This has been a banner year for drone technology and safety

The Firmatek team recently traveled to California to learn more about the impact DJI drones have in our global communities.  DJI AirWorks 2019 covered a multitude of topics this year, and one notable highlight was the discussion of creative applications for DJI hardware and software products. The conference created the opportunity for attendees to hear influential stories, exchange ideas, and learn from industry leaders who have tackled the challenges of growing their businesses with drone technology. In this article, our team looks back on the insights gained from this conference.

Industries Using Drone Tech

Through several keynote speakers, we developed further understanding that drone adoption is becoming increasingly prevalent. Now more than ever, we’re seeing this technology expand to industries ranging from infrastructure and public safety, to agriculture and energy, to name a few. Kyle Houston, Firmatek Project Engineer, learned more about drone applications in the railroad industry. “I especially enjoyed the talk by Robert Mender, Director of Aerial Systems for the Union Pacific Railroad.  He used his 45 minutes to engage with everyone in attendance about UAS safety and best practices and share some of his experiences setting up a large-scale drone program for a major railway company.  It was a great talk that gave me some ideas for the future of Firmatek’s drone program.”

Additionally, adoption among law enforcement, fire fighters, and search and rescue teams reached new heights this year and is expected to continue growing rapidly. For example, this year Firmatek utilized DJI technology outside of our normal service offerings by participating and assisting Public Safety agencies to map the town of Paradise following the Camp Fire in California.  A plethora of use cases including situational awareness, thermal heat signature, and crime scene investigation mapping were presented by a variety of Public Safety agencies.

We heard from other speakers at the event about improved inspection services and use cases with drone technology for the Oil and Gas industry. Drones benefit these operations by creating safer work environments and decreasing the need for hand-held scanners, thus keeping employees out of harm’s way. Drone tech allows for easier project tracking, oil well inspection in the upstream sector, and pipeline and ROW inspection.

Above: Kyle Houston discusses how Firmatek deploys the Phantom 4 RTK at scale as part of our Enterprise Drone Program.

“This conference is so valuable. It’s one of the best I’ve been to for networking and quality presentations.” Dallas VanZanten, Operations Manager.

DJI Technology

DJI continues to develop and evolve specialized and purpose-built drones based on the highly successful Phantom 4 platform. Last year it was the Phantom 4 RTK, and this year the Phantom 4-M multi-spectral for agriculture and plant mapping.  DJI double-downs on Terra,  announcing live point cloud capability and cloud processing options. Firmatek’s initial beta test results look very promising.  DJI announced the Matrice 210 RTK with X7 camera as another option for 3D mapping. Aditionally, DJI announced the new DJI MUVE gas sensor for the Matrice 210, which would help inspectors and HAZMAT personnel by offering advanced capabilities previously limited to only hand-held scanner devices.  All together this represents DJI’s strong commitment to expanding mapping and sensor technologies and to continue to equip the ecosystem with the tools we need.

Driving Adoption and ROI

Adoption is gradually getting traction, project by project, but there are often struggles to drive value-add across the enterprise.  Technology adopters like Katerra are demonstrating compelling ROI.  In their presentation, they described a Reconstruction Interactive, Logistics Plan as their working model of aerial imagery. The model provides deliverables and insights to multiple stakeholders from truck drivers, to project managers, engineers, and executives alike.

Above: Firmatek President, Lauren Elmore, and Turner Mining Group’s Thomas Haun present the benefits drone technology brings to Turner Mining’s operations.

In our presentation with Turner Mining Group, we focused on the ROI our partnership has produced for Turner Mining Group’s mining operations. “In several of the breakout sessions, we gathered that a common theme across all enterprise drone programs is that the drone has become a ubiquitous tool in the tool box. This presentation explained how insights from drone data drive compelling value and ROI in an industry being disrupted by new approaches and business models.  Employees have been empowered and encouraged to use it to solve many technical and business problems driving value internally and clients alike.” said Andrew Maximow, Chief Drone Officer.

DJI continues to expand its industry leadership with policy advocacy promoting the positive, useful aspects of drone technology, and also a variety of education initiatives on drone safety.  We continue to see evidence that DJI responds to needs and requirements in several industries with both hardware and software product solutions. Their products have contributed to the overall well-being of society and as an invaluable tool saving lives. We find value in learning more about DJI’s global impact and how our company can contribute to continuing drone adoption and awareness.

Conference Attendees: Lauren Elmore, Andrew Maximow, Dallas VanZanten, Kyle Houston.