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Quick Start Guide to Drones in Energy

I’m happy to announce the release of our Quick Start Guide to Drones in Energy. This report is the second in a new series of Skylogic Research white papers, intended to provide a complete primer to drone use in specific industries. This year, we are building on the analysis we did for the 2017 Five Valuable Business Lessons Learned papers by providing guidance and industry-specific resources that will help you kick-start your practice. Our goal is to help drone-based service providers and business users maximize the value that drones can bring to operational groups.

This report consolidates our best insights into the challenges and solutions drones add to inspecting assets that produce and supply energy. We show how drones add value to digital 3-D representation of physical assets and what information companies are gleaning from the data their drones collect.

The paper answers questions like:

  • How big is the energy inspection drone market, and who are the major solution providers?
  • How are drones used by oil and gas companies, wind and solar farms, and utilities and what challenges must be addressed?
  • What do you need to know about regulations, pilot certification, insurance, and training?
  • What are the best practices for adopting drones into existing workflows?

Here is an excerpt from the drone use in energy asset inspections section:

“The number keeps growing, but GWEC estimates that there were over 341,000 wind turbines spinning around the world at the end of 2016. Unidentified defects can result in an unexpected catastrophic failure, causing expensive repairs, extended downtime, and associated revenue loss. Revenue losses alone from unexpected catastrophic failures can be as high as $50,000 per turbine.

Companies like AES Corporation and Duke Energy have realized tremendous cost savings using drone inspections. For example, drone-based service provider Measure can automate wind turbine data collection and inspection, making the process cost-effective and reliable. With traditional ground inspection methods, a two-person crew is able to inspect 3–4 turbines in a single day. A drone pilot can inspect 12–15 turbines in the same period. Plus, it’s a lot safer than sending inspectors out on rope harnesses high above the ground.

According to Solarplaza, drones can cut the cost of solar-farm panel inspections to between USD $2,100 and $3,200 a day, covering five acres an hour. According to one published report, a drone can survey 4,000 panels in about five minutes, while a human inspection would take more than eight days at a rate of one panel inspection per minute. The technique involves mounting a high-definition infrared camera on a drone and running the images through an analysis program to detect hotspots that might reveal the presence of faults. Maintenance teams can then visit these hotspot locations directly, without having to survey the entire solar field, which saves on operational costs.”

The 10-page report also provides a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) for evaluating and designing your drone program and comes with an appendix that includes links to valuable online resources such as attorneys, advocacy groups, training & certification, and waivers & authorizations.

I believe this is the perfect time to get your start using drones in the energy industry like scores of firms worldwide have done. You can get the free report here.

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

 

Image credit: Emerald Expositions

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Commercial Drones and GDPR: What You Need to Know

Assessing what GDPR means for commercial drone hardware and software vendors, service providers, and enterprise users.

By Colin Snow and Charlotte Ziems

Have you noticed an increase in the number of emails lately that say “we have updated our privacy policies and terms of service”? It’s not just the big players like Amazon, Apple, Google, and YouTube, it’s just about everyone – and for good reason. They’re all preparing for May 25, 2018, when new regulations go into effect that apply to personally identifiable data they collect on citizens of the European Union.

Disclaimer: Nothing in this post should be interpreted as legal advice—you alone are responsible for GDPR compliance and should consult legal counsel to do so. We’ll assess only the basic GDPR concepts you should know, and at a high level. So let’s start with the basics.

What is GDPR?

On May 25, 2018, the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will go into effect to protect the rights of Europeans to access and control their personal data. This means any brand that collects and processes the personal data of individuals in the European Union, regardless of that brand’s location, needs to comply with GDPR requirements by the May deadline.

Note that the laws are still being interpreted and definitions changing, so you’ll want to pay attention.

What are the important GDPR requirements?

  • The right to be informed, or being transparent about what you collect and how you use it (Article 12, 13, and Article 14 number 11)
  • The right of access, or allowing individuals to see what personal data you’re processing and storing (Article 15)
  • The right to rectification, or allowing individuals to have their personal data corrected (Article 16)
  • The right to erasure, also known as the right to be forgotten (Article 17)
  • The right to restrict processing, or allowing individuals to stop you from performing operations (collecting, processing, storing, etc.) on personal data (Article 18)
  • The right to data portability, or giving individuals the personal data you have about them (Article 20)
  • The right to object, or prevent you from processing their personal data (Article 21)

Why should you care?

Depending on the nature of the infringement, fines for noncompliance can range from between €10 million and €20 million, or between 2% and 4% of your worldwide annual revenue of the prior financial year, whichever is higher.

Do those in the commercial drone industry need to be GDPR compliant?

That depends. If you have any clients, or have contacts, or perform work in the EU, then yes. The regulation applies when you collect, store, and process data or images that constitutes someone’s “personal data” (such as names, email addresses, phone numbers, etc.), or “personal identifiable information” (such as aerial images of and georeferences to persons).

Who in the commercial drone market might it apply to?

  • Agriculture – probably not those collecting agricultural data, since that type of data rarely attaches personally identifiable information (or personal data) of an individual.
  • Film / Photo / Video – it definitely applies to drone wedding photographers, real estate photographers, film companies, and any other commercial service. GPDR states that pictures containing peoples that can be identified are to be considered personal information and must be handled with care. Unless you are using the pictures for news or art, you must have a consent from the person giving you permission to publish the picture.
  • Inspecting and monitoring – probably not those collecting data on structures (such as towers, transmission lines, or oil rigs), since it rarely attaches personally identifiable information (or personal data) to an individual, but definitely yes to those performing site monitoring where individuals can be tagged or identified.
  • GIS (mapping and surveying) – it depends on the downstream use of the data you collect. You are in the chain of custody and custodians may need to generalize or filter identifiable features or patterns of people from geospatial information.
  • Cloud-based data services – same as GIS. You are in the chain of custody and may need to filter information; otherwise, your risk is high.

Where can you go to find out more information?

GDPR:

Agriculture:

Photographers:

GIS (Mapping and Survey):

GIS and cloud data services:

 

Image credit: Shutterstock and Skylogic Research

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Quick Start Guide to Drones in Construction

I’m happy to announce the release of the Quick Start Guide to Drones in Construction.

This report is the first in a new series of Skylogic Research white papers, intended to provide a complete primer to drone use in specific industries. This year, we are building on the analysis we did for the 2017 Five Valuable Business Lessons Learned papers by providing guidance and industry-specific resources that will help you kick-start your practice. Our goal is to help drone-based service providers and business users maximize the value that drones can bring to operational groups.

What’s in it?

This report consolidates our best insights into the challenges and solutions drones add to the worksite. We show how drones as a unified data collection device are bridging the gap between the Architectural, Engineering, and Construction (AEC) silos. We answer questions like:

  • How big is the construction drone market, and who are the major solution providers?
  • How are drones used in the AEC industry, and what are the challenges?
  • What do you need to know about regulations, pilot certification, insurance, and training?
  • What are the best practices for adopting drones into workflows?

Here is an excerpt from the lessons learned / cautionary tales section:

Be clear about customer value – When drone business service providers talk publicly about the differentiation of drones, you’ll often hear them say: “It’s all about the data.” But one of the lessons learned from the early adopters of drones in construction is that it isn’t just about the data. It’s about getting good information that provides value for the construction or architectural firm. So whether teams are collaborating around one daily map for a construction site as “the single source of truth,” or providing floor-by-floor visualization views for a future building site, the ultimate goal is to provide valuable information for downstream customers—and drones alone cannot do that. What drones can do is offer a much quicker way of capturing different types of data, digitizing it, and making it something you can analyze immediately or over time to support construction variance analysis.”

What resources does it provide?

The 10-page report provides a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) for evaluating and designing your drone program and comes with an appendix that includes links to valuable online resources such as attorneys, advocacy groups, training & certification, and waivers & authorizations.

I believe this is the perfect time to get your start using drones in the construction industry like hundreds of firms worldwide have done. You can get the free report here.

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

The post Quick Start Guide to Drones in Construction appeared first on Skylogic Research - Drone Analyst.

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Four Commercial Drone Trends to Watch in 2018

In my last post, Five Biggest Commercial Drone Trends of 2017 and the Challenges Ahead, I used data from our 2017 Drone Market Sector Report to illustrate the major trends of the past year and describe the major challenges ahead for the drone industry. That post looked back, but this one looks forward, offering our specific predictions for 2018, including investments, technology improvements, ecosystem partnerships, and software innovations.

(Listen to this companion Drone Radio Show podcast here for our complete assessment.)

1. Investment and testing will continue in earnest on Unmanned Traffic Management (UTM) and beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) operations.

With regulations moving at the speed of government and dissenting views on Drone ID, it seems like UTM (air traffic management for low-altitude drones) is an elusive dream. However, there is hope that testing being done on beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) operations in drone corridors will provide the necessary inputs to integrate drones into the national airspace. Expect news this summer from the vendors and service providers conducting tests at NUAIR in New York as they release results and performance-based navigation standards begin to coalesce.

2. You’ll see more news on improved sensors, hardware integration, networking, and processing.

Already, we’ve seen announcements like this one for new thermal imaging drone payloads. Expect to see further Ethernet / IP sensor integration efforts as more and more remote managers demand immediate access to data from local operations. Expect more news on LiDAR / drone integration like this one from Delair-Tech as more land surveyors and construction professionals demand further time and money savings over traditional methods.

3. Look for more partnerships, software, and innovations coming from the DJI Enterprise ecosystem.

We noted in our 2017 Drone Market Sector Report just how much DJI dominates the industry with its 72% market share. All the major mission-planning and mapping applications—like DroneDeploy, PrecisionHawk’s PrecisionMapper, Skycatch, and dozens more—now run on the DJI SDK. What our report didn’t mention was DJI’s focused efforts to further expand its commercial ecosystem. DJI Enterprise’s AirWorks Conference is but one example, an event whose purpose is showcasing applied drone solutions for the commercial industry’s most challenging obstacles. Expect many innovations from DJI’s partners in the hardware, software, and service sectors.

4. Software will dominate advancements.

Along with the new imaging sensor announcements in 2018, we expect to see imaging software advancements as companies seek to combine RGB, thermal imaging, orthomosaic, and radiometric data.

We also expect to see more aerial imaging and mapping software firms announce artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities. Right now, most of this is cloud-based machine learning (aka deep learning and predictive analytics) where data sets are trained by specialized teams. You may see some edge-based AI announcements for image recognition/machine vision, but be cautious when you do. We think it’s still early in the technology development cycle and AI is at peak hype.

We think the big news for 2018 will be the integration of drone data and workflow into asset management systems. Capabilities include documentation, tracking, and GIS data integration. It may bring a yawn to some but we believe when you can connect the dots and show the effect of drone data capture on the balance sheet, CFOs and CEOs will take notice and drive further enterprise adoption.

Parting thoughts

As I speak to clients, I always like to remind them of two things about the commercial drone market. First, it’s not a drone market, it’s a data and information market. The drone is just a data capture device. Second, drones are aircraf, not consumer products and as such their operations are regulated by aviation authorities.  All technology advancements aside, this is a regulated market, so always expect lumpy, bumpy growth.

We hope you keep those in mind as well and wish you best success in the coming year.

Listen to the companion podcast here http://bit.ly/2CXe6uK.

If you have questions about what’s in the report I mention or would like to comment, write me at colin@droneanalyst.com.

 

Image credit: Shutterstock and Skylogic Research

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Five Biggest Commercial Drone Trends of 2017 and the Challenges Ahead

Last year at this time, I reflected back on the news and trends of the commercial drone markets of 2016 and wrote about the mixed state of affairs ahead for 2017. Throughout the year, I offered my perspective on how the drone industry was still motivated by hype and how assessing forward momentum required hard data on the performance of the various sectors of the industry. To that end, we did research over the summer that surveyed 2,600 respondents on drone purchases, service providers, business users, and software services. In September, we published the data in 2017 Drone Market Sector Report 2017.

In this post, I’ll use that data to illustrate the major trends of the past year and describe what I think are the major challenges ahead for the drone industry.

Listen to this companion Drone Radio Show podcast here for the complete assessment.

Trend 1—Growth

By all measures, the drone industry in 2017 was marked by significant growth – growth in aircraft sales, software licenses, the number of service businesses entering the market, and the number of industrial businesses setting up commercial operations.

Here are a few statistics:

  • We project U.S. sales in 2017 to be about 3.3M units, which is 36% above 2016 figures. That’s all drones, all sizes. It’s about 1.3M units for the >250gram category.
  • As of October 31st, there were about 837,000 hobbyist users and 107,000 non-hobbyist drones registered with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
  • As of December 1st, there were about 66,000 Part 107 FAA Pilots.

This represents a big change in the commercial market since Part 107 regulations supplanted Section 333 as the means for commercial operations in the U.S. What this and our survey data tells us is the number of service providers currently outpaces demand, and as a result, service prices are coming down significantly.

Trend 2—Consumerization

We said in our report that more consumer drones are being used for commercial work than ever before. For example, our data shows that more than two-thirds (68%) of all drones weighing over 250 grams are purchased for professional purposes—either governmental or business.

Why is this significant? Because the impact of consumer-originated technology on the enterprise is something that can’t be ignored. Enterprises want to take advantage of powerful, yet easy-to-use products (like DJI’s popular consumer models), and put them to work on the job. What this means for operators or businesses is that a shared core technology benefits all users and enables companies to scale the best experiences to everyone. Enterprise customers get the added simplicity and usability of the consumer product that has been built to meet the demands of thousands of customers around the world.  The average individual pilot gets to benefit from the reliability and scalability inherent in the product and demanded by enterprise users.

Trend 3—The DJI effect

Our data shows DJI is the clear market leader in drone aircraft sales and almost every software category. For example, DJI is the dominant brand for drone aircraft purchases, with a 72% global market share across all price points and an even higher share (87%) of the core $1,000–$1,999 price segment. Additionally, in the three categories of software we evaluated, DJI is the market-share leader in two: flight logging and operations, and automated mission planning.

This is significant because by building on top of its existing technology platform, DJI has fast-tracked development and has benefited from economies of scale. By migrating a successful technology stack and feature set upmarket, DJI never has to reinvent the wheel—it just needs to improve upon the original design and save engineering cycles for real innovation.

The upshot is that to stay relevant, all the other major vendors have had to partner with DJI (see Trend 5 Partnerships, below). DJI’s sales success has taken market share from others and has led to layoffs at 3DR, Autel, GoPro, Parrot, and Yuneec. However, fears about data security remain. And this has some speculating about whether DJI can sustain its leadership role in the future.

Trend 4—Investments

According to CB Insights, investments shifted in 2017 from aircraft hardware to software. In 2016, there were 106 deals totaling $542M. Most of these were for hardware. In 2017, VCs focused on software, end-to-end solutions, and counter-drone technology. CB Insights projects the year will end with 110 deals totaling $494M. The most significant investment this past year was 3D Robotics’ $53M Series D round. It saw them pivot from hardware to software services.

Why is this significant?  Because it shows the industry is still maturing. Seed and Series A rounds represented 60% of all deals in 2017; whereas early-stage share peaked in 2015 at 73% of deals. Additionally, some of the most well-funded drone companies are targeting enterprise and industrial inspection.

What this means for operators or businesses is greater affordability. Software advances, computer chip manufacturing techniques, and economies of scale will continue to drive down the cost of drone platforms and sensors and solutions.

Trend 5—Partnerships

This year we saw a change from synergistic merger and acquisitions to the creation of end-to-end solutions via partnerships. For example, look at how DJI’s enterprise partnerships have grown. Consider their AirWorks conference. What drone major vendor wasn’t there? The list included DroneDeploy, Measure, PrecisionHawk, Skycatch, and Sentera, to name a few.

This past year we also saw an uptick in regulators and industry stakeholder partnerships. For example, the Drone Advisory Committee was created to provide the FAA with advice on unmanned aircraft integration from a diverse group of stakeholders. Major commercial participants include Intel, DJI, Amazon, Google X, and Facebook, as well the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association.

Consider also the FAA’s new UAS Integration Pilot Program. Here, government entities are partnering with private-sector companies, such as unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) operators and manufacturers, to submit proposals to the FAA to fly more advanced operations in their communities, including flying beyond line of sight and over people. This is significant because it’s clear that regulators want to include industry when creating policies.

However, there is some good news / bad news with this.

The good news is greater flexibility. With vendor partnerships, drones will be able to perform more types of data gathering in a shorter timeframe and with more precision than many other options. So, more aircraft, sensor, and software integration.

The bad news is operators and businesses have regulatory uncertainty. We advise our clients to plan for some uncertainty as technology, the public, and bureaucracy find common ground on operations for beyond visual line of sight and over people.

Challenges ahead

Here’s my list of the major challenges facing the drone industry in 2018:

  1. Regulations: We may see more regulatory red tape—e.g., a patchwork quilt of rules as the FAA’s UAS Integration Pilot Program begins to make policy.
  2. Public sentiment: Basic public concerns still exist about drone safety, security, privacy, and their public nuisance. My question is: How can we overcome this?
  3. Business value: We’ve yet to see credible ROI that hits the executive scorecard. The key question is: What monetary benefit do drones and information gleaned from drones provide shareholder value?
  4. Information accuracy: Up to now, drone vendors have been focused on the accuracy of image capture and the rigor of the drone system. For better business value, they need to focus on the accuracy of the data processing and the rigor of data analysis.
  5. IT data governance: This is especially the case for drone inspections where a single drone could collect 50 to 100 gigabytes of data. Managing these large data sets starts to become one of the things that have to be worked out.
  6. Automation: A lot of software automation will come, including artificial intelligence (AI) or algorithms that minimize the amount of human effort to distill all that information and get to some actionable inference. But large scale industrial use of AI is young and it requires manual intervention to distinguish the difference between near-similar objects.
  7. Endurance: We’re still on the quest for efficiencies like better power sources or mixes.
  8. Widespread business adoption: Business and industry adoption is growing, but it’s mixed because of factors such as business risk aversion, concerns over invasion of privacy, and a reluctance by many companies to share too much information about successes.

That’s it for now.

Listen to the companion podcast here http://bit.ly/2CXe6uK.

Look for a follow-up piece on our specific predictions for 2018, which will include investments, technology improvements, ecosystem partnerships, and software innovations.

If you have questions about what’s in the report I mention or would like to comment, write me at colin@droneanalyst.com.

 

Image credit: Shutterstock

The post Five Biggest Commercial Drone Trends of 2017 and the Challenges Ahead appeared first on Skylogic Research - Drone Analyst.

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