The Blogs

There’s some good information in the FAA’s new five-year Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) forecast, but there are reasons to doubt the accuracy of the agency’s projections in two areas that have captured attention: the claims that there will be roughly threefold growth in the numbers of commercial drones and UAS-certified pilots. Here’s the good, the bad, and the ugly in the report.

The Good

There is some good analysis in this report. For example, it seems the FAA finally gets that drones have a wide variety of price points and the bulk of commercial activity has been driven by low-cost consumer-grade aircraft:

“Currently, the consumer grade dominates the non-model sector with a market share approaching 95 percent. However, as the sector matures and the industry begins to consolidate, the share of consumer grade non-model aircraft is likely to decline but will still be dominant. By 2023, FAA projects this sub-sector will have around 85 per-cent share of the overall non-model sUAS sector.”

This insight is mostly consistent with independent surveys and reports like this one, which finds more than 91% said they bought drones costing over $2,000 for professional purposes—either governmental, academic, or business.

The other good thing in this report is the FAA’s admission that the historical commercial drone registrations outpaced their own predictions by 80%.  Previously, they predicted a healthy growth rate of more than 40%—but they underestimated it.

“Last year, we forecasted that the non-model sector would have around 229,400 sUAS in 2019, a growth rate exceeding 44 percent from the year before (2018). Actual data far exceeds that trend with over 277,000 aircraft already registered by the end of 2018. Our forecast of non-model sUAS last year thus fell short by almost 80 percent for 2018 (or 277,000 actual aircraft vs 158,900 that we projected last year).”

The Bad

A closer look at the report reveals a few oversights and curious assumptions for their forecasts. Some of the key metrics and growth trajectories came from a survey the FAA conducted in June-July of 2018 about commercial activities performed in 2017 under Part 107. The survey sent to 89,000 individuals was intended to get a snapshot of non-model/commercial mission characteristics, including locations, aircraft types used, and altitudes flown. But the response rate to the survey—which was complex and time-consuming—was low (approximately 8 percent).

Still, the report projects the U.S. commercial drone fleet (small non-model UAS) to nearly triple from 277,386 in 2018 to 835,211 in 2023, an average annual growth rate of almost 25 percent. However, the main oversight is that most people don’t deregister their aircraft.  They may if they register a new one, but if they stop using one they are not going into the Registry to delete it. This keeps the current number inflated.

Another noticeable problem is the survey results are inconsistent with internal FAA data. And to be fair, the FAA admits there are big variations between the survey results and their aircraft registry. For instance, almost a third of survey respondents use one small drone; their aircraft registry (i.e., the Registry) indicates 55 percent use one small drone. The survey indicates that, for those operating multiple small drones, 54 percent operate 2-9, but the registry claims just on third fly multiple drones.

Another issue is the survey found the largest commercial use for drones was in R&D and in training/education missions (21%). But year over year, other industry benchmark surveys find the number one use for commercial drones is aerial photography and video. This disconnect is no surprise given how the FAA worded their survey questions. In this instance, the question asked for the number of missions performed on average per aircraft in each of activity they listed, not about its major intended use. Given most businesses were new to drones in 2017, it makes sense that the FAA found a lot of aircraft flew training missions back then—not actual industrial missions such as mapping and inspections as happens today.

The Ugly

Perhaps the biggest problem with the FAA report is in the Remote Pilot Forecast section. It predicts the number of UAS-certified pilots is “set to experience tremendous growth following the growth trends of the non-model sUAS sector.”  It predicts commercial drone activities may require almost 350,000 remote pilots in five years—a three-fold increase. Many in the press have run with this assumption and taken it to mean that the commercial drone industry is set to triple in the next five years. But a closer look calls this into question and makes that forecast specious.

To start, the FAA does not maintain a database showing the number of remote pilot certificate (RPC) holders who are current.  They only report gross new RPC holders. As reported here, 126,299 individuals have been issued a remote pilot certificate as of March 15, 2019.  But as of the same day, only 7,306 individuals have taken the remote pilot certification recurrent knowledge test, which is required every two years. Given remote pilot certification started in August 2016, that means only 20% of the original pilots have renewed their license to operate commercially.  To be fair, that figure may be higher but not by much since Part 61 pilots with an existing RPC and have met their flight review requirements are considered RPC current.

If the number of certified remote pilots is the benchmark for commercial drone industry growth (because, almost uniformly around the world, regulations demand each drone operation have one pilot), it seems crucial the FAA keep and report a database on current RPC holders in the U.S. That information would enable all to predict with greater certainty the growth of the commercial drone industry.

This article first appeared on Forbes.com
Image: A drone operator demonstrates a DJI Matrice 100 drone at the Applied Drone Technology for Business Conference. Photographer: Paul Faith/Bloomberg © 2019 BLOOMBERG FINANCE LP

Increasing use of drones surfaces three best practices for state and local police, sheriffs, fire departments, and teams in EMS, search and rescue, tactical response, and disaster response.

I just released two new drone industry guides titled Three Essentials For Building Your Law Enforcement Drone Program and Three Essentials For Building Your Fire and Rescue Drone Program.

These are the first in a series of papers intended to share the latest lessons learned in specific industries and how to sustain and grow a drone program.

These guides offer essential best practices for law enforcement and fire and rescue teams. They answer questions like:

  • What have current users learned about what works and what doesn’t?
  • What are the most important topics to know to keep your drone program ongoing?
  • And where should you go to learn what’s next?

Here is an excerpt from the law enforcement guide:

Essential 1 – Take advantage of the latest technology

New technology is progressing rapidly in drones and aerial imaging processing—more rapidly and at lower costs than manned-based aviation solutions. It is important to keep up with the changes that could benefit your program. Nearly every week, a new product is announced. Two of the most exciting recent developments are smaller combination sensors and augmented reality.

The new sensors, like the one found on the DJI Mavic Enterprise Dual, combine visible and thermal imagery in one sensor. Multiple display modes allow you to see either the infrared or the visible image or a combination. Isotherm readouts help you get accurate heat measurements on a variety of objects and scenarios. This gives tactical teams more flexibility–they may no longer need to fly two drones each with its own sensor or deal with the complexity of landing and swapping out two separate sensors on the same drone.

ACTION: Keep up to date by attending at least one commercial drone show a year. When evaluating drone solutions or software applications, ask how new capabilities can meet your mission requirements.  If you don’t have a list of mission requirements, start with a narrow scope of operation. For instance, we recommend you treat drones as a response tool—not a patrol tool—and pick from a list of four operations that your constituents would find most palatable: search and rescue, accident scene documentation, the pursuit of an armed suspect, and disaster mitigation.

The guides describe what many police, fire, and emergency responders have learned from their programs and recommend the actions you should take for successful implementation and ongoing use.

You can download the free guides from our sponsor’s site here:

Three Essentials For Building Your Law Enforcement Drone Program: http://bit.ly/2UbrXcY

Three Essentials For Building Your Fire and Rescue Drone Program: http://bit.ly/2vHIiaM

If you have questions about what’s in the reports or would like to comment on them after reading them, write to me at colin@droneanalyst.com.

Press Release

Global engineering services leader implements fixed-wing aerial data collection program with support from Delair partner Frontier Precision

High performance drone provides highly accurate 3D data, covers more ground, reduces costs in mining projects

LOS ANGELES – May 7, 2019 – Delair, a leading supplier of commercial drone solutions, along with one of its regional resellers, Frontier Precision, today announced that Wood has adopted the Delair UX11 high-performance UAV for its work in site planning and asset management in mining and quarry projects in the western US. Wood – a global leader in the delivery of project, engineering and technical services to the energy, industry and built environment sectors – is initially deploying the drone to do high accuracy, 3D topographic surveys and materials quantification for mineral mining in Idaho and Wyoming. It is the first fixed-wing UAV Wood has deployed in the Western US.

“For the scale of the projects we are performing, and the accuracy required, adopting the Delair UX11 was a logical choice. Its long-range capabilities allow us to cover areas not feasible with other data collection methods like hover craft drones or by foot, so it reduces the cost and time involved. It integrates well with our existing work flows, and features such as the PPK function deliver additional benefits in terms of the precision and flexibility required in challenging environments,” said Greg Meinecke, Technical Services Manager at Wood. “We have received excellent support from Frontier Precision and Delair in helping us deploy our first fixed-wing UAV missions and are already seeing results.”

Wood is deploying the drone in remote areas where its heavy civils team is performing extensive excavation and site preparation for phosphate mining activities, a project covering more than 200 acres. Of critical importance for operations is an ability to precisely quantify the volume of materials being removed to ensure a high degree of accuracy in planning and invoicing.

Wood turned to the Delair fixed-wing UAV to deal with the scale of the terrain that needed to be surveyed, as well as the challenge of taking measurements in an active mine site area, including the safety hazards of having personnel on the ground in rough terrain and around large, moving equipment. Flying at 400 feet above the project areas and often at times using beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) flight plans, Wood technicians were able to use the precision data collection features of the Delair UX11 to acquire large amounts of highly accurate imagery that could be processed to generate detailed topographical reports.

“We are able to get surveys covering large tracts of land done in a very short amount of time, so it ends up being much more cost effective for us and the client. More importantly, we can provide the mine owners a great deal of confidence in the accuracy of the work being performed and the quantities of resources involved. In the end, everyone agreed on the material quantities as the technology is very reliable,” Meinecke noted.

Frontier Precision worked alongside Wood’s engineering and field experts to evaluate the Delair drone, and ensure it met the firm’s requirements, including integration with other important tools the firm uses such as AutoCad, Trimble Business Center, and the Pix4D photogrammetry suite.

Wood’s team noted the ease of use of the Delair UAV, especially given this was their first experience with fixed-wing flying. The firm was able to train several pilots who specialize in different types of projects, and expects to deploy the drone on other infrastructure, mining and construction projects around the US. The team also noted the Delair UX11’s embedded global shutter camera as well as its PDK (post processed kinematic) capabilities as key to ensuring greater precision in its data collection. With PPK, GPS data from both on-board and off-board systems can be matched after the mission, providing higher degrees of accuracy of the images collected.
The Delair UX11 UAV, introduced commercially last year, is one of Delair’s top-of-the-line drones. The fixed-wing drone is an innovative hardware-software platform that provides highly accurate images for survey-grade mapping, with on-board processing capabilities and real-time, long-range control via 3G/4G cellular networks or radio links. The platform’s enhanced centimeter-level precision along with its efficient operational characteristics make it the most cost-effective solution for large area surveying and mapping.

END

About Delair
Delair is a leading provider of drone-based solutions that enable enterprises to digitize their physical assets through aerial data collection and artificial intelligence-based analytics that turn the collected data into valuable business insights. The company’s offerings combine high performance, long range fixed-wing UAV hardware with sophisticated analytics technology and operational services. Its solutions are used globally by customers in industries such as mining, construction, agriculture, utilities, transportation and oil and gas. Delair has strengthened its position as a global leader through acquisitions of companies such as Gatewing, a former Trimble company, and key assets from the company Airware/Redbird. A strategic partnership with Intel and its Intel Insight initiative is enabling some of the world’s largest organizations to integrate drone data acquisition and analysis in their digital transformation initiatives. In September 2018, Delair received funding from Intel Capital, further extending an existing partnership to accelerate the development and adoption its data-driven software solutions and the Intel Insight® Platform. Founded in 2011 by experts in the aerospace industry, the company today employs 180 people and is headquartered in Toulouse, France and has offices in Paris, Ghent, Belgium, Los Angeles, Beijing and Singapore. Its solutions are sold in more than 70 countries by a network of more than 100 resellers. For more information about Delair, go to www.delair.aero and on twitter @DelairTech

About Frontier Precision
Frontier Precision is an employee-owned company with 30 years of experience serving survey, mapping, engineering, construction, GIS, forensics, law enforcement, forestry, water resources, mosquito and vector control, and natural resources professionals. As one of the top Geospatial Trimble dealers in the world, Frontier Precision has been at the forefront of technology. The company is providing valuable business solutions in the areas of UAS/Drones, laser-based scanning, 3-D visualization, and virtual reality. Headquartered in Bismarck, North Dakota with locations in South Dakota, Minnesota, Colorado, Montana, Idaho, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, and Hawaii, Frontier Precision has secured a place on the map for their best-in-class team, training support, and attention to customer needs. For more information about Frontier Precision, go to www.frontierprecision.com

About Wood
Wood is global leader in cradle to grave energy life cycle solutions. Wood employs over 60,000 people in over 400 offices in more than 60 countries globally. They have an extended 160+ year history of providing performance-driven solutions throughout the asset life cycle, from concept to decommissioning across a broad range of industrial markets, including the upstream, midstream and downstream oil & gas, power & process, environment and infrastructure, clean energy, mining, nuclear, and general industrial sectors. For more information please visit www.woodplc.com

Stay tuned on the Personal Drones Blog for the latest quadcopter and multirotor news!

By John O. Brooks

Drone Footage have become famous and popular on the internet nowadays. It’s very normal to see the footage from all over the world whilst more and more people entering the world of drones. Drones are affordable and accessible these days and nearly anyone can be able to manage to fly one.

However, flying a drone is one thing while shooting good quality footage with it is completely a different thing.

To impress your viewers with your Drone Shots, your shooting should be on a top level. After watching your Drone Footage, it becomes clear in your viewer’s eyes in seconds whether you actually know what you are doing or not. There is no doubt that using a Drone needs enough practice and some skills and planning to
make the best out of it. The more you practice flying your Drone, the more you become better on it.
So, here I am sharing with you a bunch of tips that will hopefully help you to make your drone footage more natural and realistic.

1. Plan your entire shot

You should always plan your shot before starting to fly. What do you want to get from the video, or which angle you are going to capture, everything should be planned. I know it is very tough work to plan everything from the ground as you don’t get the whole picture from the above but trust me, at least trying to have some ideas about your path and lines helps you to get better footage. Picture your
expected movements in your head and start practicing them. It’s impossible to get that flawless and perfect view, but by practicing them you can have a nice, smooth and steady result in the end.

phantom drone

2. Slow and steady wins the race

The best footage comes then when you start shooting by flying slow. It allows you to capture the footage vividly. By flying slow, you’re giving some time to your viewer to understand the whole scenario and dig into it. It creates a cinematic feeling in your video which should be your main target.

3. Fly low

As an aerial videographer, you should always keep in mind that flying high endangers your drone and your footage, especially when the wind speed is high.
Flying high is good but it doesn’t mean that you should do it all the time. It’s very risky if the wind is around 15-20 mph, it could probably damage your drone. Thus, to capture some nice and steady footage, I recommend flying lower, where the wind speed is not that high, the drone will be more controllable.

4. Fly backward

Flying backward is one of the cool techniques to make your drone footage more natural and cinematic. When you move forward, you’re focusing only on one specific detail. But when you’re flying backward, it reveals more details in your footage such as
trees, lakes, buildings, hills, people, etc.
Though to some of you, flying backward might seem difficult, which is totally okay. You can use the speed duration tool in your video editor to reverse your footage.

5. Avoid rough movements

You can’t just move your camera here and there to bring the cinematic feeling to your footage. Jerky movements are really disturbing to the viewers and it kill the liveliness of the footage. They make the video look robotic. I recommend you not to switch your speed and angles constantly but rather keep your position steady and use controlled and smooth movements as much as possible. By doing so, the video will feel natural and cinematic.

6. Don’t rush to the main object

It is a common rookie mistake to start shooting your main object at first sight. You must always keep a storyline in your footage. Add some contexts first, it brings excitement to the viewer’s eyes. Build up your shot, and slowly fly over your object and reveal it.

7. Golden hour light

The term Golden Hour refers to the period before the sunset and after the sunrise, when the sunlight is warmer and softer than the usual. Using the camera in the afternoon can damage the exposure because of the bright harsh light of the sun. Thus, I highly recommend that you shoot right before or after the sunset. It
will make your landscape shot look professional and beautiful.

9. Add a zoom

Adding a zoom is an easy way to create that nice and cinematic atmosphere to your shot. Keep it small and smooth, don’t make it too clear-cut or too obvious. This way, the viewer gets carried in really slow. The dolly zoom effect can also be a very cool technique, it is very effective for 4k footage which is outputed at 1080p for
the final video.

8. Add a sound clip

Music is like wings to the viewer’s mind. A piece of perfect matching music with your footage could help making your video popular. It beautifies your footage and brings the natural feeling in the video. Do not add music which doesn’t suit to your video, your video
might end up being weird in the end. It’s difficult but there are a million of audios on the Internet, get one with the permission and add it to your video.

10. Edit your video

To get the best out of your shots, you need to know how to edit your drone footage. It is one of the most important post-production processes. It manipulates and rearranges your shots for your the final product. Titling, color grading, sound mixing are very important tasks for aerial videography. Remove the unwanted footages, pick the best ones, create a flow, add effect, graphic, and music and you’re ready to shine.

Always bear in mind that, safety first. Drones are tools. You can’t treat them as toys.

Launch the drone into the sky within the law in your area and within your limits.

I hope with these quick tips you can explore and generate some cool content.

If you have more tips or ideas on how to make cool and professional videos please post them below!

Thanks!

Author Bio

John O. Brooks is a photographer, videographer, and a technology freak. He loves to live in the camera world. His camera is the best friend of him in this world, he says. He finds peace sharing his knowledge through developing contents about
photography and videography.

Image sources:
https://www.pexels.com/photo/white-drone-2044044/
https://www.pexels.com/photo/quadcopter-flying-on-the-skey-1034812/

Stay tuned on the Personal Drones Blog for the latest quadcopter and multirotor news!

Five years ago, the pundits predicted that by now we would be seeing tens of thousands of drones buzzing over our heads delivering everything from pizzas and burritos to the latest “must-have” item from Amazon. So what happened? Where are they? In a nutshell, they are here, but the general public doesn’t see them—at least not daily—and they aren’t necessarily delivering what was predicted.

The fact is that commercial drones fly in remote areas or over private property every day by the thousands. They’re performing work on farms, powerlines, construction sites, cell towers, and oil pads, especially in the U.S. where there are more than 118,000 FAA-certified remote pilots. Compare that to the U.K., where there are just under 5,000.

Delivering pizzas and burritos will likely be a very small part of what drones will be doing in the future. According to the largest benchmark study on commercial drones, the bulk of all current industrial use outside of film, photo and video falls into two categories: surveying and mapping land areas and inspecting and monitoring physical structures. And it’s these two uses that will continue to drive the growth of drones for industrial use for many years to come.

Three companies represent this growth and are worth getting to know: PrecisionHawk, DroneDeploy and SkySkopes. In many way,s they are emblematic of the current state of the growing commercial drone industry and provide insight into its future.

PrecisionHawk

Founded in 2010 and headquartered in Raleigh, N.C., PrecisionHawk was one of the first vendors to offer a full end-to-end enterprise drone solution stack. That stack included a drone aircraft with advanced sensors, software, analytics, and contracted services for inspecting things like oil well pads and utility lines and more. (“Advanced sensors” refers to specialized cameras on the drone that detect things like crop growth patterns.) With over $107 million in investment and more than 180 employees, PrecisionHawk has some large customers, including ExxonMobil, John Deere, Monsanto, and Verizon. They offer services in more than 150 countries and have a network of 15,000 pilots.

Two things illustrate how PrecisionHawk leads the industry. First is their regulatory experience and FAA partnership. Second is their focus on operating drones beyond the pilot’s ability to see them, or “beyond visual line of sight” (BVLOS). PrecisionHawk was one of a few companies to partner with the FAA on its Pathfinder Program, and the company’s work is informing current FAA regulations and BVLOS policy. PrecisionHawk also understands that as the commercial drone industry evolves, widespread BVLOS drone inspection has the potential to significantly change business models for many industries. With their programs and papers like “The Economics of Using Drones for BVLOS Inspections,” they educate businesses and help them evaluate when it’s best to use traditional ground and manned aviation, line-of-sight drones, or BVLOS drone inspection approaches. PrecisionHawk is unique in evaluating the costs and benefits of BVLOS operations compared with traditional operations, which allows businesses to plan an aerial intelligence strategy that delivers the most value for the money.

DroneDeploy

San Francisco-based DroneDeploy provides software that controls drone flight plans and workflows as well as processes the images they collect. They have more than 4,000 global customers mapping and assessing everything from construction progress, to disaster recovery, to agricultural crop vigor.  Founded in 2013, the company partnered with leading drone manufacturers to provide its software to operators in a variety of industries, including agriculture, real estate, mining, construction and many other commercial and consumer arenas. Having raised $56M in funding, DroneDeploy started by selling software directly to pilots and later added selling through the channel that supplies mid-size companies and then added direct sales to enterprises and resellers.

By every measure, DroneDeploy has the most popular non-OEM mapping flight application on the market. They boast that their software processes over 100 million images per year and measures more than 10 million distances a year (for instance, between objects). But they are not resting on their laurels. Drone use by surveyors and mappers is rapidly becoming more sophisticated, and as that’s happened, DroneDeploy has been pushing boundaries more than any vendor. Their app market is the largest set of industry-specific integrated applications available.

Part of what has made DroneDeploy (and the drone industry itself) so successful has been the consumerization of drone technology. What others missed but DroneDeploy didn’t was the foresight to see that the prosumer drone category would be the only place where sales volumes and margins would be strong enough for aircraft manufacturers to recoup R&D investment. That’s why, early on, they pivoted from open source-based aircraft to DJI drones since DJI is and has been for four years the dominant player in the space. Last year, DJI’s market share for drone aircraft was 74%. As a result, all the major mission planning and mapping applications like DroneDeploy and dozens more now integrate with or run on DJI’s products. Most of them started off with applications dedicated to their own drone, but soon found that most professionals want to use the simpler and more reliable DJI prosumer drones. DroneDeploy made that bet early, and it has paid off.

SkySkopes

Whereas PrecisionHawk offers a full drone stack and DroneDeploy offers software, this last company doesn’t manufacture anything. They provide drone services. And in a field of more than 30,000 service companies, very few stand out as full-time ventures—let alone as profitable and growing—but SkySkopes does. They succeeded because they specialized. Based in Grand Forks, N.D., SkySkopes started in 2014 and has grown from a small startup with four part-time employees to over 18 full-time employees and four offices across the upper Midwest. Over the years, SkySkopes has refined its focus to strictly providing aerial services for the energy industry and now has operations in California, Texas, Minnesota, Florida, and Europe.

What makes SkySkopes successful is they are not afraid to push the limits of drone technology. Their specialization in acquiring aerial data with advanced aircraft has landed them projects with CenterPoint Energy, Duke Energy, Xcel Energy and a host of others. SkySkopes and NASA have also teamed up over the past few years to demonstrate and test BVLOS use cases for the UTM project to integrate civilian low-altitude airspace and unmanned aircraft system operation. All this landed CEO Matt Dunlevy a seat on the advisory board of the Energy Drone & Robotics Coalition, the only event exclusively focused on the business and technology of aerial, ground/surface and subsea robotics in energy operations.

Together these three companies encapsulate the present state of the growing industrial use of drones. Clearly, that’s not what the media prefers to focus on since it’s not sexy drone pizza delivery. But it’s important work with great business benefits to specific industries.

This article first appeared on FORBES.com

Image credit: Photographer: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg, © 2019 BLOOMBERG FINANCE LP

This post first appeared on Forbes.com as Drones Pose A Unique Big Data Challenge For Business Users

The public might consider them nuisances, but in the commercial market, drones are valuable data collection devices. Their primary task is to capture, store, and transmit data. So as IT departments consider integrating more drone data into existing enterprise business processes, they face new data governance requirements. As drone technology matures, it is important to know what it means for you as the steward of your firm’s information technology and software.

Drones present both a big data and an IoT challenge

Up to now, the focus of commercial drone use has been on accurate data collection and visualization—not IT process integration. To be fair, applications have been developed to support verticals like agriculture, construction, energy, mining, and telecom with cloud-based services, but these applications mostly produce and serve up maps, e.g., location maps for managing and servicing company infrastructure and other assets.

Just as with big data, the challenges of drone data include analysis, curation, search, sharing, storage, transfer, visualization, and information privacy. We are already beginning to see drones efficiently replace static IoT sensors with one device that is in motion and can capture multiple types of data (so not just pictures and video, but also emission gases, radio signals, geodetic data, etc.).

Is drone data that unique?

Like all IoT devices that are in motion, drones bring a lot of value and at the same time have a lot of challenges. For the most part, drone data is geospatial (or geographic data), imagery, videos, binaries, etc., so falls into the category of non-standard IoT data. However, if you work in IT, you’ll want to understand that this data has some unique requirements. F For example, it requires image recognition analysis and considerable transformation and data parsing to become useful.

A lot—if not most—of the data collected from drones can be used by geographic information systems (GIS).  GIS are mostly used for mapping and analyzing, and they integrate common database operations—such as query and statistical analysis—with visualization and geographic analysis. So, think mapping tools like esri’s ArcGIS.

Data governance implications

When dealing with drone data you may need to expand your current data governance policies because of new risks associated with aerial data itself (like privacy concerns) and the location and operations of the drone (because a drone is legally an aircraft and operates under certain regulations). For example, you may need to revisit policies regarding:

  • Source aviation system, its access, and APIs
  • Security and reliability along the “chain of custody” (drone service provider, to the cloud data service, to your front door)
  • Privacy and risk mitigation (legal issues)
  • Traditional Master Data Management (MDM) to straighten out the differences in reference data like location, asset type, customer name, etc.
  • Archive of source data for later re-processing (do you trust the custodian?)
  • Access control (who gets to see what and when?)

Learning a new lexicon

As you start integrating drone data, you should familiarize yourself with the most common types of processed “processed” data from drones—not the raw data, but the data produced by imaging software and the ones you’ll most likely come across if you’re in IT. Here are five examples:

An orthomosaic is an aerial photograph geometrically corrected (“orthorectified”) such that the scale is uniform: the photo has the same lack of distortion as a map. Typically, an orthomosaic is a composite of individual photos that have been stitched together to make a larger one. What you need to know is that the individual photos that make up orthomosaics each have their own georeference. The processed data (the composite) is what your end users want to use, but they may also want to know the location of the source data if it needs to be referenced later. Think about this in data governance terms. You may need to revisit your data retention rules if the source images are needed for evaluating changes over time.

Thermography (sometimes referred to as thermal imaging) uses thermal video cameras to detect radiation in the long-infrared range of the electromagnetic spectrum. Building construction and maintenance technicians can see thermal signatures that indicate heat leaks in faulty thermal insulation and can use the results to improve the effectiveness of their work. Thermal mapping is also “a thing” with vendors like DroneDeploy, which offers live streaming views, and can either be an image or a map.

Photogrammetry is a technique which uses photography to extract measurements of the environment. This is achieved through overlapping imagery, where the same feature can be seen from two perspectives. With photogrammetry, it is possible to calculate distance and volume measurements. Departments use these outputs to create “point clouds” or 3D images used to do things like render a building or measure the volume of a stockpile.

LiDAR stands for “Light Detection and Ranging.” It is a remote sensing method that uses light in the form of a pulsed laser to measure ranges (variable distances) to the Earth. These light pulses—combined with other data recorded by the airborne system—generate precise, three-dimensional information about the shape of objects and their surface characteristics. The accuracy of LiDAR images is stunning (we’re talking millimeters), which is why surveyors and construction engineers favor this technology. What you need to know is that LiDAR files are big. Datasets for a simple project area can be 1-2 TB.

Video is the most common and at the same time the most complex type of drone data. It’s complex because video is almost always stored in compressed form to reduce the file size for storage. A video file normally consists of a container format holding video data in a coding format alongside audio data in an audio coding format. Those are known as CODECs. The container format can also contain synchronization information and metadata such as GPS location and directional data, which can be encoded in each frame. 10 minutes of video at 30 frames per second = 18,000 frames. It’s complex because, when analyzing video data, you have to sort through all 18,000 pieces of frame data.

So here’s the big data problem—it’s the analytics. Most of what you want to know from images and video files (What can I see? What is happening? What is the value?) cannot be extrapolated by the traditional enterprise big data vendors. While automation can exploit this data and increase analysis efficiency, image and video analysis is more often done by teams of specialists. For this, you may want to outsource to an AI vendor that specializes in imaging or use an online drone data service.

Image credit: A SZ DJI Technology Co. drone is displayed during keynote presentations on artificial intelligence at the Microsoft Developers Build Conference in Seattle, Washington, U.S., on Monday, May 7, 2018. Photographer: Grant Hindsley/Bloomberg photocredit: © 2018 Bloomberg Finance LP

Press release: Natural Power acquires Ascent Technologies

Leading renewable energy consultancy and service provider, Natural Power, has acquired the Texas-based firm Ascent Technologies – a developer of software for commercial unmanned aerial systems (UAS) operations.

The specialist software, which has been developed by Ascent Technologies during the course of the past two years, will enable Natural Power to automate drone flights, thus increasing speed, consistency and quality of the data gathered during wind turbine blade inspections.

Watch Natural Power’s drone video here

https://vimeo.com/315845975

natural_power_DroneNatural Power Drone

The automation enabled by this new software means that the drone system calculates and manages the optimal flight along the surfaces of the blades without pilot intervention, as well as constantly monitoring, adjusting and optimising camera angles, exposure, focal distance and timing of the image acquisition. This ensures excellent data quality capture during the inspection process, whilst also enabling a much quicker inspection process that reduces the turbine’s downtime and associated loss of revenue. The cost to undertake the inspections are lowered and the images obtained during the process are of consistently high quality.

Craig Gordon, Global Head of Inspections at Natural Power, said: “Our blade inspections business continues to gather pace and we have invested in a number of drones that will complement our existing blade inspection services. The acquisition of Ascent will enable us to deliver a step change in the wider inspections service that we offer to clients, and coupled with our expert analysis, ensures we deliver a consistently high quality service.”

Stephen Trotter, Managing Director at Natural Power commented: “We continue to invest in key technologies and skills to deliver improved quality and value to our customers. The acquisition of Ascent accelerates this for our inspections business which plays a key role both as a standalone service and as a complement to our analytics, due diligence, operational and asset management services.”

Natural Power is recognised across the renewables sector for its proven track record across the full scope of inspection services, and has worked across various turbine types including, but not limited to, Siemens, Vestas, Senvion, GE, Enercon and Nordex. This has included work in Europe and The Americas. The team uniquely understands the need to achieve best quality data, combined with efficiency in order to maximise the uptime of turbine fleets whilst verifying their condition and integrity. Find out more here https://www.naturalpower.com/our-services/inspections/.

About Natural Power

Natural Power is a leading independent renewable energy consultancy and service provider that employs 360 staff globally. The company offers proactive and integrated consultancy, construction and operational management and due diligence services, backed by an innovative product range, across the onshore wind, offshore wind, solar pv and energy storage and renewable heat sectors as well as other emerging renewable energy technologies.

https://www.naturalpower.com
https://twitter.com/Natural_Power
https://www.linkedin.com/company/natural-power

Contact details:

Jane Maher, PR and Media
Natural Power
T: 07887 995 589
E: janem@naturalpower.com

Stay tuned on the Personal Drones Blog for the latest quadcopter and multirotor news!

We just announced the release of our latest research on commercial drone operations. The Economics of Using Drones for BVLOS Inspections is a white paper sponsored by PrecisionHawk, the leading provider of drone technology for the enterprise, which provides a foundation for businesses to evaluate when it’s best to use traditional ground and manned aviation, line of sight drones, or BVLOS (for “beyond visual line of sight”) drone inspection approaches. It’s designed as a comprehensive primer of drone inspections in specific industries.

The paper answers questions like:

  • What’s the best way to enable an effective drone strategy?
  • What are the economic benefits of operating drones?
  • What are the costs, benefits, and risks of using drones for BVLOS operations?
  • How does that compare with traditional inspection methods?

Here is an excerpt:

As the commercial drone industry continues to evolve, widespread BVLOS drone inspection has the potential to significantly change business models for oil and gas, utilities, insurance, and other industries. Representatives we spoke with in those industries point to four main drivers motivating them to explore BVLOS operations:

  • Safety, as in preventing fatal helicopter crashes or accidents from having to manually climb towers to take readings;
  • Costs, or reducing dependence on a $1,500-per-rotor-hour helicopter and personnel and even cutting the time and expense of the multiple flights needed in flying drones within visual line of sight (VLOS);
  • Data inconsistency and lack of quality, since manual data collection sometimes involves photos taken from a helicopter traveling at speed and at different heights for each flight—which leads to inconsistency—or hand-written notes taken while visually inspecting with binoculars—which leads to imprecise or poor quality data;
  • Time to value, meaning that BVLOS flight can cover a wide area and collect high-quality data much more quickly than traditional means, so, for example, insurance claims of total loss can be indemnified faster.

The 21-page report also provides a guide for when—and how—to deploy drones to inspect assets, use cases for how drone missions compare with traditional methods, and insight from PrecisionHawk’s customers about how they’re refining their inspection strategy—and their results.

You can register to get the free report here: http://bit.ly/2Rn8z6y

Image credit: PrecisionHawk

By Paul Archer, Dronesgator.com

A new recent release from DJI makes its way in 2019 with what seems to be a very unique approach to personal consumer cameras.
DJI has quite some history when it comes to gimbal stabilized cameras, both for their drones and for their Osmo line and this makes them quite the expert in the domain.

Osmo PocketOsmo Pocket

I know that at a first glance this device didn’t seem like it had much potential. However, the moment I took it into my own hands I’ve been quite amazed by what it can do.

It’s called the Osmo pocket and I’m completely amazed by how far technology has moved in the recent years. Having such a small yet capable device is something that no one would have dreamt of just a year ago.

Is it a vlogging camera or an action cam?

It has been released some time after the latest gopro hero 7 and people, including me, have compared the two on equal footing because of their bragging about stabilization.

However, the Osmo is more than an action cam, it definitely isn’t as sturdy as the latest GoPro hero, but It holds its own with some very good materials and a very good build.

GoPro vs Osmo Pocket

However, the osmo does have the considerable advantage of permanent 3 axis gimbal stabilization, which means it isn’t limited with electronic stabilization that can fail in poor lighting conditions.

Why is the Osmo pocket a great contender for being one of the top vlogging cameras in the future?

  • Super portable (no need to carry a big camera around you all the time)
  • Incredibly well stabilized video
  • Records in 4k 60p and even slow motion up to 120fps
  • Has the option to easily change the camera orientation towards you or in front by the press of a button
  • Has automatic tracking options
  • Good close up focus
  • More professional, cinematic look thanks to the shorter field of view compared to the fisheye of a goopro for example.

How does it face off against a gopro?

They’re not exactly competing in the same category as I mentioned before, but the new osmo pocket does actually take away some of the market from any action camera.

For more casual recordings, vlogging and whatever scenario that requires a tiny stabilized camera, besides extreme sports.

GoPro Hero7 vs Panasonic G7 vs Osmo PocketGoPro Hero7 vs Panasonic G7 vs Osmo Pocket

Bellow there’s my video comparison to the GoPro Hero 7 black where I also tested the stability on rough terrain, different resolutions side by side, slow motion and more!

[embedded content]

What are some specs and is the price worth it?

When it comes to the price, the DJI Osmo pocket is just under the price of the latest Gopro. Now, you decide if it’s justified for your own needs to spend $350 on a multifunctional camera like this.

However, I could argue that if this manages to replace an expensive DSLR camera for video that you used to barely carry around and shoot shaky videos with… it’s totally worth it.

And the quality is up there, with a nice field of view and blurred background when in selfie mode.

Here are some of the more important specs I felt like people would need to know:

  • 12mp camera
  • 1/2.3-inch sensor
  • 80 degree FOV
  • 100Mbits
  • F/2.0 apperture
  • 4k 60fps
  • 1080p 120p
  • Supports micro sd card of up to 256gb
  • Comes with multiple accessories

How about the accessories?

Well, DJI is already selling quite a lot of those on their site and they seem to be quite useful, even though they have a long way to catch GOPro from behind.

The overall package is super tiny, but if you do indeed decide to attach the phone, maybe because you find the screen too small, it’s going to be less easy to hold in only one hand.

So if you were looking for a new camera and a gimbal for it, the new Osmo pocket might make your life better with a more complete, smaller and quite capable package for the price of an action camera.

Stay tuned on the Personal Drones Blog for the latest quadcopter and multirotor news!

This post first appeared in Forbes

In many ways, 2019 will be another big year for the commercial drone industry. Last year saw a wider rollout of the FAA’s LAANC program (the Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability that provides access to controlled airspace near airports), the launch of the UAS Integration Pilot Program from the FAA, and some significant developments for new regulatory frameworks for drones in Europe and in India. This year, expect more of the same—but with a few twists.

Trend 1 – Expanded business use

Adoption of aerial drones and drone technology will not be as widespread as some might expect. Instead, it will grow in select industries like agriculture, construction, insurance, mining and aggregates, public safety and first responders, oil & gas, survey engineering, telecommunications and utilities.

Last year, companies began to move beyond the provisional use of drones—where they were outsourcing to determine a drone program’s feasibility—to standing up or expanding internal teams to manage workflows and data. This year, expect to see reports about companies expanding their teams and adding use cases that take advantage of the waivers allowing limited beyond visual line of sight operations.

Trend 2 – Slower, more steady growth

The number of certified remote pilots is the benchmark for commercial drone industry growth. That’s because, almost uniformly around the world, regulations demand each drone operation have one pilot. Last year, the number of FAA-certified remote pilots grew about 50% over the previous year, to approximately 115,000. That increase was mostly made up of pilots who work for companies, enterprises or public agencies with internal drone programs as opposed to pilots who operate for drone-based service providers. It’s clear that commercial industries are now driving growth rather than individual interest as in years past.

One thing to keep in mind when looking at FAA numbers is that the month-over-month growth rate is beginning to slow. That may worsen given the current partial U.S. Government shutdown, which will delay the grant of new certificates. It may also slow further because some drone-based service providers who are not making money (most aren’t) will choose not to re-certify as a remote pilot.

Trend 3 – Further vendor consolidation

Much of the industry’s growth so far has come from the early hype about how drones were going to “transform” industries as well as huge forecasts that fueled investment. Over the years, we’ve seen those dreams turn to smoke as vendors like 3D Robotics and GoPro fell out of the sky. Last year was no exception. The $118M collapse of Airware and the release of Parrot’s disappointing financial results give us a glimpse into what will come.

Still, there is good news, and you can expect more moves like PrecisionHawk’s acquisitions as vendors seek leadership positions in key industries and secure new revenue streams.

Trend 4 – Public distrust and civil liability

Despite the benefits of commercial drone use, the general public still has concerns about drones with regards to safety, security, privacy and public nuisance. After the Gatwick debacle, expect more headlines in 2019 of unauthorized drone sightings and the coming drone apocalypse. In many ways these stories hurt legitimate commercial operators who often need to gain permission from reluctant land owners so they can perform inspections and survey maps for infrastructure unreachable by other means.

Here in the U.S., there is another tea kettle about to boil over. A little-known but highly influential group known as the Uniform Law Commission (ULC) will continue to work on a proposed “Tort Law Relating to Drones Act,” which concerns drones and privacy. If their proposal is adopted by states, we could see an arbitrary line drawn 200 feet in the sky that would establish a new aerial trespass zone giving property owners the right to establish no-fly zones. Right now, their draft goes much further than any existing state or federal law and, if enacted, would create a complicated patchwork of differing state laws that inhibit commercial operations. Until then, expect to see more local and state laws like this one in Pennsylvania aiming to protect people’s privacy from drones.

Trend 5 – More regulation – maybe

Some predict 2019 will be the year the FAA finally implements a requirement for remote identification for all drones, recreational and commercial, flying in the U.S. It’s expected this will be combined with a new rule for flights over people for small drones. But there is a big difference between the FAA proposing a rule (called the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking or NPRM) and that rule becoming law. The difference can be anywhere from six to nine months. So it’s likely we’ll see a proposed rule, but implementation will be like Waiting for Godot.

To be clear, Drone ID is not a slam dunk, and the specifics of the ID signature are still being debated within the FAA. Even so, Drone ID needs to exist for Unmanned Traffic Management (aka UTM) to become a reality. UTM should help enable some of the most talked-about use cases for drones, from package delivery to aerial taxi services, but don’t expect this first iteration of remote ID to live up to the headlines or vendor expectations of a global autonomous drone network – as that would ignore the arduous political processes in each country or region to make UTM even possible.

Trend 6 – DJI’s continued dominance

SZ DJI Technology Co., Ltd. (a.k.a. DJI), a Chinese company, continues to dominate the market and has made gains this year in every product category, from drone aircraft at all price ranges, to add-on payloads, to software. Recent survey data shows DJI is still the dominant brand for drone aircraft purchases, with a 74% global market share. Much of DJI’s dominance can be attributed to its aggressive product development, technological advancements and partner development in the enterprise channel. Last year, the company released two new series of enterprise products (Phantom 4 RTK and Mavic 2 Enterprise) that target industrial users. It’s safe to predict their leadership will continue given their strategic investment with Hasselblad, their recent investment in an R&D facility in Palo Alto, California, and their partners in the enterprise space such as Microsoft.

Trend 7 – Sensors, software, and AI advancements

Along with the new imaging sensor integration announcements in 2019 (such as smaller, more lightweight LiDAR), expect to see imaging software advancements as companies seek to combine RGB, thermal imaging, orthomosaic, and data from IoT sensors. More aerial imaging and mapping software firms will likely announce artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities. Right now, most of this is cloud-based machine learning (a.k.a. deep learning and predictive analytics), where datasets are trained by specialized teams. Already, there are some drone-based AI solutions for image recognition/machine vision, but it’s still early in the technology development cycle and AI is near peak hype.

Some big news for 2019 could be workflow integration of drone data and workflow into predictive maintenance and service solutions, as well as enterprise asset management systems such as those from IBM, INFOR, Oracle and SAP. Capabilities could include documentation, tracking and GIS data integration. That may bring a yawn to some, but when you can connect the dots and show the effect of drone data on the balance sheet, CFOs and CEOs will take notice and drive further enterprise adoption

Image credit: Mark Kauzlarich/Bloomberg