Deriving real value from aerial imaging requires the mastery of many skills including drone equipment selection, sensor and camera selection, equipment maintenance, flight operations, image capture, data processing, photogrammetry, mission safety, regulatory compliance, insurance, data archival, data retrieval, insightful reporting and numerous others. In addition, drone technology is changing fast and a drone service company will continuously invest in and deploy the latest technology to best serve a client’s needs and requirements.
Customers, large and small, notoriously start the conversation by asking, “Can’t we just buy our own drone and do this ourselves?” Many have experimented, some have crashed and the majority have concluded that flying drones to collect actionable data is not their core business and have returned to the conversation to explore the benefits of using a drone services provider. Some of the many reasons to use a Drone Services Provider include:
Skill: Despite many advances in the capabilities of drone technology, the fact remains that flying drones Safely and Responsibly is a learned skill and our pilots who fly drones on a daily basis are clearly better than those that fly only intermittently.
Safety: Protecting property, assets and people are of utmost importance to all. Reducing the potential of catastrophic consequence from a drone mishap with proper training, equipment maintenance and situational/environmental knowledge is of critical importance.
Try Before You Buy: Understanding how to integrate aerial data into your company’s existing workflow takes time, experimentation and often involves running both processes in parallel.
Resource Optimization – In most companies, employee’s plates are usually pretty full. During the early stage of adoption, is adding “drone pilot” to their job description the most efficient use of resources?
Regulatory Compliance – The FAA has a plethora of rules and regulations that one must adhere to in order to operate drones for commercial purposes. Understanding the rules and then complying with them is a significant undertaking.
Insurance – Most commercial insurance policies exclude aviation risk. A company operating drones for commercial purposes requires separate aviation insurance coverage.
Equipment – Not only selecting the right equipment, sensors/cameras and software for your intended tasks but then using it frequently enough to get the value from your purchase is challenging in a market where the equipment is experiencing rapid technological change. Utilizing a drone services provider mitigates the equipment obsolesce risk and significantly lowers your upfront capital outlays.
Software – Keeping current with drone software updates on the drone equipment, which occur frequently, are essential to flying safely and responsibly.
Data Processing – Collecting high quality aerial images is just the beginning. Converting these images into finished products requires significant skills and expensive photogrammetry and editing software combined with powerful and costly computing resources.
While the benefits of using drones will vary based on the intended use case, many applications that use drones share the following benefits:
Safety: Allowing for access to dangerous, hard to reach or hazardous areas without the need to put people or equipment at risk
Timeliness: Drones reduce the time from data collection to decision making
Accuracy: Data collected via drones has shown to be as good (if not better) than traditional collection methods
Quality Data: Improves decision making and also provides an archive of images and/or videos to document conditions at specific points in time
Data Archive: Aerial imaging provides a valuable archive of images and video data that is easily archived and readily available for queries
1st Person Perspective: Consistent images for all constituents to review
Frequency: Given the ease and greater availability of drone derived data, business leaders can now have access to more data points to enhance decision making
Cost Savings: In virtually all use cases, aerial data collected via drones is less expensive than traditional alternative methods
It is not often that a new technology comes along that effectively makes the old methods obsolete. Drones, in certain use cases, are one of those game changing technologies and over the next several years will be truly Transformative.
The devil is in the details. Achieving Survey Grade Accuracy does not just happen because you bought a new drone and some photogrammetric software. Establishing Ground Control Points, high quality cameras, accurate geo referenced images, appropriate image overlap are just a few of the many factors that influence a projects true accuracy. The perceived simplicity of some solutions, especially cloud-based options where one just uploads images and out comes a 3D map has the potential to lead to some very poor and unintended results. Be sure that you work with professionals who understand all of these variables and can reliably and consistently deliver true survey grade accuracy.
Drone image data is processed quickly, with customized volumetric reports delivered to clients within 24 – 48 hours.
There are several component parts of this process. Namely, (1) capture the image data (2) photogrammatic processing (3) customized volumetric reporting:
1. Aerial Data Capture: Aerial Media & Data works with our Client’s team to define requirements – target project area/boundaries, stockpiles for volume measurements, contours and topographic mapping, establishment of ground control points, additional photo/video imaging, etc.
2. Photogrammetric Processing: The images are processed on our dedicated drone mapping computer and using a dedicated photogrammetric software platform, stitching the images together into a 3D model
3. Customized Volumetric Reporting: We work closely with our client’s team to perform the volumetric computations and customize the volumetric reporting including specific stockpile naming conventions and density/weight conversions
Projects of approximately 5 - 500 acreas where field survey crews would spend multiple days in the field collecting data.
Our trained team of professionals, working closely with licensed surveyors to set ground control points, captures all of the requisite aerial imaging data, processes it and delivers with survey grade accuracy. Clients can choose to receive orthophotography, topographic maps, digital elevation models (DEM), contours, digital terrain models (DTM), cross-sections, 3D models and high definition aerial photos and videos.
This will vary greatly based on your intended use(s) of the imaging. Some companies choose to fly multiple times each day, others choose to do so on a weekly or monthly basis. At a minimum, we recommend capturing imaging at key project milestone points from inception through the project's completion.