oslo and Baerum.

Ms. Spiten spoke before unraveling a bright yellow cable of rubber and Kevlar that linked a video game controller and touch screen to an underwater drone called BluEye. She had showcased the drone to representatives of the port authority and Norway’s shipping industry at the mouth of the river in February. The demonstration uncovered a rusty red bike and showed how drones could save time, money and hassle in cleaning the seabed.

Ms. Spiten and her team in the seaport town of Trondheim, where she lives in a sailboat, engineered the drone’s technology. She said her skills were partly drawn from her training at an oil company. Some board members see Ms. Spiten as the favorite to take home the contract, but she has stiff competition from international drone makers.

After the meeting on Thursday, the litter collection plan settled, Roger Schjerva, the chairman of the port authority, noted even more important items in the fjords that continue to need urgent attention: mines.

The mines date back to the Second World War. There are more than 1,550 of them in Oslo Fjord. Of the 270 that have been located so far, around 100 of those have been detonated, said a spokesman for the Royal Norwegian Navy. When detonated in the fjords, they can damage ships and fish. The mines are also leaking.

So another wave of mine sweeping may come to the fjords. Mr. Schjerva said, “We will prioritize removing remaining mines from World War II.”


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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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