Commercial drones are revolutionizing the way enterprises collect and analyze data from the physical world. For companies in the insurance, utilities and telecom industries, the race is already on to deploy commercial drones to improve operational efficiency, enhance worker safety, and improve decision-making.
Commercial drone technology has advanced so fast that it has created a unique challenge for large enterprises. This is an entirely new type of technology, requiring expertise that most companies simply don’t have in-house. In this blog post, we’ll examine how enterprises can create a plan for assessing and integrating commercial drone technology into their operations without wasting valuable resources.
Start with the Business Process
It can be tempting to rush out and buy a drone before having a fully-fleshed idea of what that drone will do. In Airware’s conversations with Fortune 500 companies, we often see companies waste hundreds of thousands of dollars in time, liability, and resources, coming away without useable data or technology. A drone with no plan has no benefit.
The first step toward successful drone operations is to identify a place in an existing business process where aerial data could solve a problem or improve efficiency.
Commercial drones can gather data previously inaccessible, improve data quality and the efficiency with which it’s collected, and enhance the safety of the personnel who gather it. The first step is to choose a high-impact application. We’ll use the example of a property insurance company. Rooftop inspections are a very common practice, both for weather-related claims and underwriting. According to the Insurance Information Institute, 4.47 Million wind- or hail-related claims are filed in the United States each year.
Conduct Test Flights
Once the application has been chosen, the next step is to conduct test flights. For this stage, it is critical for an enterprise to partner with a drone company that can provide automated flight capabilities, as collecting uniform data with manual flight is nearly impossible, cannot be reliably repeated, and is not a scaleable process.
The first flights should be conducted with the goal of testing the technology’s ability to collect the data required by the application. Some rooftop inspections require detail at the sub-millimeter level, and not all hardware configurations are capable of achieving that resolution safely. On the other hand, expensive, high-resolution systems may be overkill for some applications or economically infeasible for scaled operations. Choose a drone company to partner with that can provide an overview of a variety of aircraft and sensor configurations and help select the right equipment needed to achieve the level of precision required by the application.
Once you’ve established whether or not you can collect the data you need with drone technology, the next step is to identify the organizational requirements for ongoing operations. Identify the end-to-end process of creating a flight plan, dispatching the operator, conducting the flight, uploading the data to the cloud and converting it to the format in which it will be used. A drone collecting images of a rooftop is not useful on its own. The real value in commercial drone technology comes from an integrated plan for repeatable jobs, efficient and safe flight operations, and quick analysis and reporting of the data.
Build a Deployment Plan
Once you have conducted test flights and determined the technology and operational requirements for your application, build a conceptual design for a full rollout of commercial drone technology. With a complete understanding of the end-to-end requirements for one inspection, you can extrapolate an ROI analysis of a large-scale deployment, a list of tasks required for implementation, a timeline, and a budget.
This may seem like an uncommonly large amount of due diligence for one technology. But commercial drones are an entirely new type of information technology that stands to fundamentally change the way businesses interact with the physical world. When enterprises embrace a coordinated, high-touch approach to assessing this new technology, like any other significant enterprise deployment, they can achieve its value faster and more efficiently and begin making their organizations more insightful, efficient, safer, and smarter.