3 reasons surveyors should add fixed-wing drones to their toolbox

As a professional surveyor, the equipment you take to the field is just as important as the data you bring back to the office. But how you collect can also make a huge difference in efficiency and data quality.

That’s why thousands of surveyors have turned to fixed-wing drones to help supplement ground-based surveying equipment, such as total stations, GNSS rovers and laser scanners.

Fixed-wing drones have made it safer, faster and less expensive to collect geospatial data. They’ve also made it easier for surveyors to take on more complex jobs and map larger sites, all while maintaining a consistent quality of data captured.

Ideal for large mining operations, proven platforms such as the eBee X complement traditional survey instruments while offering a safe and efficient way to routinely measure stockpile volumes, conduct slope calculations for haulage ways and develop accurate estimates.

Not only do fixed-wings help you take on more complex projects with fewer resources, but they ultimately increase your firm’s project capabilities in ways that are impractical with ground-based equipment alone.

Because of these advantages, fixed-wings drones make an excellent complement to your existing terrestrial survey equipment, while also allowing you to expand your capabilities in the field and grow your business.

If you’ve ever wanted to expand your surveying capabilities, scale your business or simply complete projects more efficiently, fixed-wing drones can make it happen.

Let’s take a closer look at the three reasons you should add a fixed-wing drone to your toolbox.

#1 – Time savings

Using traditional terrestrial survey methods takes time. From the setup and positioning to the use of multiple stations, much of your time in the field is spent moving between various station points, which can open more opportunities for accumulated error and time lost to rework.

In addition, it’s all too typical that the more area you need to survey, the less data is usually captured due to available resources.

Fixed-wing drones are estimated to be 80% quicker than traditional terrestrial methods—saving you time by collecting the data you need quickly and efficiently from a single point.

For example, the eBee X combined with the Aeria X sensor can cover 500 acres within 3 hours on site, while achieving an absolute accuracy result of within 2 cm.

This boost in efficiency means that you can capture more data with significantly less manpower and resources. While this may not be the case for every situation, it allows surveying teams, from the office to the field, the flexibility to coordinate wisely and cover more ground.

This vector and raster data produced by the eBee X data is an accurate, helpful tool for construction and facilities planning.
The eBee X combined with the Aeria X sensor can cover 500 acres within 3 hours on site, while achieving an absolute accuracy result of within 2 cm.

Fixed-wing drones also help you survey and map sites from farther away while avoiding costly disruptions to job site operations and productivity. And due to the more efficient aerodynamics of a fixed-wing design, you’re able to quickly map up to 10 times more ground per flight than multirotor drones.

Missed data coverage is less likely to happen while using a drone. In contrast to multi-rotors, fixed-wings have the unique advantage of covering more area than is required due to the flight path, which allows you to capture more data while at the same time ensuring you don’t miss anything. In short, you don’t need to go back to the field for extra data.

Not only does this help save time, but it also makes surveying and mapping safer. This is especially true for hard-to-reach and even potentially dangerous sites, such as mines, construction zones, landfills, forests and mountainous terrain. Here, advanced flight automation helps you to easily collect datapoints across challenging terrain while maximizing flight paths and data accuracy.

The remote-mapping capabilities of drones like the eBee X mean you don’t have to step foot on-site to map it. And while weather conditions sometimes get in the way, fixed-wing drones map large areas so quickly that weather issues can mostly be avoided with proper planning.

There are only so many hours in the day. Improvements in your ability to easily capture detailed information, track site progress or material inventories will help you work smarter with greater productivity and efficiency.

Drone surveying technology easily pays for itself when considering the amount of rework avoided and conflicts resolved through visual proof—all documented in real-time.

#2 – Data accuracy and quality

Accuracy is your livelihood. Fixed-wing drones can help you gather data with ease while helping you maintain precision across each step of your workflow from the capture and processing to vectorization, quality control and delivery. For example, the eBee X collects and produces data down to 3 cm, (1.2 in) of absolute accuracy (2-3 cm horizontal and 3-5 cm vertical), without the need for ground control points (GCPs) using its high-precision, on-demand RTK/PPK capabilities. The eBee X is also compatible with the industry’s leading base stations.And before you even set foot on the job site, early preparation will help set you up for success. eBee X’s eMotion flight planning software anticipates this step, making pre-site planning easy while ensuring you’ve selected the flight parameters to maximize data quality.

When airborne, the eBee X captures the GNSS position of each image taken and the exact orientation of the images from its Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU). Thanks to the high-precision IMU in the S.O.D.A. 3D and Aeria X cameras, image captures have angular accuracies below two degrees in pitch/roll and four degrees in yaw.

Following each flight, image geotags can be corrected to absolute accuracy using the RTK/PPK workflow as a method of referencing the images eMotion’s Flight Data Manager. These advancements in correction methods enhance GNSS precision and eliminate the need for multiple stations on the ground—reducing the opportunity for human error which can also lead to project creep in delays and additional costs.

From there, the data can be turned into a variety of deliverables, including high-density point clouds (millions of points per flight), 3D meshes and georeferenced orthomosaics. And with photogrammetry processing software like PIX4Dmapper, creating survey-grade 2D and 3D maps with the data collected from the drone is simple and efficient while bringing additional value beyond common vectors. The data for a site can then be extracted, finished and quality checked before delivery.

Aerial data needs to be accurate, as we’ve covered earlier, but also easy to integrate into your current workflow for data management, visualization, analysis and distribution to appropriate teams. With PIX4Dsurvey, you can easily extract relevant information from photogrammetry to develop models and engineering-ready CAD files. Data outputs are compatible with popular survey software such as AutoCAD, ArcGIS, Bentley and others for sharing with project stakeholders.

Terrestrial equipment, while extremely precise, has limitations in certain situations where a drone can supplement efforts with greater efficiency. For example, road construction projects can combine total station data to precisely capture the center of the road, while a drone captures the cut and fill quantities extremely fast for accurate and efficient management of earthworks.

Whatever obstacle the site throws your way, it’s easier to overcome when you have a capable drone that can rise to the challenge and deliver accurate data.

quarry_eclepens_dsm-and-contour-lines
In topographic surveys, this digital surface model of a quarry helps monitor stockpile sizes, volumetrics and nearby environmental resources.

#3 – New opportunity

Increased accuracy, speed and efficiency is an empowering combination leading to more opportunities for surveyors.

Traditional survey methods take much longer to complete for large projects. By adding fixed-wing drones to your toolkit, you will maximize your data collection and spend less time in the field—freeing you up to take on more projects and knowing you’ll complete them quickly and more cost-effectively than ever before. You’ll also have the added flexibility to service multiple types of projects through the use of additional camera options and data outputs.

Whether you’re working with point-to-point data sets or deep in the detailed layers of environmental information, success is still defined by your ability to deliver results within expected accuracy and deliver on time.

When you add a fixed-wing drone to your surveying toolbox, you’re not just capturing data with another tool. You’ve expanded your field capabilities to take on more complex jobs and grow your business.

Advanced Drone Operations: Overcoming the Barriers to Implementation
Flights at extended or beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) and operations over people (OOP) will require operators to conduct additional planning to obtain permissions, yet the improved efficiency and increased mapping potential are beneficial to completing complex projects faster while increasing ROI.

The benefits of implementing advanced drone operations are wide-ranging, including the ability to gather more detailed insights and data, as well as expanding the profit potential for your business.

Yet why is overall adoption not higher across the globe?

The approval process can certainly prove challenging to navigate; advanced drone operations require additional preflight planning and permissions, which can take much longer than standard operations. Plus, the regulations vary from country to country.

Here, we look at the current process for operators and explore why the outlook for the future is positive.

Get Ready for Take-off

So, where do drone users start once they have decided to implement more advanced operations? Submitting a flight plan to the relevant authorities is the first step.

In the U.S., for example, the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) requires a Part 107 Waiver to be completed – an official document that approves certain operations of aircraft outside the limitations of regulation.

There are numerous safety and logistical considerations for every flight plan, and users must prove that their drones will not be a danger to the people and property around them. They must also have measures in place to return to a designated ‘home’ point in the event of any hardware or software malfunction.

Despite progress in this area, there is still work to be done to ensure a smooth approval process. Thousands of companies in the U.S. applied for an FAA waiver to fly Beyond the Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) in 2018, with only 23 approved, according to the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI).

Since then, countries like Canada and Brazil have made great strides in making advanced drone operations more accessible.

Just recently, drone engineering and consulting specialists AL Drones and geotechnology company Santiago & Cintra announced that the National Civil Aviation Agency (ANAC) has approved Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) flights to be carried out in Brazil using senseFly’s flagship eBee X fixed-wing drone, while Canada partnered with IN-FLIGHT Data to test BVLOS flights.

The Only Way Is Up

Although approvals for advanced operations can be time-consuming, important steps are already being taken to ensure missions are more accessible to drone users, whatever their project scope.

BVLOS flights are one area that has seen forward progress in recent years. To ensure safer and smoother integration with other air traffic, operators must use either visual observers or a Detect and Avoid system – regardless of country.

Detect and Avoid systems are becoming more widespread as the technology advances and is a key step in making advanced drone operations more achievable and easier to scale up in the future.

There has also been rising interest in the use of Remote ID on drones, which would require operators to use a broadcast and network method to relay information on positioning and approvals to people on the ground.

Remote ID is considered a foundational component for integrating drones into the national airspace. The FAA published a document on this potential requirement in 2019, which received more than 50,000 comments from the drone community.

If a nationwide Remote ID is implemented, it would be another huge step to ensuring safety and reliability, as well as helping to streamline the approval process.

Better Collaboration

The challenge the commercial drone industry has long faced, however, is that drone regulations are currently not harmonious worldwide.

With more drones in the air than ever before, it is crucial that the global community works together to streamline the approval process.

Measures such as Detect and Avoid systems and Remote ID are just two ways in which progress is being made – and there are plenty more on the horizon.

For example, the new Type Certification, which covers durability and reliability, failure and performance testing and design requirements, is currently being trialed by the Los Angeles Aircraft Certification Office (LA-ACO), signaling a potential move away from waivers in the future.

The movement is also gaining traction across Europe, with the FAA and Swiss Federal Office of Civil Aviation (FOCA) recently signing a declaration of intent to strengthen collaboration in the Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) space and cooperate to advance the harmonization of domestic and international UAS safety standards. This is a vital step forward for the UAV industry.

But what more can be done? In the future, it will be key to maintain a two-way collaboration between the regulatory bodies and UAV operators, allowing both parties to work together to develop regulatory frameworks using mission data and the insights gathered from drone testing.

This will enable advanced drone operation planning to become more accessible for commercial companies – our ultimate aim.

Want to find out more? Read our white paper on advanced drone operations, where we explore everything operators need to know for successful integration.  

Fixed-Wing Drones Elevate Mine Safety and Survey Standards
Open-pit mine wall with an overlay showing the image capture area flown by the senseFly eBee X fixed-wing drone.
Ames Construction used a senseFly eBee X fixed-wing drone carrying a S.O.D.A. 3D mapping camera to capture 14,400 images of the pit walls surrounding this copper mine.

Safety is always the number one priority among contract engineers in open-pit mining. And when it comes to surveying and data accuracy, you simply can’t afford to cut corners or disrupt operations to gain accessibility. 

Traditional topographic methods, used in the monitoring of pit wall surfaces, requires time and comes with a high risk to manned surveyors. For Arizona-based Ames Construction, fixed-wing unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), proved to be just the tool needed to generate detailed 3D imagery of wall surfaces while keeping mine productivity up—and its surveyors out of harm’s way. 

 

A recent project at a copper mine required the Ames Construction team to map an expansive site to monitor the largest pit wall face for movement and any potential sloughing or deterioration, critical indicators of surface instability and potential hazards.

The site, with its wide area and highwalls reaching over 2,000 feet tall, is an expansive terrain and highly active with heavy machinery and construction. Manual topographic surveys would simply be too hazardous and costly in downtime. The Ames operations team took a hard look at their processes, one which ultimately led to the purchase of senseFly’s eBee X fixed-wing drone and eMotion flight planning software. 

Sharp Detail, Safe Capture 

The combination of senseFly hardware and software allowed the team to safely and efficiently navigate several extremes, from sheer vertical elevation changes to high winds and loss of radio signals that are commonplace at the site.

In addition, each flight was completed in 2-3 hours, which meant that mapping could be captured in a relatively short amount of time and on a more regular, monthly basis.  

Screenshot of eMotion flight planning software showing its full 3D environment and pit wall map, overlaid with the path of the eBee X drone.
The eMotion flight planning software seen here includes a full 3D environment that enables the team to safely and efficiently map terrain with highwalls reaching 2,000 feet tall.

The eBee X’s purpose-built drone sensors, which included the Aeria X Photogrammetry Camera and senseFly’s S.O.D.A. 3D Mapping Camera, provided over 14,400 geotagged images – about 2,400 per flight.

Once processed in Pix4D’s photogrammetry software, the team had access to detailed contour patterns and imagery. This data helped their mining partners better evaluate and implement new safety measures to mitigate concerns about the stability of highwalls, as well as protect site traffic and roadways from potential falling debris. 

“Implementing a UAV program has been invaluable in helping shape the safety strategy at the mine, by both mapping the pit wall and tracking mining progress across the wider site,” said Tanner Richards, Project Engineer at Ames Construction.  

The detailed insights Ames captures with the eBee X allows the team to protect current construction efforts and inform alternate mining techniques to improve pit wall stability and other safety concerns.  

Streamlined Workflows and Materials Tracking 

With the bank of detailed images and 3D surfaces now at their fingertips, Richards and his team can better manage and track ongoing work with regular, updated project timelines, as well as overcome complex administrative hurdles that are typical of a large construction site.  

Ames Construction surveyor catching senseFly's eBee X after a successful data capture.
Back on the ground, Ames uses the detailed insights provided by the eBee X to streamline their business processes and save resources through improved planning.

“Improved planning has allowed us to streamline the billing process, more accurately track quantities of work completed, justify change orders and pay requests, reduce labor cost and increase project capacity and planning, said Richards. “Just making a small change in the amount of material we use can make a huge difference to the overall cost of the project – potentially saving millions of dollars to our clients and/or ourselves.” 

For Ames Construction and its mining partners, the eBee X is key to efficient site monitoring, more regular surveys and responsible for elevating their safety standards to new heights. 

Read the full article on sUAS News

Learn how our drone mapping solutions can optimize safety and data accuracy in your mining operation. 

Expert Tips for Managing Your Drone Service Provider

If your company has gone through the planning, budgeting, and executive decision-making required to bring drones into your organization, then you likely recognize the immense value they can provide. Unfortunately, too many companies fail to properly manage their drone program once it’s up and running and become disappointed when they’re met with disorganization or inaccuracies instead of seeing the results they hoped for.

In this blog post, we’ll explore the essential components for managing a drone service provider. Whether you decide to build an internal drone program or outsource to a third party, effective management will ensure your company leverages its investment in drones (and drone services) in order to achieve optimal results.

Key Components of Drone Operations Management:

1. Hire the Right DSP for Your Business.

Just as no two companies are the same, neither are two given drone service providers. To determine which DSP is best for your company, industry, and desired task, ask these 11 questions as you evaluate your options.

Your evaluation should reflect what you’re hoping to get out of the relationship with the DSP, how those goals align with your broader organizational objectives, and last but not least, what you’ll use for key performance indicators. This way, you’ll be able to determine at the outset whether the DSP can meet your expectations. Some goals, for instance, will require a certain type of equipment, and others might require a certain FAA waiver. 

2. Designate a Drone Operations Manager.

Companies that are new to implementing drones or don’t have an internal drone program should have a project manager serve as the point of contact with the DSP. The project manager should be made aware of the time commitment, attentiveness, and level of understanding they’ll need in order to keep things running smoothly.

Pro tip: Regardless of how familiar your drone operations manager (or other title they might be given) is with drone programs, it’s important they have a direct line of communication with the company’s decision makers. Conveying the value of drones in saving money, keeping workers safe and promoting social good, and expediting work is important for securing necessary resources and further developing the program.

3. Decide on a Reporting Format and Schedule.

Unless you discussed reporting during the hiring process, you’ll want to work with your DSP at the outset to finalize a reporting format that meets your needs. DSPs should provide you with a typical reporting structure and recommended cadence for reporting, which can then be tailored to your program.

4. Determine How You’ll Store the Data Collected by Your DSP.

From maps and images to anecdotal data like fight notes, the information captured through your drone program should be stored in a place that is secure and easy for your team to locate.

Ideally, your process for storing and managing data will require little time and energy. While it’s possible to toggle between multiple products, for example flight logging software and data management software, it can also be time consuming and lead to errors. The best type of drone management software will provide drone operations managers with everything they need, prioritizing efficiency and accuracy.

Streamlining your operations through an app like Measure Ground Control will provide the following solutions for common management challenges:

5. Schedule Compass Checks to Assess Progress.

Aside from the reporting structure described earlier, make time for routine “compass checks” to assess progress toward the goals for your drone program, as well as larger organization-wide goals. Because drones and drone software are constantly evolving due to new technology and updated regulations, compass checks can also be a great time to learn about new features and capabilities.

At Measure, we understand more than anyone how challenging it can be to stay on top of the moving parts that make up your drone program — that’s why we created Measure Ground Control. 

Want to learn more about how Measure Ground Control can help with your drone operations management? Schedule a demo or try our app for free.

New EU Drone Regulations Explained

 

On January 1, 2021, the European Union will standardize drone regulations across the continent. The new rules replace each EU state’s existing laws and apply to all drone operators.

At this point, a two-year “Limited Open Category” transition period goes into effect, giving all parties time to adhere to the new rules and regulations. 

Currently, drone regulations differ from country to country. What is permissible in one may not be permissible in another.

For example, while drone operators in Portugal must use drones weighing less than 25 kg and carry third-party limited liability insurance of up to 1 million euros, the same rule may not apply in neighboring Spain.

This difference causes confusion and has stalled drone adoption in the EU. But by standardizing the rules, the EU hopes to make drone operations easier and safer for everyone.

In addition to the EU’s 28-member states, Iceland, Switzerland, Lichtenstein and Norway will also adopt the new regulatory framework.

Category classifications

The new European regulatory framework takes a risk-based approach, classifying each technology into three separate categories: Open, Specific and Certified.

Additional criteria related to weight, certification, operator qualification and operations will also help determine which category drones fall under.

Limited Open Category

Before the three main categories go into effect, as the official standards will not be ready on January 1, 2021, all drone operations will fall in the Limited Open Category instead of in the Open Category.

With a weight of under 2kg, the senseFly eBee X series (eBee X, eBee Geo, eBee Ag and eBee TAC) are all allowed to fly close to people (50m) during the two-year Limited Open Category transition period.

Meanwhile, drones above the 2kg threshold must remain at a safe horizontal distance of at least 150 meters in residential, commercial, industrial and recreational areas during the Limited Open Category period.

Open Category

The low-risk “Open Category” applies to most consumer drones and drones that don’t transport goods.

Operations in the Open Category will not require authorization from a national aviation authority (NAA) for standard operations that fall within its defined scope.

This means drone pilots won’t have to worry if the technical aspects of their drone comply with EU regulations. Instead, the responsibility will rest with the drone manufacturer.

The open category is further divided into subcategories (A1, A2 and A3), which depend on the danger posed by its intended operation.

For drones that weigh between 900g and 4kg, such as the eBee X, the operation must be conducted in such a way that the aircraft does not fly over uninvolved persons.

Operations must also take place at a safe horizontal distance of at least 30 meters from uninvolved persons (A2 scenario).

For drones above 4kg, such as VTOL systems like the WingtraOne, the rules state: “The operation must be conducted in an area where the remote pilot reasonably expects that no uninvolved person will be endangered within the range where the unmanned aircraft is flown during the entire time of the UAS operation.”

Their operation must also be conducted at a safe horizontal distance of at least 150 meters from residential, commercial, industrial or recreational areas, thus severely limiting the operational capability to more remote areas.

Specific Category

This category will apply to drone operations where flights pose a level of risk greater than the Open Category.

Drone operators that want to conduct advanced operations, such as BVLOS, fall into the medium-risk (“Specific”) category.

There are three ways to operate in this category:

  1. The operation is conducted under a Standard Scenario published by the EASA or NAA and the drone flown is compliant for this scenario. The operator only needs to submit a declaration for the operation to its NAA.
  2. The operation is not conducted under a Standard Scenario published by the EASA or NAA. Prior to their mission, drone operators must perform a risk appraisal according to the Specific Operations Risk Assessment (SORA) or use a Predefined Risk Assessment (PDRA) or other alternatives accepted by their local NAA. If the mitigations put in place are considered enough to ensure the safety of the operation by the authority, they will provide authorization.
  3. The operation is conducted under the responsibility of an operator with a LUC (Light UAS Operator Certificate).

Certified Category

Operations that fall under the Certified Category are those that are believed to pose the highest risk.

For example, a flight carried out under the Certified Category would likely involve the transportation of people or dangerous goods.

Before you buy a drone

The impending regulations will help improve drone safety and operational standards by unifying the rules and regulations across Europe.

This will no doubt improve the drone landscape and make it easier for companies to adopt and benefit from drone technology on a larger scale.

While the new rules will apply to Europe only, they could also prompt civil aviation authorities in the U.S., Canada and other parts of the world to adopt and adapt them to their needs. Meaning we could see similar operational restrictions apply outside of Europe in the near future.

If you’re considering purchasing a drone in the coming months, we strongly recommend that you check whether or not that drone’s operational capability will be impacted by the new EU regulations.

Drones are an important investment. It’s vital that anyone wanting to adopt or further expand their existing drone program understands the limitations of their platform of choice today, as well as tomorrow.

For more information about the new EU or other regulations, please contact us directly at regulatory@sensefly.com

11 questions to ask before hiring a drone service company

While drone programs serve a wide range of purposes and differ greatly across industries, what they all have in common are the moving parts that must work in unison to ensure a job is done accurately and efficiently. 

The coordination of these moving parts — such as flight planning, data and reporting, and more — can mean the difference between a successful job and a failed mission or costly mistake. For this reason, companies often make the case for hiring a drone service provider (DSP). 

What is a drone service provider? 

According to TechTarget, Drone Services — also known as unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) services — are the emerging market for solutions that help various industries employ drones for respective services, and subsequently coordinate the execution of specific tasks like imaging or mapping. 

Not every drone service provider is the same. To determine which DSP is best for your company, industry, and desired task, ask the following questions as you evaluate your options. 

11 Questions your company should ask before hiring a drone service provider:

1. What prior experience does the DSP have?

While DSPs with experience related to your industry will make for strong candidates, it’s also important to assess the DSP’s level of experience with the specific task you’d like to carry out through your drone program. Ask the DSP to describe how their previous experience translates to your needs, and make sure they provide you with a list of references who you and your team can speak with.

2. Is the DSP licensed?

The FAA requires any sUAV operator to have a Part 107 certification before flying for any commercial purpose. Ask the DSP to provide proof of their licensure, as well as any related qualifications. 

3. Can the DSP perform the specific task or project you’re asking for?

A reputable DSP will provide detail about their capabilities and qualifications related to the task your company is looking to complete. If your company has already determined what they’d like to accomplish and set KPIs, it will be easier to weed out options based on the drone service provider’s answer to this question. 

4. What programs and/or processes will the DSP use to carry out desired tasks?

Make sure the type of software, documentation processes, etc. the DSP would bring in are compatible with what you currently have in place. An overhaul in even one area can lead to wasted time and resources.

5. How will the DSP process the data they collect? What will the “final product” look like when your team receives it?

Having a clear expectation for the format in which you’d like to receive the product or data will make it easier to determine whether the DSP can help you meet your needs. Are you looking for a high resolution GeoTiff with a specified accuracy? Or a PDF or JPEG? Do you want a digital surface model (DSM)? Or are you just looking for annotated images? Be as specific as possible to avoid quality issues and disputes. 

6. Is the DSP insured? If so, what does their coverage look like?

Drone insurance is becoming increasingly common as companies acknowledge the importance of identifying and mitigating risk. It’s important to determine the type and level of insurance, since coverage needs vary depending on your geographic location, industry, and the type of job at hand. 

7. What do the DSP’s safety procedures look like?

How does the DSP factor the surrounding area weather, etc. into flights? What type of risk assessments are they used to conducting, and what types of procedures would they recommend for the type of work they’d be doing for your company?

8. What equipment will you be using?

From the type of drone to the camera lens quality, any and every type of equipment should be considered when choosing a DSP. If the DSP does not have a certain piece of equipment they’ll need to complete your job, can they acquire and familiarize themselves with this equipment? 

9. What do your maintenance procedures look like?

Regular maintenance and inspections of machinery and equipment are important for flight safety and can prevent costly repairs down the line. 

10. What is the price for the drone services?

Newer DSPs will likely charge low prices as they are eager to gain experience, however the quality might not be up to par with that of a more experienced DSP. Therefore, the decision makers at your company should have an agreed-upon idea as to the experience and budgetary requirements they have in mind.

11. What features set the DSP apart from the competition?

The answer to this question will give you a sense of what the DSP will be like to work with, and will help you weed out candidates whose values may not align with that of your company. For example, Measure prides itself on customer service and fast-paced technology, and has been chosen as a DSP based on these differentiators. 

Where can I find a DSP near me? 

We’ve compiled a list of forums, pilot networks, search sites for employers, and other online resources for those who are looking for drone pilots that meet a particular set of qualifications:

How can I stay on top of my DSP’s flight plans, activity, and pilots? 

Once you’ve found and hired a DSP who meets your qualifications, you’ll need to tie it all together by managing the fast-moving parts of your drone program. This can be done by choosing a flight planning software that centralizes your operations and eliminates the need for multiple applications.

Our team created Measure Ground Control after realizing the challenges of coordinating across four programs plus manual processes to schedule flights, assign pilots, enforce safety regulations, and more. As an end-to-end solution, Measure Ground Control provides teams with a platform for automating drone operation workflows. 

Drone mapping Italy’s Morandi bridge collapse

When it comes to effective emergency and disaster response, drones (also referred to as UAV or RPAS) are an effective way to capture geo-accurate mapping data.

By using fixed-wing drones, such as the eBee X, professionals on the ground can remotely launch and collect the data they need quickly and safely over small and large areas alike.

Drone mapping is especially valuable in situations where ground access is obstructed or otherwise impossible due to safety and logistical concerns.

Such was the case on August 14, 2018, when the Morandi Bridge, located in Genoa, Italy, suddenly collapsed.

Tragedy strikes Italy

The structural failings of the Morandi Bridge caused vehicles crossing to plummet more than 150 feet. The incident claimed the lives of 43 people and caused significant damage to the surrounding area as well as to the riverbed below.

While the 3,878-foot bridge served as an important commercial link between France and Italy, it is the tragic loss of life that underlined the need for innovative solutions to help define better emergency response protocols.

Following the Morandi Bridge collapse, representatives of Nucleo SAPR VVF—the drone division of Italy’s National Fire Corps—CIMA Research Foundation and Environmental Protection Agency of Aosta Valley (ARPA VDA)—carried out an in-depth inspection and survey of the site.

Morandi Bridge site For the drone mapping assessment, an eBee X fixed-wing drone carrying a S.O.D.A. 3D camera was flown at a height of 120 meters over a rectangular 32-hectare section of the site.

To help with this initiative, Nucleo SAPR VVF used a fleet of drones operated out of seven VVF sites and employed by 70 pilots across the nation as ‘first-eyes’ on emergency situations and to inspect and survey the sites of emergencies post-disaster.

In December 2018, a trial assessment of the damage inspection project was conducted. The goal of this trial assessment was to provide rescuers with a defined operational protocol for assessing future emergency situations using drones and to improve the accuracy of the photogrammetric outputs derived from the drone imagery.

The drone mapping project, which was conceived and facilitated by Umberto Morra di Cella, RPAS unit head of the ARPA VDA and supported by senseFly (now AgEagle), took place at the site of the Morandi Bridge collapse.

“As we look to expand the use of across the nation, it is crucial that we develop and continue to improve our operating procedures so that this technology helps us respond to disasters as effectively as possible,” said Franco Feliziani, manager of VVF’s drone teams across Italy. “What the Genoa project allows us to do is to fine-tune how we work in terms of optimizing and streamlining our on-the-ground workflows”.

Surveying the situation with drones

For the drone mapping assessment, an eBee X fixed-wing drone carrying a S.O.D.A. 3D camera was flown at a height of 120 meters over a rectangular 32-hectare section of the site, which spanned the bridge’s ruins and the dry riverbed.

The S.O.D.A. 3D camera was selected for its ability to change orientation during flight and capture three images (two oblique and one nadir). This is important in vertically-focused environments, where its wide field-of-view ensures excellent 3D-mapping results.

“As we look to expand the use of across the nation, it is crucial that we develop and continue to improve our operating procedures so that this technology helps us respond to disasters as effectively as possible…” – Franco Feliziani, VVF Drone Team Manager

To ensure the geo-accuracy of the maps and 3D models the drone images helped produce, the eBee X drone was flown in high-precision RTK mode.

This large-coverage flight was followed by multiple multi-rotor drone flights, flown at a height of approximately 30-100 meters above the ground.

This was done to help capture the highest resolution imagery possible of a smaller area of the bridge’s ruins (particularly in the river bed, which posed a future flood risk).

Following the data collection flights, ARPA Aosta Valley and senseFly (now AgEagle) staff independently processed the images collected from each drone flight’s using professional image processing software PIX4Dmapper.

This helped create 3D digital datasets of each flight, which were then combined into one overarching, geo-accurate digital representation of the Morandi bridge site.

Environmental impact

But it’s not just loss of life and damage to infrastructure that requires innovative solutions and defined disaster response protocols.

Events like the Morandi Bridge collapse can have a significant impact on the environment and bring about new risk scenarios, thus requiring regular updates of site conditions.

senseFly Morandi Bridge The drone mapping project of the Morandi Bridge was led by Umberto Morra di Cella.

“The bridge collapsed in the Polcevera River and modified the flow conditions and increased the risk of flooding to the surrounding urban area,” said Luca Ferraris, head of CIMA Research Foundation for the Italian National Department of Civil Protection. “This made it necessary to map the hazard map evolution progressively and support local authorities in developing its emergency plans.”

While access to the temporal data was certainly important, Ferraris explains that the accuracy of the data played an even more vital role.

“The accuracy assessment of the photogrammetric process is perhaps the most important aspect because we need to be sure that the data we capture is reliable enough to help inform the civil protection process”, said Ferraris.

Drone diversity and the road ahead

It’s expected that the learnings gained from the Genoa project will allow Nucleo SAPR VVF to better provide its staff of drone operators a carefully defined best practice approach going forward.

senseFly eBee X at site of Morandi Bridge Team members Andrea Ricci (left) and Andrea Massabò (right) post with an eBee X used to conduct the flight trials.

“It is very important to standardize the procedure so that pilots can collect large amounts of accurate and high-resolution data,” Feliziani said. “This is especially true after an emergency situation where this work needs to be carried out quickly, safely and efficiently.”

“The accuracy assessment of the photogrammetric process is perhaps the most important aspect because we need to be sure that the data we capture is reliable enough to help inform the civil protection process.” – Luca Ferraris, Head of CIMA Research Foundation for the Italian National Department of Civil Protection

The project has also highlighted the need for a diverse range of drone mapping equipment, a consideration Morra di Cella is keen to point out.

“The combination of large-coverage fixed-wing UAVs with ultra-detailed data from smaller quadcopter drones represents a good compromise between operational needs and quality requirements,” said Morra di Cella. “Moreover, the RTK RPAS can significantly reduce ground displacements of operators in unsafe scenarios.”

Drone Flight Plans: How to Choose the Right Path

As businesses continue to rely on drones for safety, efficacy, and data collection, it’s important to stay consistent with those values when planning drone flightsDrone flight planning consists of determining flight schedule, pattern, altitude, and image or video capture specifications, as well as any weather-related requirements (e.g. temperature, light, or irradiance limitations), to meet the data goals of your particular job or mission.Failing to create the right flight plan can not only lead to wasted time and resources, but in some cases can lead to consequences as severe as damaging your drone or threatening the safety of others. 

What is a drone flight plan?

A quick note on terminology: the drone industry suffers from confusion around terminology, and we often see the same terms used to describe very different things. Sometimes “flight planning” is used to describe everything that goes into a successful mission: equipment, personnel, logistics, processes and procedures, airspace checks and authorizations, etc. At Measure we distinguish between what we call “Mission Planning,” which covers all of that, and “Flight Planning,” specific instructions for how the drone should be operated to capture data.

A drone flight plan is a predetermined combination of instructions, including coordinates, speed, altitude, direction, heading, gimbal actions, camera actions, and more that serve the purpose of guiding a drone in accomplishing a flight, and carrying out a particular mission:

A drone flight plan can be created ad hoc in the field using mobile software or from a browser using web-based flight planning software. Through web-based flight planning, flight paths can be set in advance and reviewed by all members of the team to account for inefficiencies or safety issues. For example, a data analyst can review the flight path to ensure the flight will capture sufficient data. Flight planning, and flight paths in particular, help pilots and other drone overseers cut down on the time they spend in the field.

Types of drone flight paths

There are two types of drone flight paths: grid paths and waypoint paths.

Drone grid paths follow a grid pattern. They are best used for mapping missions designed to collect imagery for processing into  2D and 3D data products. For 3D data products, you may want to consider a ‘cross-hatch’ pattern, a gimbal angle of 70-80 degrees, and even adding an orbit pattern around the grid flight. 

drone grid paths

Drone waypoint paths follow an irregular pattern based on the unique characteristics of the flight area/space of interest, and are best used for linear missions designed for inspections, project progress tracking, surveillance and security, etc. In the Measure Ground Control app, Waypoint Mode allows a pilot to pre-program a sequence of actions for a drone to perform, then press start and watch as the drone executes the sequence autonomously. You can also record a manual flight as a future repeatable waypoint flight. 

Waypoint Flight Settings

How to program a drone flight path

Regardless of which flight planning software you’re using, you’ll want to follow these steps as you program a drone flight path. 

As a first step, make sure your existing software is compatible with the drone(s) you or your company plan to use. If you’re still deciding which drone flight planning software you’d like to employ, these six factors can help you narrow down your options. 

Practice logging flight information, checking for compliance, collecting data, and other important functions ahead of time, so you and your team aren’t scrambling on the day of the mission. 

If you’re using Measure Ground Control to program and execute your web-based flight plan, visit How to Fly Your First Flight with Ground Control and Web-based Flight Planning on measure.com.

Make sure your drone software provides access to local rules and advisories for the area in which you wish to fly. 

For example, if the Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability, also known as LAANC is required in your area, you’ll want to make sure your software assists you in taking the appropriate pre-flight steps. You also may want to check to see if the area is geofenced, which will prevent your aircraft from taking off without requesting an ‘unlock’ – Measure Ground Control includes in app DJI unlock, as well as LAANC authorization via our partner AirMap. 

What will the weather look like during your flight? What obstructions — birds, telephone poles, trees, etc. — might interfere with the flight, and how will these obstructions be avoided? These logistics could mean the difference between a successful mission or a drone collision.

Interested in applying these steps as you carry out your own drone missions? Learn more about creating and executing drone flight plans using Measure Ground Control, and how Measure Ground Control can help your company streamline operations and manage your drone program.

7 Ways to Tell Which Drone Insurance is Right for Your Business

As the demand for commercial drones continues to increase across industries, so does the need for drone insurance. While the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) does not require insurance to operate commercially in the U.S., most companies require that drone operators provide proof of coverage through a valid Certificate of Insurance (COI) to demonstrate that the pilot has coverage that protects both them and their clients.With insurance becoming standard among commercial UAV pilots and the companies that employ them, it’s vital to get a sense of the risks you, your company, or your drone program might face – and how to mitigate them.

The world of drone insurance is full of nuances and can be difficult to navigate, which is why we’ve compiled a list of commonly asked questions on the topic. Before you set out to do your own research, be sure to read the following tips surrounding drone insurance for commercial pilots, small businesses, large enterprises, and everything in between.

Here’s everything you need to know about commercial drone insurance:

1. How does commercial drone insurance differ from personal drone insurance?

“As the tactics and purposes behind commercial drone operations and personal drone use differ, so does the level and type of risks you could encounter,” says Will Newton, EVP of Product at REIN Connected Insurance Agency, LLC, which provides drone insurance services via DroneInsurance.com.

Both commercial and personal drone insurance policies need to be assessed for areas of overlap; for example, some homeowner insurance policies provide sufficient liability coverage for personal or hobby drone use. 

Another difference between commercial and personal drone use lies in the need to distinguish between insurance coverage for the pilots versus coverage for the drones themselves. Once you are able to assess your needs, you’ll have a much better understanding of the level and type of insurance policies to pursue.

2. Does my business need drone insurance?

 “Aside from enabling your pilots to fly with peace of mind, commercial drone insurance is a great way to protect and scale your business,” said Newton. “Most clients require drone operators to provide a valid Certificate of Insurance (COI) to demonstrate that the pilot has coverage that protects both them and their clients.  The more quickly a pilot can provide this insurance information to a client, the more likely they are to land new jobs.”

Is drone insurance required where I live?

If the above reasons weren’t enough to sell you on the benefits of drone insurance, consider this factor: as drone technology continues to evolve, so do the various laws and regulations that govern them. While it’s smart to stay on top of the regulations in your area (this handy global directory from UAV coach makes it easy with a list of drone laws, organized by state and by country), it’s much safer to assume you need commercial drone insurance than it is to be caught without it. 

Which industries can benefit the most from drone insurance?

“While use of drones is exploding within commercial agriculture, telecommunications, energy production, government services, construction, and film, every day more industries are employing drones to carry out key functions,” says Newton. “If your company is flying a drone, drone insurance can help protect your business.”

The recommended level of insurance depends on the specific job at hand. Flight liability limits of $1M, for example, may be sufficient for jobs with a low level of risk, whereas higher risk jobs such as drone surveys around cell phone towers, power plants and utility lines often require higher liability limits ($5 – $10M).

3. What does drone insurance cover?

“Those of us at DroneInsurance.com find it’s beneficial to use a tiered approach, says Newton. “A tiered approach enables you to protect your inventory even when you’re not flying, while providing the option to add flight coverage as needed.” 

For example, Droneinsurance.com Base Coverage (billed monthly) protects businesses from ground-based risks such as:

On-demand flight coverage can then be added when you’re ready to fly, for as little as a day, or in customizable periods up to a year. Learn more about DroneInsurance.com products and availability here.

When assessing options for insurance coverage, be sure to consider the size of your company as well. 

“While we’ve designed DroneInsurance.com to suit small to medium-sized drone businesses, we also work closely with drone businesses of all sizes to create the right drone insurance solution that fits their unique needs,” says Newton. “Similarly, we understand high upfront costs can be a dealbreaker for smaller teams of drone service providers. To help address that, we’ve designed DroneInsurance.com with flexibility in mind — including monthly payments for 24/7 base/hull coverage and on-demand flight liability coverage, allowing you to protect your business without hurting your bottom line.”

Drone Insurance
4. I’m the drone champion within my organization. Who within my organization should I talk to and make sure I set up the right insurance?

Check with the individual that handles the company’s current insurance needs and/or risk management program. 

“It’s common that businesses with traditional Commercial General Liability or Business Owner policies will have exclusions for losses involving drones,” says Newton. “Your risk manager should conduct an in-depth review of the company’s current policies. This includes potentially consulting the company’s agent or broker where appropriate, in order to determine whether the company’s current policies cover its drone operations.” 

According to Newton, your risk manager will also need to consider what drone risks you need coverage for. 

“Will you just need flight liability coverage? What about physical damage coverage for the drone itself, or any expensive sensors you may have attached? What about the ground equipment used with the drone? Answers to the above questions will be key in ensuring you are setting up the right coverage tailored for your business’ unique needs.”

5. Can you lose your drone insurance coverage?

While the reasons will depend on various factors, such as your insurance policy and provider, there are instances where your commercial drone insurance provider can refuse to provide coverage. UAV Coach has compiled a list of reasons why you might lose drone insurance coverage. Below is a list of what they’ve observed based on their experience in the field.

Reasons for losing drone insurance coverage (from UAV Coach)
6. What do I do if I have an accident with my drone?

“As soon as you have an accident, if you have insurance for your drone, you should call your insurance company.  The insurance company should have 24-hour loss reporting capabilities,” says Newton. “In addition, they should provide you with a dedicated claim representative to work with you through the process.” 

Incident reporting

The FAA provides several resources for reporting incidents and accidents involving drones, however the general rule of thumb for incident reporting is “the more information, the better.” For drone operators and overseers who want to save time on such reports and avoid the headache of tracking down every last detail involving the incident, programs such as Measure Ground Control make incident reporting as easy as the click of a button. Features including detailed flight logs, screen shots, flight playback, and incident flagging provide reliable and accurate accounts, leading to swifter resolutions.

7. What red flags should drone operators look for when choosing an insurance policy?

“Insurance policies differ in their coverage types, exclusions, limits, terms and conditions, so we recommend always reviewing your policy with a fine-tooth comb,” says Newton. 

According to Newton, a few key items to focus on include:

At the end of the day, it’s imperative to ensure that your drone insurance coverage protects your business’ unique risks and aligns with your core operational workflow. If you’d like to learn more about DroneInsurance.com, visit their website, or schedule time to chat with their customer support team about your drone needs and the best coverage for your business.

Why the Enterprise Market Needs Drone Technology
The adoption of drone technology continues to grow across all markets and enterprise organizations are no exception. Waypoint recently sat down with senseFly’s Head of Enterprise Business Solutions,Matteo Triacca, to understand more about this evolving market. He explains how his experience with drones and his international business background has been crucial for helping enterprise organizations better understand the many benefits of using senseFly drone technology.  

Hi, Matteo!

Tell us a little about yourself and your background.

I was raised in Switzerland but pursued an education in the United States. I attended Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee on a tennis scholarship. In fact, I actually moved there without speaking English but ended up learning both English and Spanish while there. I really enjoyed that time because I got to understand life in the US.

After graduation, global sourcing piqued my interest and took me to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. I learned a lot about working in multicultural environments during that time. Between being an outsider in the US and then in Vietnam, I learned how to adapt to local cultures.

In the early 2000s, I came back to Europe and have been involved in international business ever since. Before senseFly, I worked for a medical device company as a regional portfolio manager, where I was responsible for handling key accounts in the private and public sectors. Working internationally helped me become open and able to do business with different people from different backgrounds.

How and when did you get started with senseFly?

Since 2013, I’ve had a fascination with drone technology. That’s when I came across an opening at senseFly and applied. I received a call shortly after, and the rest is history.

It happened relatively fast, but with a great deal of comfort. I quickly and easily got along with the team. Back then, the company had only 35 employees. It was a good time to begin working in this industry, even if you came from an entirely different sector.

I had the opportunity to learn a lot because the industry wasn’t very developed. We didn’t know what the future held. There were all these questions, but we had a lot of passion for finding these answers and growing the industry.

We quickly discovered applications in mining and surveying but had questions about others, such as agriculture. It’s been a great journey to watch the technology grow into not only agriculture but many other verticals as well.

What does your average day at work look like?

It depends on the day and which time zone I need to be active in, as the business is truly global. I spend about 50% of my time in meetings and conference calls, doing as much as I can externally to understand market trends.

More importantly, I’m on calls to understand a customer’s needs. A big part of my job is problem-solving and learning about where a customer is today with their drone operations and where they’d like to be tomorrow.

This process is the same in every vertical but is dependent on the stage of the conversation. The first stage is about understanding the problem the customer would like to solve and see if and how we can help them achieve their goal.

After determining whether senseFly can help, the next stage is explaining how we can integrate drone technology and related data into their program, projects and objectives. We discuss how we can adapt and integrate our technology within their workflow without disruption.

People tend not to like change, so the question is always “how can we integrate new technology in an environment that already exists without disrupting it”. It’s about finding a solution that fits so people can adopt it quickly and do their job in a more efficient way.

The last stage is really the continuous conversations that come with daily operations. And if there are ways that I can continue to help clients and prospects streamline their operations, I try my best to do that.  

What is your favorite thing about working at senseFly?

I love being part of this journey—contributing to building an industry, pushing the technology and discovering its higher functions. The entire process is a journey: talking to customers, understanding their problems and adopting the technology. Then seeing the great success they’ve achieved six to 12 months down the line is something I really enjoy.

The beauty of drone technology is that you can do a lot of things, but it’s not magic. There’s a complexity and intellectual challenge that comes along with it. The work is hardly repetitive, which I think is the real driver for me. Challenges and complexities are difficult but can be a very strong motivator. I’ve always been keen to solve problems, so having that every day is beautiful. It keeps the brain working.

It seems like everyone at senseFly shares the same passion for drones and the drone industry. What about drone technology are you most passionate about?

My overall passion is around using technology to solve problems. From the very start, I’ve spent a lot of time with end-users in various industries to understand their workflows and challenges firsthand. I take this information to our internal team for discussion so we can collectively find solutions.

Drone technology allows us to solve problems that give our clients headaches. From the beginning, I evaluate and analyze if we have the right tools to solve them. Being able to use technology to solve issues is just fantastic.

Where do you see the drone industry heading in the next 3-5 years?

I believe there is going to be a big increase in adoption from an enterprise perspective. The more and more these enterprise organizations do so, the stronger the message is to the drone industry to keep pushing and expanding applications.

For the most part, smaller businesses were the first to adopt drone technology. However, in the last few years, we’ve noticed a shift in the enterprise market adopting drone technology at scale. This will continue and will really help further democratize drones in the professional world.

Thank you so much for talking with us today!