Not long ago, business leaders wondered if a DJI drone would be able to provide enough value for their work. Integrating these types of tools can be a challenge in terms of both cost and technology, which means that many were reluctant to experiment with the technology, much less consider how it could possibly scale their organization.
However, companies large and small have demonstrated what kind of ROI can be associated with drone technology, while the safety benefits that drones represent are incalculable. These findings have prompted more stakeholders to undertake adoption with an eye on how such an effort can work on a massive scale, but there are numerous challenges that need to be overcome. What is the best type of hardware to use for a drone program? What will it mean to force teams to use technology as intended? When should scale questions be considered more fully?
DJI, a world leader in corporate aerial solutions, has produced several drone platforms for enterprise use of drones. The series DJI Matrice 300, represents a robust solution for aerial inspections of bridges and power lines while the DJI Phantom 4 RTK it is great for aerial photogrammetry mappings.
Integrate drones into your business operations
You have to understand the current costs of doing things, drones can provide really interesting insights, but ultimately they are about revenue and efficiencies. The justification for the technology really has to be in financial terms. Whoever is working through this process must understand exactly what they are trying to optimize, what current costs are, and which part of an established process they want to influence or change. It's not just about adding drones, it's about making a process smarter.
The effort to make workflows and entire projects smarter has proven to be beneficial in terms of profitability and beyond, but the challenges associated with achieving those results need to be considered and thought through thoughtfully.
Keep goals in mind as well as internal resources available
The question of "build or outsource" is one in which many organizations work once they decide they want to leverage the technology. While it is often not a coincidence as to whether / or decisions about whether internal or external resources are flying, the drone can be more about timing and politics than about the technology itself.
Many people started by buying a drone and processing software, but then they saw that collecting data that way was inefficient, partly because they couldn't scale but also because it existed too far from what they were already doing, which led to a lot of disruption. them to service providers who could give them a better idea of what it would mean to properly integrate that data into their workflows. However, many people prefer in-house drone operations because this gives them the control they want, partly because of data security and partly because they may be flying over sensitive infrastructure.
The desire to be in control of the drone and information but also to be able to use insights from service providers has led many to a hybrid model that uses both approaches, although this model also has drawbacks. Nonetheless, this hybrid model can represent an optimal solution for both worlds, as it will provide the necessary training and flight optimization to achieve the desired result, which can be detected by the appropriate internal contacts as needed.
Take several points into consideration when planning
Regulation always comes first for organizations around the world, but the fragmented reality of drone laws in Europe, which vary from country to country, makes this topic even more important. While much progress is made when it comes to seeing this simplified and facilitated environment, the reality of what regulatory issues need to be addressed for effective program planning is considerable. That said, the most important thing for an organization to consider is not so much the regulation that will allow it to do so, as it is about what it will not allow.
The real challenge is what someone can actually do at the end of the process. There is a lack of regulation that often prevents someone from doing what they really want to do. There are countries in Europe and around the world where regulations don't allow them to do something like BVLOS, and this presents a different kind of challenge.
While there will always be a fear that it will be difficult for an organization to comply and work through the different steps, restrictions on operations such as human flights and BVLOS are of greater concern to many organizations that focus on scaling a drone program. There are ways to address these challenges, but this makes it essential to recognize the opportunities that will thus open up on a massive scale.
Choose wisely the platforms and sensors to adopt
While we continue to see the jolts that many have predicted for years, there are still plenty of options around drone hardware and sensors. These are the devices that get the most attention and can excite everyone, decisions about which solutions must be guided by the needs of the project. Although there are other factors to consider.
Drone hardware and sensor maintenance is a big deal, we don't have a standard maintenance practice in the commercial drone market. When buying a drone, you don't know how long you will be using it. Weather is also a factor why a platform might be able to fly for two hours, but how can it stay up there in windy conditions? Or at high temperatures?
These are just some of the questions that need to be asked of drone hardware and sensor manufacturers when selecting platforms. Thermal imaging cameras can provide incredible information, but there are numerous options for what kind of solution you can purchase. While some of these decisions may be project-driven, they also need to consider what makes sense for the organization and at scale.
Establish a robust strategy for integrating data internally and with external parties
The challenges with drone data are not new, but the importance of establishing the right approach to this topic is greater than ever. Data accuracy is related to the volume of data, and the volume of geospatial data and processing time is constantly increasing with the required accuracy. However, none of these values can be achieved without the right strategy in place.
Right now the biggest challenge is data, drones have always been able to collect a large amount of information, but today we are talking about terabytes of data. So the biggest challenge is to create a data strategy. The data cannot be deactivated. It has to be something everyone can use and create value from.
Further opportunities with AI and machine learning can only be opened with this type of strategy, but these opportunities cannot come together if any of the pieces of this ecosystem are missing or not thought through correctly.
As drone technology has gotten better and cheaper, more and more stakeholders have begun to see that their biggest challenges with integration are often not related to cost or technology. They are making people change their process or behavior. The challenge of doing this is not unique to drones, which is why stakeholders in drone programs sometimes need to take a different approach.
Sometimes it's easier to invent than to change people's behavior, a good way to make sure this type of solution will be used and will work is to connect it to existing systems. Why not connect AI reports to the system you already have? So it can generate reports more effectively or powerfully.
Being able to anticipate needs
Some are still resilient because they believe drones can replace certain jobs or locations. The technology is almost always discussed in terms of upgrades rather than replacements, and that drones will ultimately be just another tool. These are the types of realities that need to be highlighted and repeated as stakeholders approach drone implementation and change management.
Organizations that have been able to augment their construction capabilities with drone technology have done this because they rely on technology, physical infrastructure and human capital to make their implementation a success. Exactly what these elements look like from one organization to another can vary a lot, which is why asking for information and helping lay this foundation can be so essential.
Whether you are just starting or overcoming some integration challenges, reach out to others in your space to find out if they have or are going through something similar, ask what they have or have not done with technology, and what they have learned. The implementation you are trying to activate may be unique, but the challenges and knowledge that others have gone through will be relevant to you. And they will be important to others too.
In trying to figure out how best to integrate drones into business practices, it is clear that the answers will hold true from one organization to another.