Enterprises in many industries are using commercial drones to solve complex problems. But manually flying a drone over a house won’t do any good for an enterprise’s bottom line. In order to take full advantage of drones and the data they generate, enterprises must integrate them into a business unit with a holistic approach. From the field to the office, drones and aerial data demand an enterprise-ready workflow:
1. Business System Integration:
The first step enterprises have to take when building out their drone operations is to connect the technology to their existing systems. The data collected by a drone will not be useful if it exists in a vacuum. APIs should plug a commercial drone solution directly into existing IT systems. Predictable events, like annual routine inspections or new work orders, can automatically trigger a request for a drone job if integrated directly into existing business systems.
2. Work Management:
Once a job for a drone has been identified, the planning for the job should be automatically generated. The job’s geofence should be created based on the address or GPS coordinates. The software should automatically tell you which data products, like orthomosaic imagery or thermographic readings, are required based on the type of job selected. Finally, the optimal flight plan to collect that data should be automatically computed based on information available about the site.
3. Approvals and Compliance:
Like any enterprise technology, drone jobs need to fit into internal and external compliance requirements. Regulatory compliance, like abiding by FAA no-fly zones, should be automatically verified. Internal compliance, like ensuring that the dataflow abides by security and privacy rules, should be customizable and automated.
4. Operator Management:
Some enterprises want to own the drones and employ the operators who will be conducting their flight operations. Others want a service provider to conduct operations. Enterprises should be able to choose an operator management system that fits their needs. The system must allow them to automatically allocate jobs to the right operator at the right time, whether it be internal, external, or a little bit of both.
5. Autonomous Data Collection:
This is the fun part: when the drone goes airborne. There are many hardware configurations available depending on the job. But what matters more is the software running the drone. Manually flying a drone results in inconsistent, useless data. A commercial drone solution must include autonomous flight control and in-flight data collection, which will eliminate the risk of in-flight human error and ensure uniformity of data. Flight automation also ensures job repeatability, allowing companies to use data for time-series analysis and change detection. Once the flight is complete, the data collected can either be automatically uploaded to the cloud, or manually uploaded by the operator if connectivity is not available.
6. Data Processing:
The imagery collected by drones can be processed to create a variety of information products including orthomosaics, 3D models, and digital surface models. Much of this processing should be automated in the cloud. Proprietary or 3rd party tools can be integrated via APIs to account for unique data processing needs.
7. Analysis and Reporting:
Information products can be used to conduct analyses of customer properties and enterprise assets, like monitoring change over time, comparing existing conditions to project plans, and verifying safety and compliance on job sites. But those data products cannot remain in a silo. This information must be easily sharable, and integrated into reports, external analysis software, and databases.
Aerial data is only as valuable as the business decisions that come from it. When enterprises take the approach of using an end-to-end solution, they can make drone technology an extension of their business that drives the bottom line.
To see how enterprise customers use Airware solutions, read about our workflow.