Everywhere you look, people are making predictions about how drones are going to be put to use in commercial applications, from farming to fishing to utilities inspections. But when it comes time to get the rubber on the road, it’s sometimes hard to know just how to get the job done, or more precisely, how to understand the data the drones are so good at collecting.
I recently came across a company that is all about that – data management software for drone inspections: Scopito. Founder and CEO, Ken Falk agreed to tell us more about the work he’s doing to bring about a better world through drones.
What is Scopito? Who is it for?
Scopito is a platform that makes it easy to store, analyze and share large amounts of inspection data – especially created for drone operators that want to deliver data to their customers in a professional manner. It can also be utilized by utility companies that have the need for an efficient way to handle data on their large amounts of infrastructure.
What problem in the drone industry are you a solution for? What advantages do you offer compared to other competitors?
Drones are effective at getting to places that are otherwise hard to access, and at gathering high quality data. The challenge is that the amounts of data to be handled are so big – and this is the problem that we are a solution for.
Our competitors are very focused on 3D models and mapping solutions, where we are focused on visual 2D inspections.
How does Scopito work?
In short, you take a huge amount of pictures from either a drone, helicopter or the ground, then upload them to Scopito, get us to analyze them or do it yourself. And then via the platform you share the data with your customers or colleagues.
Tell us a little bit about the process of development for Scopito. What has the process of development been like, obstacles and successes?
It began in Denmark, 3.5 years ago. I quit my position, after quite some years, at a software company. I was actually pretty happy there – but I kind of knew that I wanted to start something up for myself. And I thought that it would be something with drones. Without knowing more than that, I quit my job to give myself the kick I needed, to follow what I wanted the most.
I got into this entrepreneur program, where one could spend 40 weeks developing an idea for a start up. And I decided to build the world’s best drone. I wanted it to be able to fly 4 times as many minutes as all other helicopter drones on the market. So I spent six months in an old, outworn solarium and build what I had planned. At this point that meant a drone that could fly for a little more than an hour with full sensor package.
I then contacted some utility companies, and they thought it sounded interesting – but weren’t actually interested in buying the drone – they wanted the data. So we changed directions and began selling inspections, delivering everything from drones, flight permissions, pilots and insurances.
When we were to deliver the first inspections we became aware that no system existed that made it feasible to handle all the data. We could without problems deliver a couple of thousand images from a small inspection – but using Windows Picture Viewer and clicking through all this data wasn’t a very scaleable solution. Then we got the idea to develop cloud software that could properly do this – and we founded the company Heliscope, in October 2014, with an investment from an innovation fund.
It was challenging finding the time to both do the inspections and develop the software, because it took a lot of time getting the drones to fly optimally and to fly near power lines. Also, getting the drones stable near high-voltage networks and getting really sharp, focused images, was pretty time consuming.
A bit coincidentally we talked to Denmark’s leading land surveying company, Geopartner – and we sold the inspection business to them, to be able to focus 100 % on developing the software.
Regarding the software, both human and automated processes has it’s up- and downsides. We don’t only have to be able to handle all this data, but also to effectively analyze it. We have people doing this, and we are working on automating it via AI algorithms. The main reason why we want to automate it is that we are talking these huge amounts of data. In Denmark alone, with the current number of inspections, it’s four million pictures a year. Obviously, it is a pretty big job to look through that. And with very repetitive activities, the human brain tends to get less effective with time, and the risk of mistakes is bigger than it will be with the technology that we will eventually see in the future.
And actually we are not seeking to develop these algorithms ourselves, but to find partners from whom we can implement algorithms, from their specific niche – high-voltage networks, wind farms, roads, etc.
What is your vision for Scopito over the next year? How do you envision your company helping to promote and develop the drone industry?
For the next year we’re going to make people aware that we exist. We just recently started our sales and marketing efforts, so not many people know about us yet. So talking to customers and showing them what we can do, and getting their inputs on how they want to use the product, is one thing that we will be doing.
We believe that we are adding to the value chain by giving drone operators an effective way to handle huge amounts of data and deliver it to their customers in a professional way. We believe that having such a system is what makes it possible to work with these huge amounts of data and thereby add value to the data.
Anything else you would like to add?
We would like to offer a gift voucher for a 50% discount for the first 3 months after signing up to the platform. (The platform is already free to use if you upload less than 250 images).
*Voucher code is valid for signups until April 23, 2017.