A few Doodle Labs team members hopped a quick flight to the annual trade show at Caesar’s Forum for some face-to-face with customers and key partners and to get the scoop on what’s new and interesting in the commercial drone space. The visit illuminated just how widespread the use of drone technology is for surveying and mapping in the agricultural, construction and mining industries, how quickly innovation is moving forward in these spaces and how massive the data transmission demands of these use-cases are growing to be.
Drone Delivery: Still Early Days
Drone-driven delivery has been a hot topic all year, and initial rollouts like DroneUp’s deployment of Watts Innovations platforms for Walmart’s new drone delivery program have garnered well-earned buzz far outside of the UAV space.
On the show floor, drone service providers like DroneUp and Volatus and a handful of drone OEMs anchored their presence around drone delivery. Amazon’s internal drone delivery arm set up a booth entirely dedicated to recruiting pilots and other talent to join their team.
But for all the press attention drone delivery continues to draw worldwide, the vast majority of Commercial UAV’s show floor real estate was dedicated to drone-aided mapping.
Drone Scanning and Mapping Generates Massive Data
Booth imagery was heavy on landscape photography featuring agricultural scenes, construction sites and mining settings, and the most common payloads on drones were scanners of all sorts – hyperspectral cameras, LiDAR, infrared.
We were excited to see Emesent there – leaders in advanced drone surveying scanning technology who are working with us to develop a long-range capability to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of drone missions by giving operators the ability to deviate from pre-determined flight paths to further inspect areas of interest in real-time.
Small-scale drones demoed maneuverability in scanning and measuring inside commercial and even residential structures.
Attending vendor Airwise’s booth featured a live demo of their Flight Manager software platform, which allows its users to pre-map automated drone flights using publicly available visualized data, including LAANC data, real-time weather reports and restricted airspace mapping, then execute on flights to 3D map both across large expanses and in close-range detail using advanced photogrammetry. They are working hard on filling the gap left by the grounding of Chinese-origin drones with a small-to-medium sized drone built in the US, with our 2.4 GHz mini-OEM, at an affordable price point for all non-Defense US government work, like surveying and mapping for the Department of Interior.
Just how massive the troves of data it takes to overlay these shockingly detailed 3D worlds, plus all of that geological data, HD video and all sorts of other data being gathered out in the field by all the demo rigs perched on all the other stands, is difficult to fathom. It also highlights the potential challenges to OEMs tasked with building drone platforms to deliver on these innovative new use cases, to gather and transmit valuable data in real-time and continue to keep data links connected and drones aloft in sometimes tenuous conditions.