Will COVID-19 lead to a drone renaissance?

All over the world, governments and businesses alike have been turning to drones – among other technology solutions – to help stop the spread of the coronavirus. 

Here are some of our favorite examples:

COVID-19 Quarantine and Social Distancing Enforcement

During stricter phases of lockdown, Liloan, a municipality in the Philippines, used drones equipped with 360-degree cameras to monitor its streets for compliance with community quarantine guidelines.

Similarly, the government of Kazakhstan used drones to patrol the border of its locked-down capital Nur-Sultan, ensuring that no one entered or left without special authorization.

Meanwhile, an Indian drone manufacturer called Sagar Defence Engineering was commissioned to make customized drones fitted with megaphones for the Mumbai police force. Rather than patrolling the streets and risking infection, the cops have been working with Sagar Defence employees to deploy and operate drones from police outposts.

The megaphones on the drones are connected to police officers’ cell phones, allowing them to dial in and make customized announcements based on what they feel the situation warrants. 

Disinfection

Other companies in India, China, South Korea, and have been commissioned to complete a host of drone disinfecting missions, especially in public spaces such as railway stations, airports, and parks.

And in some cases, drones are even being fit with thermal scanners to identify potential virus carriers in a crowd.

Deliveries

All over the world, there’s been a boom in drone deliveries for COVID-19 tests, medical supplies, and other essential goods.

Drone delivery providers claim that their services are helping to fight the virus by minimizing how often people go outside, shortening wait-times for medical facilities and patients, and ensuring that important items can continue getting to remote locations even if the usual delivery network has been disrupted due to the pandemic.

In China, drone companies Antwork and Terra Drones, have been running up to 20 COVID-19 test delivery flights per day in the city of Hangzhou since February, and e-commerce company JD deployed a drone team to perform last-mile deliveries of goods to Chinese islands when ferries stopped.

Zipline is delivering test kits, samples, and protective gear in Ghana and Rwanda, where it’s been delivering blood and medical supplies for years, and in Singapore, the startup F-drones completed a pilot delivery of vitamins to a ship anchored off an island 5 kilometers away from the drone’s launch point. 

So drones are being used in all sorts of different ways now. What does this mean?

Well, as we’ve pointed out in our post about locust swarm management in India, what’s going on right has the potential to force aviation authorities to adjust regulations that were previously inhibiting innovation, or at least fast-track authorizations for promising use-cases.

For instance, the Hangzhou (China) Municipal Government helped broker an agreement between Antwork, the local ministry of health, and the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) to approve routes and ensure proper safety measures for the test sample delivery. 

It could also create a boom in drone innovation that gives small businesses the momentum they need to succeed. With new contracts and agreements with clients and partners, these businesses might get the capital needed to improve their existing products and services, while creating a track record that will ensure they stay in business after the pandemic ends.

In particular, the increase in demand for drone services due to the pandemic could change the way that “drone as a service” is managed. Garuda Aerospace, a drone start-up from Chennai, is launching an aggregator service model across 26 cities in India, under which it would provide a host of services, including spraying disinfectants to fight Covid-19.

The company has long wanted to become the “Uber of drone services,” but it seems that it is just now getting the critical mass of users necessary for the platform to succeed. Garuda has added various smart cities and state governments to its user base, thanks to their interest in sanitization services, while allegedly courting high profile prospective clients in Brazil, Spain, and the US, who are interested in similar services.

Is this only happening in Asia and Africa?

No, similar developments are taking place in western countries as well.

In Charlotte, North Carolina, Novant Health is partnering with Zipline to pilot a medical drone delivery system. And the UK Space Agency has recently announced that it will be funding an initiative to use drones to deliver medical supplies and samples to a group of islands off the west coast of Scotland.

A key difference seems to be that most western countries aren’t using drones so much out of urgent necessity as a desire to fast-track proof of concepts and prepare for future disasters. For instance, a Novant Health spokesperson has stated that the organization has no shortage of existing delivery options, but is testing drones because they may be helpful in a future crisis.

It’s impossible to predict the long-term impact of these developments, but one thing is certain: the pandemic has helped countries around the world imagine the potential that drones hold for society.

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About Consortiq

Consortiq is a global market leader of custom drone solutions. Our employees are driven by a mission to help corporations and state organisations leverage drone technology to accelerate progress and achieve the success they desire. At Consortiq, we base our solutions on intensive quantitative and qualitative research, hard facts, and deep subject matter expertise. As a talented group of drone and manned aircraft pilots, software engineers, defense consultants, and former air traffic control professionals, Consortiq’s employees understand the intricacies of aerial platforms and are able to provide a wide range of nuanced, effective solutions. 

We have a strong track record of providing training, logistical operations planning, fleet management software, risk mitigation, and legal/regulatory services, to clients in the media, public infrastructure, and public safety industries in Europe, North America, and the Middle East.

Our accredited training program helps pilots prepare and go beyond the US Part 107 and the UK GVC

Ready to create a UAS strategy for your business? Complete the form below to get started!

Miriam Hinthorn - Contributing Author

Miriam Hinthorn - Contributing Author

Miriam Hinthorn is an experienced management professional who is currently pursuing her master’s in Data, Economics, and Development Policy at MIT while serving as principal consultant at Consult92.

Miriam developed a love for UAS technology when she served as operations manager at Consortiq. Today, having completed over 30 successful projects in 10 countries, she loves solving a wide variety of logistical, technical, and cultural challenges for her clients so that they can focus on what care about most.

Ready to Integrate Drones Into Your Organization? Contact Us Today to Get Started!

Drones take medical supplies to new heights during pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced governments and other stakeholders to explore how innovative technologies can assist in the fight against the virus. 

Some of the most exciting and promising solutions have come from within the UAV community.

From disinfecting public areas to delivering much needed medical supplies, drones are on the frontlines of the current healthcare battlefield.  

Drones are not only helping with the current global health challenge, but have extended medicine’s reach for several years now. UAVs have assisted doctors around the world since around 2014. The versatility of the platform makes drones highly adaptable to a wide range of use cases. 

In emergency medicine, vaccinations, and other specialties, UAVs are becoming indispensable tools to medical and healthcare professionals. A few examples are listed below.

Disinfectiong Public Spaces

As the COVID-19 pandemic began in Wuhan, China, it was clear the crisis required pulling out all the stops. 

One of the first UAV companies to respond was Shenzhen, China based DJI. For several years, the company has utilized its drones for public safety efforts. As the virus spread and researchers determined COVID-19 could survive on hard surfaces, it was clear a disinfection plan for open spaces was needed.

DJI utilized drones designed to spray pesticides for the agricultural industry to address the issue. Public spaces, such as parks and bus stations, have been covered in disinfectants delivered from the air. Drones can spray an area more efficiently than people and keep cleaning personnel out of harm’s way. 

While the method still needs to be researched for overall effectiveness, it provides a model for cleaning public areas in the future.

Emergency Medicine

Modern medicine has drastically increased life expectancy. 

In 1950, the average life expectancy globally was around 48 years. By 2012, the average was 70 years. Much of the improvement in this number is a result of lower response times to medical emergencies. 

On April 19, 2019, the world’s first successful drone supported organ transplant occurredin Baltimore, Md. A specially designed UAV flew a human kidney to the University of Maryland Medical Center, where doctors transplanted the organ into a 44-year-old Baltimore woman.

In another use case, Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) have been affixed to drones as early as 2014, when a graduate student in the Netherlands looked to lower emergency response times for heart attack victims. Companies like Reno, Nevada’s Flirtey, are currently working with government agencies to test out drone delivered AEDs in the United States.  

Initial results are promising.

Medical Supply Delivery

Around the world, drones are delivering medications and critical supplies. 

Since 2014, Zipline has used drones in Rwanda and Ghana to provide blood and vaccines to rural regions. In some cases, what would have taken a traveling doctor three days to deliver across the jungle now takes 30 minutes.

In response to COVID-19, UAVs are delivering prescriptions to patients at home to respect social distancing policies. UPS and pharmacy giant CVS have teamed up in Florida to provide medications to the elderly via drones. Manna Aero has been doing the same in rural communities within Ireland. 

The ability to provide supplies without direct human interaction is very appealing to both the doctor and the patient.   

In a time when human to human contact must be limited, drones are an ideal solution to providing medicine at a distance. The current global climate in response to the pandemic will likely accelerate the use of UAVs in this space.

Planning For a Safe Future

The current innovative uses for UAVs are only scratching the surface of potential applications in the medical field. 

For organizations exploring how drones can support their business model in the changing environment, safety should always be the primary concern.

Prior to testing drones, conduct a safety audit and develop a safety plan. Ensure operators are trained properly, establish standard operating procedures for events such as accidents and investigations, create logbooks & records, and ensure qualification requirements are met.

Drones have already had a lasting positive impact on the medical community. As new challenges from COVID-19 arise UAVs may provide many of the solutions. 

Ensuring we approach these challenges in a safe manner will facilitate the best outcome for all stakeholders. 

***

About Consortiq

Consortiq is a global market leader of custom drone solutions. Our employees are driven by a mission to help corporations and state organisations leverage drone technology to accelerate progress and achieve the success they desire. At Consortiq, we base our solutions on intensive quantitative and qualitative research, hard facts, and deep subject matter expertise. As a talented group of drone and manned aircraft pilots, software engineers, defense consultants, and former air traffic control professionals, Consortiq’s employees understand the intricacies of aerial platforms and are able to provide a wide range of nuanced, effective solutions. 

We have a strong track record of providing training, logistical operations planning, fleet management software, risk mitigation, and legal/regulatory services, to clients in the media, public infrastructure, and public safety industries in Europe, North America, and the Middle East.

Our accredited training program helps pilots prepare and go beyond the US Part 107 and the UK PfCO. 

Ready to create a UAS strategy for your business? Complete the form below to get started!

David Daly - Contributing Author

David Daly - Contributing Author

David Daly, is an award-winning photographer/writer and licensed (FAA) Commercial sUAS pilot. A graduate of the United States Naval Academy, David is a former Marine Corps officer with a BS in Oceanography and has earned his MBA from the University of Redlands. David has worked for Fortune 100 companies and has a background in aerospace, construction, military/defense, real estate, and technology.
Miriam developed a love for UAS technology when she served as operations manager at Consortiq. Today, having completed over 30 successful projects in 10 countries, she loves solving a wide variety of logistical, technical, and cultural challenges for her clients so that they can focus on what care about most.

Ready to Integrate Drones Into Your Organization? Contact Us Today to Get Started!

Should You Use Drone as a Service or Start an In-House UAV Program?

Choosing between a Drones-as-a-Service (DaaS) provider and starting your own program

Many organizations benefit from utilizing UAV technology.

In fact, drones have established themselves as essential tools in numerous industries. Construction, real estate, agriculture, oil & gas, education, and many other sectors are seeing decreased safety incidents, lowered costs, and enhanced efficiencies.

One of the first questions you might have while investigating how drones can improve your operation is: Should we hire a drone service provider or create an in-house program.

There are advantages and disadvantages to both options. But, before exploring these points, there are a few considerations to discuss.

You’ll need to start with identifying your specific needs to determine which option works best for you.

What to Consider

First, how do you plan to use drones?

This is most crucial consideration. Will the UAV primarily be used for aerial photography, or for more complex tasks such as three-dimensional modeling as an extension of Geographic Information Systems (GIS)?

While some organizations have relatively simple drone needs, you may require sophisticated data collection and processing. In general, more complex needs require commercial drone pilots with specialized training and equipment. Some of the more technical payloads, such as LiDAR, can cost well over $100,000.

Next, how often do you plan to use UAV services?

Depending on the task, continuous use will point you toward the right option in terms of cost and availability.

Alright, so what’s your budget?

Investing in UAV technology should not be viewed solely as a one-time purchase. Drones require regular maintenance, and they include consumable parts such as batteries and propellers.

Equipment breaks, and upgrades will be needed from time to time. Furthermore, remote pilots require time to practice to maintain their skills.

Then, you’ll have administrative costs, such as insurance. UAV insurance can be purchased at an hourly rate or on an annual basis. The type of coverage needed will significantly change the cost per policy.

Also, more complex drone operations will require specific software, along with data processing capabilities. Data processing services for applications such as GIS can run as high as several hundred dollars, per user, each month.

Finally, you’ll need to consider the personnel commitment and training required for in-house UAV operations.

In the United States, any commercial drone usage requires a Part 107 remote pilot certification from the FAA. That license must be renewed every two years.

 

Related: Schedule Your Onsite Part 107 Essentials Enterprise Training Course Today

 

In the UK, the new General VLOS Certificate (GVC) must be renewed every five years, and an annual operational authorization from the CAA is required.

 

Related: Schedule Your GVC Training Course Today

 

Specialized equipment, such as thermal cameras, reaches full potential only when trained personnel interpret the collected data.

And, a healthy drone program includes extensive, continuous training, along with the adoption of standard operating procedures. In fact, those are essential to producing professional results while remaining safe & compliant.

UAV Drone Engineering Course - Drone Solutions - Construction -Consortiq

Drones as a Service: Pros & Cons

Drones as a Service (DaaS) — or, as we refer to it, unmanned data services — is essentially the outsourcing of an organization’s UAV needs.

PROS

Pros for choosing DaaS over building your own UAV program include: Ease of scalability, lower upfront cost, and incurring less liability.

CONS

The cons often associated with DaaS are: The potential for less flexibility, lower response time, and rigid pricing structures.

If your UAV needs are more complex, and you don’t have the in-house compentency necessary to achieve your goals, then DaaS is the ideal choice. Established service providers have both the expertise and equipment needed to provide whatever deliverables are desired.

Also, in most cases, data processing for significant projects is also best handled by DaaS.

And, if you’re working for a larger organization, you’ll also appreciate the reduction of potential risks from possible litigation and in dealing with human resource issues.

Drone Program - Drone Integration Course - Industry workers flying drone at construction site

Creating Your Own UAS Program: Pros & Cons

When you create your own in-house UAS (Unmanned Aerial Systems) program, you have full control. You’ll have a team of trained remote pilots available at all times. Along with that, though, you’ll take on all of the associated responsibility & risk.

PROS

Benefits include: Maintaining full control of the operation, immediate response time, and designing the program to fit your organization’s needs perfectly.

CONS

Disadvantages to this option are: Increased exposure to risk, upfront and on-going costs of maintenance & equipment replacement, potential lack of resilience, and you’ll need to stay up-to-date on all legal requirements and regulations.

If your need for UAV technology is small in scale and complexity, but requires regular drone use, starting an in-house program is ideal. You’ll have the ability to maintain the drone program’s full control, from both an operational and fiscal perspective.

Having a drone and pilot ready to move at moment’s notice certainly has its perks.

Bringing It All Together

The decision to work with a DaaS provider or start an in-house drone program is an important one.

Whichever choice you make, it’s important to consult with UAS experts prior to getting started.  Experienced consultants will help you to identify your specific needs and explore the best fit to meet those needs. You’ll also get support on creating operations manuals, safety guidelines, and regulation requirements.

No matter what you choose, Consortiq has a solution for you. From unmanned data services that include aerial surveys and mapping, to extensive global remote pilot training and  drone consultancy, we’ll help you put the right plan in place.

Need expert-level support? Just compete the form below or call us at 1-855-203-8825 (Americas) or +44 (0)208 0450 322 (Europe) to get started!

David Daly - Contributing Author

David Daly - Contributing Author

David Daly, is an award-winning photographer/writer and licensed (FAA) Commercial sUAS pilot. A graduate of the United States Naval Academy, David is a former Marine Corps officer with a BS in Oceanography and has earned his MBA from the University of Redlands. David has worked for Fortune 100 companies and has a background in aerospace, construction, military/defense, real estate, and technology.

Ready to Integrate Drones Into Your Organization? Contact Us Today to Get Started!

Drone Mapping in The Case of Ordnance Survey

Mapping terrain is critical for many industries.

Data and discoveries gained from mapping enhance preventative measures and provide details to ensure the feasibility of a project. Many organizations — Consortiq included — are using industry leading tools and innovative ways to accurately and efficiently capture this data.

Drone Mapping

Back in June 2019, Ordnance Survey, the UK’s national mapping agency, announced a framework agreement to provide different types of UAV (unmanned aerial vehicles) services to enhance their capability.

This was to include over 500 sites to survey, each using different techniques. However, one thing remained universally consistent … drone deployment.

Using the correct methods, unmanned vehicles ably capture and present the findings in many ways. For example, orthomosaics, digital terrain models (DTM) & digital surface models, and techniques & sensors can allow for accurate photogrammetry and LiDAR (Remote Sensing) output. 

Combining LiDAR and GIS to analyze and quickly manage the data, while also maintaining very high accuracy, saves time and improves efficiencies… a common goal that all surveying and mapping agencies work to achieve.

All of the above can be realized by using technology that is widely available now, so what about the future?

Last year, the BBC reported that the Astigan, a solar-powered drone, will be used to fly higher than commercial airliners (67,000 ft (20,400m)). Incredibly, the aircraft could circle the Earth for 90 days before it needs to land, capturing data on demand.

According to the article, Ordnance Survey told the BBC that the existing mapping satellites orbiting the Earth cannot provide enough high resolution detail for its maps.

While this remains a massive aspiration for companies like Ordnance Survey to develop new ways and future-proof their offering, they have concerns and challenges which need to be addressed today. One of those, in particular, is to accurately map and record Britain’s coastlines.  

Erosion and landslides can change the coastline daily. Thus, to ensure that these changes are captured quickly, and that their data reflects the current coastline, drone technology is utilized.

The UK has over half a billion geospatial features that need to be kept up-to-date. The UAV plays a critical role in helping to map features in rural and urban areas all year around.

New Tech, New Data?

LiDAR systems on crewed aircraft and drones are revolutionizing what researchers can find out about data previously unseen using photography and point cloud models.

LiDAR can remove the vegetation and show what lies underneath, something that was unimaginable just a few years ago. 

 

Drone Mapping - LiDAR Coastal Shot

LiDAR systems have been specifically designed for use in challenging environments. It can provide uniform and dense data in even the shallowest water. By using this remote sensor with a fixed-wing UAS aircraft, you’ll ably cover large areas which are otherwise difficult to survey with more conventional tools.

The average LiDAR sensor is typically a costly investment, and ensuring that the right data is captured can be challenging. Consortiq and its sister company, Argentech, have been using this solution for a number of years. 

We now provide state-of-the-art UAS-based imaging and analytics to markets as diverse as agriculture, digital mapping, and oil & natural gas

High-resolution photos, combined with LiDAR data, create geospatially accurate maps and models. Without LiDAR, the photos can still be stitched together to create orthomosaics, or used individually for inspection or documentation and planning purposes. This photo is from a bridge inspection in Columbia, South America.

Drone Mapping - aerial view of a bridge

“Aerial LiDAR provides the highest quality data for a wide variety of applications. Argentech (AgTS) offers LiDAR services on both manned and unmanned vehicles allowing us to meet the needs of our customers in the most effective and efficient means possible.” Rita Castonguay Hunt AgTS UAS Commercial Services

Even with drone technology, the techniques which enhance how we are presented with usable data advances over time, and UAS-mounted LiDAR is a great example of how blended technologies enable organizations to stay relevant, while collecting the most accurate, detailed information available to them.

With unmanned data services, Consortiq can provide this level of service without any organization having to invest heavily for the technology or platforms.

Our UAS pilots gather the information for you, and they provide the key results and data you need to fully understand what’s really going on.

Whether you’re looking to start a program, train your team, or simply get the data, we’re here to help you reach your goals. To get started, complete the form below!

Lee Barfoot - Sales & Marketing EMEA at Consortiq

Lee Barfoot - Sales & Marketing EMEA at Consortiq

Ready to Integrate Drones Into Your Organization? Contact Us Today to Get Started!

How to Improve Education Programs With Drones

At the start of the new millennium, academic research identified a potential problem for students in the United States.

Compared to their counterparts around the world, American students were becoming less prepared for the modern global workforce. Studies identified a particular shortfall in understanding science and math-related concepts.

In response to the problem, in 2001, the U.S. National Science Foundation coined the acronym STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, & Mathematics). The acronym became the foundation for a new approach to education.  

The U.S. Dept. of Education states that:

  • only 16% of high school students are interested in a STEM career and have proven a proficiency in mathematics
  • 57% of high school freshmen who declare an interest in a STEM-related field lose interest before they graduate high school
  • There is an estimated need for at least 8.65 million workers in STEM-related jobs
  • The skills gap in the manufacturing sector is significant. It faces a big shortage of skilled employees – nearly 600,000.

STEM-focused curriculum exposes students to a deeper understanding of technical concepts and careers in the industries related to STEM disciplines. Students who become excited about working in STEM industries at an early age are more likely to attend college and receive a bachelor’s degree.  

Since the development of STEM almost 20 years ago, numerous countries have adopted programs similar to the one developed in the United States. STEM centered education now exists in the United Kingdom, France, China, Australia, South Korean, and Taiwan.

In recent years, drones have begun to play a significant role in STEM curriculum and education in general. Drones can help teach a wide range of concepts and life lessons that otherwise might be difficult for students to understand. Most UAVs are easy to learn to fly, and many are inexpensive, making them accessible to everyone.

How Drones Benefit Education

Drones — ground based, submersible and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) — offer many benefits to educators and students.  

Drones, and UAVs in particular, are excellent complementary tools for STEM education. Students benefit from exposure to technology, show signs of increased information retention rates, and can experience learning on an individual or group level. Educators benefit from high-quality resources, such as coding software with professionally built lesson plans.

As a form of technology, drones are simple and sophisticated at the same time. Studies have shown that the use of technology aids in the retention of information. As students use technology, they are often participating in groups or, at the very least, actively engage in the learning process.

When students are exposed to UAVs in the classroom, they can learn complex concepts, such as aeronautics, in an easily digestible format. Understanding the physics behind what makes an aircraft fly might be challenging to teach, at some grade levels, using traditional methods.  

If instead of reviewing the mathematics behind lift vs. drag, the student learns while flying a drone and the concept is often much clearer.

Additionally, drones are excellent tools for teaching the fundamentals of design. For a drone to submerge, drive, or fly, it must operate within specific parameters. The unmanned aircraft’s design must perform in a manner that adheres to principles such as lift vs. drag.

With a 3D printer, students learn why individual components, such as propellers, are designed a certain way, and can experiment independently with deviations on the design and how it affects performance.

Exposure to programming is another benefit. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, computer programmers had a median pay in 2019 of $41.61 per hour.

Drones bring programming into the classroom. Several high-quality software programs and applications help teach coding with UAS.

Some programs allow educators and students to complete a series of tasks with their drones through coding instructions. Others allow for the drone itself to “learn” how to fly.

In the ideal situation, students can design their drone and program as part of a project-based learning unit. Young children can even grasp programming through the use of drag-and-drop “blocks” of code which when plugged together can make the drone actually perform tasks in front of their eyes.

From an artistic perspective, drones can expose students to photography and videography. Much of our learning process deals with changing perspectives and challenging what is known about the world around us. Drones may be the first time a student sees the world from another viewpoint.  

Some educators are finding success in using aerial photography to aid in teaching map-making, as tools to learning new languages, graphing mathematical concepts, and much more.

Drones work well as tools for both individuals and groups. Students can learn responsibility from flying on their own and, in the process, gain confidence.

In a group, teamwork can showcase how, as a unit, students who know next to nothing about drones can start from scratch and design, build, program, and fly their team’s creation.

Educators are tireless professionals always searching for new methods to make the educational process stronger. With the right guidance, drones are easily integrated into the classroom. The benefits of UAV technology, particularly as a part of a STEM-curriculum, are well worth the investment.

David Daly - Contributing Author

David Daly - Contributing Author

David Daly, is an award-winning photographer/writer and licensed (FAA) Commercial sUAS pilot. A graduate of the United States Naval Academy, David is a former Marine Corps officer with a BS in Oceanography and has earned his MBA from the University of Redlands. David has worked for Fortune 100 companies and has a background in aerospace, construction, military/defense, real estate, and technology.

Ready to Integrate Drones Into Your Organization? Contact Us Today to Get Started!

Could Locust Invasion Lead to Drone Innovation?

As you may have heard, huge swarms of desert locusts are devouring crops across western and central India in what has been seen as the worst locust invasion in almost 30 years.

The locusts had already destroyed over 50,000 hectares (125,000 acres) of cropland by the end of May, and by the sound of things, the situation could get worse in the coming weeks.

That's sad, but what does it have to do with drones?

Drone use was essentially outright banned in India from 2014 to 2018.

Since 2018,  authorities have nominally eased restrictions and tried to cultivate a robust UAS sector, but the regulations are so burdensome, and the permissions application process is so slow, that there has been limited innovation in the UAS sector thus far. 

However, due to the locust invasion, that might change. In rapid response to the crisis, on May 21st, India’s Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) granted a conditional exemption to the agriculture ministry’s Directorate of Plant Protection, Quarantine, and Storage (DPPQS). The exemption allows DPPQS to use remotely piloted aircraft in support of aerial surveillance, photography, public announcements, and spraying pesticides.

According to a senior government official, “this is unprecedented for India since it’s the first time we’ve allowed drones to carry payloads in a civilian use case, or spray any pesticides for that matter.”

He added that there had previously been some trials for crop spraying using drones, but that those were strictly restricted to specific zones, whereas the new exemption allows the agriculture ministry to fly drones anywhere.

Government drones are nice and all, but how will this foster innovation in the UAS sector?

According to the exemption, DPPQS can choose to own and operate their own drones, and each operation has to be carried out under their overall supervision and control, but they can engage third-party UAS service providers to provide and/or operate the drones.

Various state agricultural departments have issued tenders for drones and drone services to the private sector, and there’s been pressure on MoCA to work out some kinks in its regulation of agricultural drone operations that had been ignored for too long. 

Cool. So, back to pesticide drones - are they working?

It’s too early to tell just how cost-effective the pesticide drones are, but the initial reports seem pretty promising.

Notably, according to a deputy director of Rajasthan’s Agriculture Department, when government drones sprayed pesticide in two of Rajasthan’s districts, an impressive 70% of the locusts were destroyed.

However, there are some pretty tough operational challenges that might stymie success. For one, during monsoon season, certain regions of India get very heavy rain, which can make safe UAS operations impossible. For instance, a team in Jaipur was faced with heavy rains until late at night. They seem to have launched the operation around midnight,  which is technically a violation of the exemption’s conditions since technically nighttime operations are currently not allowed.

Additionally, the mountainous and hilly terrain of certain regions may make it hard to maintain visual line one sight (VLOS) throughout operations. On the bright side, perhaps these adverse conditions will force regulatory agencies to issue permission for night and BVLOS operations, which could set a pretty cool status quo for the UAS sector as a whole.

So, will the restrictions be loosened now that drones are "the good guys?"

It’s too early to tell, but this is certainly an unprecedented opportunity for the power of UAS technology to be demonstrated in India and other parts of the world.

If the locust-fighting drones are visibly successful, it could certainly pressure the government to create a framework for UAS authorizations for other dire circumstances such as flooding, landslides, and other natural disasters. And in a broader global context, the publicity of these operations in India could deepen global awareness of this use case. 

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has already been developing anti-locust drone solutions in east Africa since February, and if they, the government of India, and other disaster relief stakeholders, joined forces, they might just set a fantastic new precedent for drone use in agriculture.

Miriam Hinthorn - Contributing Author

Miriam Hinthorn - Contributing Author

Miriam Hinthorn is an experienced management professional who is currently pursuing her master’s in Data, Economics, and Development Policy at MIT while serving as principal consultant at Consult92.

Miriam developed a love for UAS technology when she served as operations manager at Consortiq. Today, having completed over 30 successful projects in 10 countries, she loves solving a wide variety of logistical, technical, and cultural challenges for her clients so that they can focus on what care about most.

Ready to Integrate Drones Into Your Organization? Contact Us Today to Get Started!

European UAS Regulation Further Delayed

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has been developing centralized UAS regulations over the past several years. 

This work culminated in the passing of Regulation (EU) 2019/947 and Regulation (EU) 2019/945 last year. The regulations aim to standardize the different regulations of the Member States, and to regulate the civil use of drones in a way that corresponds first and foremost to operation type, performance, and risk, rather than whether or not the pilot is being financially compensated.

It took a long time to get consensus among key stakeholders, but EASA believes that the resulting regulations will give European service and technology providers easy access to neighboring markets.  

These regs came out almost a year ago, so why should we start paying attention now?

Although technically these regulations have been in force since their publication in 2019, their progressive application was set to begin in 2020. Initially, implementation was to start 1 July, but the situation caused by the health crisis of COVID-19 forced EASA to adjust the timeline several times.

So, when will implementation begin?

On 5 June, EASA updated the tentative implementation timeline with the following key deadlines:

  • By 31 December 2020, the partial application of Regulation EU 2019/947 will begin, and the European Registry of Operators (AESA registration and European EASA repository) will be live.
  • By 1 January 2022, The Spanish Civil Aviation Authority regulations will no longer be in force, and the operators’ registry and pilot certification conversion to the standard established by the new EASA drone regulations will be established.
  • By 1 January 2023, only EC-marked drones will be allowed to be sold, clubs and model airplane associations will have brought their UAS operations in line with EASA and national regulations
 

How do these regulations impact UAS operators?

In April, EASA published an “Easy Access” guide, that explains the regulations in layman’s terms.

We strongly recommend that you check it out if you plan to perform UAS operations in the EU in 2021 or beyond. But one thing, in particular, that will change is the process to get authorization for UAS operations.

Okay, how will that change?

First and foremost, the regulations are intended to do away with the limitations and ambiguity around commercial and non-commercial drone operations.

Under the new UAS regulations, authorizations will be issued based on the following three elements:

  • Type of operation being conducted
  • Level of risk
  • Level of performance

Practically speaking, in the future, if you’d like to perform anything other than “Open Category” (essentially extremely low risk) UAS operations in EASA member states after 2020, you’ll probably need to obtain an Operational Authorization (OA), and in order to obtain that, you’ll first need to obtain a GVC (General Visual Line of Sight Certificate.) 

This means that people who have the older forms of authorization need to plan their transition to obtaining an OA.

Give me an example.

Okay.

So in the U.K. (which is leaving EASA but still adopting the new UAS regulations), the key authorization for professional UAS operations is currently Permission for Commercial Operations (PfCO). To get a PfCO, one needs to first obtain a Nationally Qualified Entity (NQE) recommendation, which requires a logged amount of flight  experience, a satisfactory score on a theoretical knowledge test, a flight planning assessment, a flight assessment, and an operations manual (OM).

But, under the new regulations, instead of pursuing an NQE recommendation for a PfCO, prospective drone operators will need to look into getting their GVCs, which have similar but distinct requirements, in the near future.

When is "the near future?"

It depends on whether or not you already have authorization for professional UAS operations.

In the U.K., if you don’t already have a PfCO after 31 December 2020,  you’ll need to get a GVC, and then an OA. Meanwhile, PfCO holders will be able to renew the PfCO under their current NQE recommendation in 2020 as per normal, but what happens next is not entirely clear yet.

The CAA state that, at some point in the future, they will require all NQE recommendations to be converted into GVCs. To make matters more complicated, there’s another path that current or aspiring professional UAS operators can take: rather than obtaining an OA, they could opt for an A2 Certificate of Competency (A2 CofC), which is easier to obtain but comes with significant limitations when compared to an OA.

As a result, UAS professionals that perform “lower risk” operations with lightweight platforms may opt for this, but most UAS companies will need to get an OA. 

I’m still not clear on when PfCOs will stop being valid.

It’s still not certain.

The exact timescale of the aforementioned transition has not yet been finalized, but the CAA expects that it will be complete 2024 or 2025. That means that it’s possible that PfCO holders could continue to use their NQE recommendations in the meantime… but it’s not certain yet.

So, there will basically be two or more acceptable forms of authorization in EASA member states?

It’s likely.

Although, each country’s aviation authority has to decide for itself how to transition to the new authorization framework, and some might phase out the old authorization method sooner than others.

It will be important to stay up-to-date on aviation authority updates in any country in which you’d like to operate, as it’s possible that the implementation timeline may be further delayed or adjusted.

Miriam Hinthorn - Contributing Author

Miriam Hinthorn - Contributing Author

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Drones in Oil and Gas: Safe, Fast, Effective

The oil and gas industry is one of the largest branches of the global economy.

About the Oil and Gas Industry

According to IBISWorld, annual revenue for the sector in 2019 clocked in at $3.3 trillion, almost 4% of the global GDP. It includes many of the world’s largest companies, including Royal Dutch Shell & Exxon Mobil.

In fact, in 2019, six of the top ten companies appearing on the Fortune Global 500 list came from the oil and gas industry.

While its profits are among the highest in the world, turning natural resources into usable products is expensive. Operating margins for the sector vary, but they often exceed 30%. Beyond the operating budget, significant capital investments, such as oil refineries, can cost billions of dollars.

The United States Central Intelligence Agency estimates that there are over 3.5 million kilometers of pipelines around the world. Pipeline systems include a wide range of supporting and processing facilities, such as pumping stations, refineries, regulator stations, and final delivery locations. 

The infrastructure required by the industry constantly requires inspection and maintenance. Given the dangerous nature of some facilities, and the remote locations of pipelines, that level of upkeep creates a significant challenge.

That’s where using drones helps most.

The Benefits of Drones

Drones offer the oil and gas industry several powerful benefits. The majority of which fall into three categories: Cost savings, improved inspection capabilities, and increased safety.

In some cases, the benefits of using unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) fall into multiple categories, making drones even more attractive to oil and gas firms.

Let’s break it down.

Cost Savings

Bringing oil and natural gas to market occurs in three phases: Predrilling, drilling, and production. Drones are capable of lowering costs throughout the entire process.

In predrilling, a drone’s aerial feed aids in the exploration of new drill sights.

Traditionally, manned aircraft perform this task. However, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) operate at a fraction of the price. Given the lower cost, it’s much more economical to use several drones, as opposed to a single helicopter or plane.

During the drilling and production phases, perhaps the most considerable cost savings come with decreased downtime. When humans  conduct manual inspections, facilities often require temporarily shut down for safety reasons. Drones perform many of the needed inspections without stopping production, and with minimal disruption.

Less downtime translates into higher profits.

Improved Inspections

Drones are revolutionizing the way the world conducts inspections. One of the most promising areas for UAVs in the oil and gas sector is in pipeline inspections.

With millions of kilometers of pipelines across the world, it takes a small army to inspect and maintain these structures. Inspections conducted with human eyes are slow, and provide far less detailed information than UAS. Drones can quickly fly over a section of the pipeline and, in real-time, present the operator with a clear picture of the structure’s condition.

Furthermore, improvements in UAV sensors are bringing pipeline inspections to new levels. Specialized payloads can inspect in thermal and multispectral imaging. Some sensors are even capable of detecting gas leaks.

A single drone flight can provide much more information than a human alone ever could.

Increased Safety

The oil and gas industry can be a dangerous.

Flammable chemicals, toxic fumes, pressurized gases, and a wide array of industrial equipment make for hazardous conditions. Additionally, oil is found in many regions of the world where political instability increases the risk for all parties involved.

Recent: Debunking the Myth About Drones

Drones ably operate in areas where humans could sustain injuries. High structures and confined spaces are common in oil and gas processing facilities. Drones can maneuver into tight spaces without risking injury to team members, which might also lower insurance costs.

Some UAS, such as Flyability’s Elios drone, provide several safe, cost-effective solutions in this sector. This small drone operates in a spherical cage, allowing it to run into objects without interrupting flight. Drones like the Elios remove the need to have people place themselves in harm’s way while still gathering the needed information for analysis.

UAS footage of oil and gas pipeline inspection

Creating a Safe, Effective UAS Program

When implemented properly, UAS technology brings together the key benefits of common inspection methods, such as low-level helicopter flights and first-hand human data collection, while shedding most of the associated risk, cost, and time demands.

UAS technology is more widely available now than it’s ever been, but proper commercial use requires you to go far beyond just buying, unboxing, and taking flight. 

Before anything, it’s vital to understand exactly how UAS can benefit your organization. What data can this equipment help you collect, and what kind of value does that information have for your business?

You may already have access to this data through methods with higher costs, longer lead times and more corporate risk – so where can a UAS deliver a better return on your investment?

Answering questions like these will help you to define an achievable objective, and that’s the first big step in successful UAS implementation.

You’ll then need the skills, capabilities and supporting processes to proceed safely, efficiently, and legally.

These are daunting ideas, but they’re well worth navigating properly – and that’s why Consortiq exists.

We are market leaders in providing custom UAS training and consultancy services for businesses in the Oil & Gas, Energy and Utilities sectors. With our help, the incredible transformational effect of drones on your business is easily achievable.

Consortiq represents the highest standard in UAS training, having been at the forefront of the industry since regulations began taking shape around 2014.

Our goal as training providers is to equip your business and its employees with the skills and knowledge necessary to use these technologies safely, effectively, and legally.

We also realize that not all users are the same.

Our training services explore applications and skills relevant to the needs of your business. So, whether you’re focused on inspections, research or something else entirely, we can make sure you’re ready, confident, and fully compliant.

Ready to get started? Complete the form below for a risk free consultation!

David Daly - Contributing Author

David Daly - Contributing Author

David Daly, is an award-winning photographer/writer and licensed (FAA) Commercial sUAS pilot. A graduate of the United States Naval Academy, David is a former Marine Corps officer with a BS in Oceanography and has earned his MBA from the University of Redlands. David has worked for Fortune 100 companies and has a background in aerospace, construction, military/defense, real estate, and technology.

Ready to Integrate Drones Into Your Organization? Contact Us Today to Get Started!

Drones in Agriculture

Drones are increasing productivity and crop yield in the agricultural industry. From real-time data to healthier plants, UAS are literally growing more plants.

There are numerous ways drones are assisting the agriculture industry. 

That’s important for a few reasons. The current population of the world is over 7.6 billion.  And, according to the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment, this number will increase by another 2 billion by the year 2050. 

Unfortunately, food distribution is not evenly spread across the globe. However, there is technically enough food to feed all 7.6 billion people. Though, that won’t be the case once an additional two billion people require sustenance.

By some estimates, global food production will need to increase by between 60-100%. The Earth’s entire surface area is around 51.01 billion hectares. To put that into perspective, one hectare equals 2.471 acres. 

Without updating current agricultural practices, doubling the world’s food production would require the clearing of approximately one billion hectares of land… mostly rainforests and savannas. 

Obviously, clearing more land is not a viable solution. The removal of such an enormous amount of forest would certainly have a significant negative impact on climate change. The only hope for meeting the world’s future demands for food is precision agriculture. 

Drones are at the forefront of that movement.

Precision agriculture uses technology to accurately measure and study crop production. The data gained in these observations allows for better crop and farm management. 

As a result, production yields increase without the need to consume more land.

The Role of Drones in Agriculture

Some of the more common agricultural applications for UAVs include pest control, plant health monitoring, livestock management, soil analysis, and aerial survey.

One of the best examples to illustrate successful drones usage in agriculture is plant health monitoring. The health of a farmer’s crops is of critical importance to achieving the highest yields. 

There exists a wide range of circumstances that can adversely affect crop yield. 

Crops are susceptible to pathogens, fungus, and insects. Improper levels of carbon and nitrates in the soil also impact a plant’s productivity. Even a lack of proper water levels can cause an otherwise fertile field to produce lackluster results.

Traditionally, farmers monitored all these conditions through visual observations and soil analysis. 

Visual inspections are very time consuming, and they depend on the observer’s skills at detecting the signs of potential problems. This method is extraordinarily inefficient for large-scale farming operations.

Soil analysis can take even more time than visual inspections. Trained professionals must take samples, which are often analyzed in a laboratory. Inevitably, the time required by this process creates a lag in data. Thus, there is no real-time information available to the farmer as it pertains to the crops on a given day.

UAVs can perform all the above tasks in real-time, utilizing a combination of RBG cameras, thermal imaging, and multi-spectral imaging. With the proper equipment, a drone operator can fly over a field and present the farmer with a full report covering everything from plant count to health conditions.

Drones provide real-time and accurate data that farmers can act on immediately. They are truly a disruptive technology that is at the beginning of revolutionizing precision agriculture as we know it.

Agriculture Drone Solutions - Drone footage - consortiq

The Future

Research and innovation create pathways for drones to assist in agriculture all of the time. 

In Japan, scientists created insect-size drones capable of pollinating flowers in the same manner as bees. The drones use GPS to select the optimal flight path for pollinating all plants in a given area. As the world faces a crisis in dwindling bee populations, drones may very well become a replacement pollinator.

Earlier this year, a team in Canada announced the development of a drone used for planting trees. Using a pressurized air cannon, the team successfully fired small pods of seeds into the ground. The group estimates a single drone operator would be capable of planting 100,000 seed pods per day, with the goal of planting one billion trees by 2028.

The agricultural community is just scratching the surface of what drone technology can provide to the industry. As research continues and engineers find new ways to integrate aerial data collection into farming operations, we are likely to see significant jumps in crop production.

Now is the ideal time for stakeholders and decision makers involved in agriculture to consider the integration of UAS technology into their operations. With low barriers to entry, and the promise of greater efficiencies, it will soon be difficult to imagine successful operations without drones.

David Daly - Contributing Author

David Daly - Contributing Author

David Daly, is an award-winning photographer/writer and licensed (FAA) Commercial sUAS pilot. A graduate of the United States Naval Academy, David is a former Marine Corps officer with a BS in Oceanography and has earned his MBA from the University of Redlands. David has worked for Fortune 100 companies and has a background in aerospace, construction, military/defense, real estate, and technology.

Ready to Integrate Drones Into Your Organization? Contact Us Today to Get Started!

A Short History of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV)

Drones were previously known to be a unreliable and an expensive toys, but in the 1980s that attitude began to change.

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) have been around for centuries and were solely used for military purposes. The earliest recorded use of a UAV dates back to 1849 when the Austrians attacked the Italian city of Venice using unmanned balloons that were loaded with explosives. 

Although balloons would not be considered a UAV today, this was a technology the Austrians had been developing for months before, which led to further advancements. In 1915, British military used aerial photography to their advantage in the Battle of Neuve Chapelle. They were able to capture more than 1,500 sky view maps of the German trench fortifications in the region. 

The United States began developing UAV technology during the First World War in 1916 and created the first pilotless aircraft. Shortly after, the U.S Army built the Kettering Bug. While continuing to develop UAV technology, in 1930 the U.S Navy began experimenting with radio-controlled aircraft resulting in the creation of the Curtiss N2C-2 drone in 1937. During WWII, Reginald Denny created the first remote-controlled aircraft called the Radioplane OQ-2. This was the first massed produced UAV product in the U.S and was a breakthrough in manufacturing and supply drones for the military.

Drones were previously known to be an unreliable and an expensive toy, but in the 1980’s this attitude began to change. The Israeli Air Force’s victory over the Syrian Air Force in 1982 contributed to this change. Israel used both UAVs and manned aircraft to destroy a dozen of Syrian aircraft with minimal losses. 

Further, in the 1980’s, The U.S created the Pioneer UAV Program to fulfil the need for inexpensive and unmanned aircraft for fleet operations. In 1986 a new drone was created from a joint project between the U.S and Israel. The drone was known as RQ2 Pioneer, which was a medium sized reconnaissance aircraft. 

More recently, in 1990 miniature and micro UAVs were introduced and in 2000 the U.S deployed the Predator drone in Afghanistan while searching for Osama Bin Laden. Although many of the most notable drone flights have been for military purposes, technology is continuing to advance and receive more attention. 

In 2014, Amazon proposed using UAVs to deliver packages to customers and some real-estate companies are using drones to shoot promotional videos. The uses of drones will continue to grow in many industries worldwide. 

Check out our short history of unmanned aerial vehicles infographic below (UAVs). 

History of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles - Consortiq 

If you’re looking to bring drones into your organization, we can help you with training, understanding requirements, and we can even do the flying for you!

Complete the form below to get started today!

Shea O'Donnell - Contributing Author

Shea O'Donnell - Contributing Author

Want to Integrate Drones Into Your Organization? Contact Us Today to Get Started!