Drone Delivery Just Around the Corner

The UAV industry has rapidly grown in the last decade.

Commercial drone capabilities, such as LiDAR, seemed like science fiction just ten years ago. Today, however, collecting aerial data and generating a range of useful products has become commonplace.

Significant advancements in design, engineering, and software coding have given drones the power to accomplish much in the last few years. That said, there are some areas in which the platform’s full potential is yet unrealized.

One such application is drone delivery.

 

 

Drone Delivery & Logistics

Professionals in the logistics world spend a great deal of their time on the “last mile problem.”

The digital age allows for many services and products to be accessible instantaneously. Calls, emails, videos, and images are literally at our fingertips whenever we need them. And yet, even with the many advances in technology characteristic of modern societies, this is still not the case for most physical goods.

Once items are shipped from a business to a customer, the logistics of getting those items into often dense population areas efficiently is what the last mile problem refers to. The most important factors in last mile problem solving are route density and drop size.

Route density is the number of drop-off points on a given delivery route. Drop size is the amount of items that can be delivered at each stop.

Each delivery cost will decrease with more drop offs, and with more items delivered per drop off. Many of the largest companies in the world are looking towards drones to help solve this problem.

Google, Amazon, Uber, UPS, DHL, FedEx, and even Domino’s pizza are invested in UAV technology. In fact, one of the first drone deliveries in the world was in 2016 when a Dominos pizza franchise in New Zealand delivered the first pizza via drone. These companies have been very public about the benefits drones potentially bring to their respective businesses and customers.

 

UAS Delivery Regulations & Limitations

There are three reasons why drones have yet to fill the skies with packages and pizzas.

Government regulations, along with poor performance in route density and drop size, are challenges holding back large-scale UAV delivery.

Government regulations that hinder UAV expansion in this area primarily pertain to limitations on commercial drone flights.

Most countries limit commercial drone pilots to flying within the visual line of sight. Regulations also require a human pilot to have control of the drone during flight. Such legal conditions make large-scale drone delivery challenging, if not impossible.

Why Companies Are Still Investing

Fortunately, many of the world’s airspace agencies, such as the FAA and the CAA, are slowly working toward updating these restrictions.

RELATED ARTICLE: EUROPEAN UAS REGULATION FURTHER DELAYED

Several countries currently have trial programs studying how to better manage UAVs in their airspace. Experts in the aviation field believe it is only a matter of time before drones are allowed to autonomously operate around the world.

For route density and drop size, even large operations like Amazon are testing drones that can only deliver one package at a time with a maximum weight of no more than ten pounds. Limitations such as these would make it seem as if drone delivery services will never get off the ground or compete with current methods.

So, why are so many companies still investing heavily in the potential of the service?

Like Amazon, some of the largest investors in the space see these traditional last mile issues as less critical to drones. For example, Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos has pointed out the large number of people who live within ten miles of an Amazon fulfillment center, and that 86% of all products purchased on the site are under five pounds. Other expects believe 44% of all Americans live near fulfillment centers.

If these numbers are true, once government regulations ease up, the reality of 30-minute drone deliveries may be entirely possible.

Incorporating Drone Delivery

It is highly likely that, within the next few years, we will see the full scale of drone delivery services begin to take shape.

If you’re with a company that has problems with last mile challenges, you should take a serious look now at how drone delivery service can integrate into the current and future operations.

As regulations ease and technology continues to improve, drones may become the most efficient means of product delivery.

***

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

Need help developing a safe, compliant, and efficient program? 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.

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

LiDAR and Drone Uses

When it comes to UAV payloads, thermal and Red Green Blue (RGB) cameras get a great deal of attention.

With low price points, the technology is easily accessible to just about everyone. Several standard drone missions, such as three-dimensional mapping, are effortlessly carried out using it. There are, however, limitations to using only these two types of payloads on drones.

Thermal cameras are ideally suited for inspections where temperature variations are the primary data points. Beyond this function they are, by design, limited.

RGB cameras are excellent tools for photogrammetry. While this survey method is accurate and useful in a wide range of applications, it is also not without its limitations. For example, drones with RGB cameras can survey vacant land in preparation for development. In most cases, the images collected can produce precise three-dimensional models and topographic maps that planners will find useful.

However, if this same land were covered in thick, dense vegetation, the RGB camera would fail to give planners any information on the actual earth’s surface. For this type of analysis, RGB and thermal cameras are not the best tools for the job.

What is LiDAR and how does it work?

Invented in 1961 by the Hughes Aircraft Company, LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) is ideal for the type of analysis mentioned above. LiDAR systems consist primarily of three components: a laser, scanner, and a specialized GPS receiver.

LiDAR works by accurately measuring the distance from the drone to the ground. A laser is fired millions of times from the LiDAR scanner towards the ground as the drone flies a predetermined pattern. As each pulse of light is emitted, the exact time the light is fired is recorded. As the light pulse is reflected, the scanner detects the return and again marks the exact time the light returned.

The specialized GPS receiver records the exact position of the sensor throughout this process. An equation that utilizes the constant speed of light generates a slant range for each beam of light fired. When all the data is compiled, millions of points on the ground produce an accurate representation of the earth’s surface and features above it.

The data points are so numerous and so precise that layers of vegetation or other obstacles can be removed to show the topography of the region. One light pulse can generate multiple returns and thus, layer the area being surveyed. The technology has seen successful use in many fields such as disaster response, high precision infrastructure monitoring, and topographic/hydrographic survey.

 

Types of LiDAR for UAS, and the industries that benefit

UAVs use two types of lidar.

For measuring the earth’s surface, topographic LiDAR is ideal. It utilizes a near-infrared laser for mapping land.

The second type — bathymetric LiDAR — is designed for surveying the seafloor and riverbeds. It uses a green laser to penetrate water, but operates on the same principles as described above.

LiDAR systems on UAS provide professionals across many industries the ability to map the earth’s most challenging environments. The level of accuracy spread across millions of data points is particularly beneficial to construction planners, as well as those monitoring utility infrastructures. Hard-to-see features, such as powerlines, are easily identified by LiDAR. These features can also be isolated from other features, aiding in in-depth analysis.

There is perhaps a no better example of the power of LiDAR than in archeology. The incredibly dense jungles of Central America were home to one of the ancient world’s greatest civilizations, the Mayan. The Mayans built vast cities with massive structures. 

After a mysterious decline and disappearance in 900 A. D., many of their cities were swallowed up by the jungle. Dense jungle canopies all but erased many locations. Traditional investigation methods, such as aerial surveys in aircraft, see only vast expanses of the jungle.

However, LiDAR systems on crewed aircraft and drones are revolutionizing what researchers know about the Mayans. LiDAR can remove the vegetation and show what lies underneath. In some cases, its identified previously unknown locations with tens of thousands of structures. LiDAR is helping to expand this ancient civilization’s study in ways that seemed unimaginable just a few years ago.

Bringing it all together

Drones carrying LiDAR payloads are a power tool.

With only a few years of UAV technology and lidar working together, impossible topographic challenges are becoming increasingly simple tasks. For decision makers in construction, utilities, survey, and research, the advantages of UAVs carrying LiDAR are worth further investigation.

Want to know which drone platform works best for your project? Need help with gathering unmanned data or policy development? We’re here to help! 

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.

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

FAA Remote ID System Still a Priority for 2020

During the FAA Drone Advisory Committee’s meeting on June 19, FAA Deputy Administrator Dan Elwell said that the agency expects to issue a final rule on its proposed Remote ID system by December 2020.

Remind me... what's the FAA Remote ID again?

Sure. 

Last December, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) that outlined their intent to require that all but the tiniest drones incorporate tracking technology. The proposed system is designed to enable regulators, law enforcement, and other interested parties to track drone movements and in some cases obtain identifying information for any drone operating in the national airspace.

That sounds burdensome.

Consortiq has made the case that the proposed system, in its current state, is far from optimal for many reasons, and numerous industry stakeholders have denounced the system as overly complex, infeasible, and intrusive.

But, proponents argue that not having a comprehensive drone identification and tracking system has been a long-standing barrier to drone innovation. For instance, Wing, Zipline, Amazon, UPS, and a host of other companies, have sought permission to develop drone delivery solutions. But, regulations haven’t allowed it, in part due to law enforcement agency concerns about unidentified drones being used for terrorism, drug smuggling, or other crimes.

As a result, most drone delivery solutions have been limited to proof-of-concept projects in specific areas, such as testing corridors or university campuses. In other words, implementing a way to identify and track any drone at any time could help assuage those concerns and open the door for more advanced UAS solutions.

So, by giving authorities better visibility, UAS operators might get permission to do more?

That’s the idea.

The optimist’s view is that the remote system ID is an important step in creating an Unmanned Aircraft System Traffic Management System (UTM) that is scalable to the national airspace. Critics argue that the system’s rollout is going to be slow, painful, and ultimately not successful, which means it will delay, not catalyze, the development of a UTM.

How will it work?

The proposed regulation divides drones into two categories: standard remote identification and limited remote identification. 

Standard remote identification drones will broadcast Remote ID signals using the radio frequency spectrum and transmit them over an internet connection. These drones will be permitted to fly anywhere a small UAS is allowed to under other applicable regulations, such as Part 107 of the Federal Aviation Regulations. 

Meanwhile, limited remote identification drones will only transmit the required elements over the internet, but cannot broadcast over the air. These drones will be limited to VLOS operations, and the FAA will require the manufacturer to limit such drones to fly within 400 feet of the operator.

In other words, both have to ping information about their aircraft and whereabouts to Identification UAS Service Suppliers, companies chosen by the FAA to gather and manage the tracking information.

Goodbye, privacy...

That is a valid concern.

Note that operators will have the option to randomly-generated alphanumeric code assigned by a Remote ID USS on a per-flight basis, if they want additional privacy. And, remember that drones themselves are widely seen as a threat to privacy.

Unfortunately, drone operators don’t have a lot of bargaining power on this one.

OK, but what about operations where there’s limited connectivity? 

According to page 94 of the NPRM, a standard remote identification UAS that loses connection to the internet, or that can no longer transmit to a Remote ID USS after takeoff, would be able to continue its flight, as long as it continues broadcasting the message elements.

It is true, however, that limited remote identification drones cannot take off without an internet connection.

Unfortunately, drone operators don’t have a lot of bargaining power on this one.

Will this require an expensive upgrade? 

The NPRM (page 89) states that “the FAA reviewed UAS registered to part 107 operators and found 93% of the existing part 107 UAS fleet may have technical capabilities to be retrofit based on information received by industry (i.e., could support software updates through the internet).” 

That’s because most drones have internet and WiFi connectivity, ability to transmit data, receive software uploads, and have radio frequency transceivers, among other technology such as advanced microprocessors.

However, the new system will likely create barriers for recreational operators, STEM programs at universities, and other drone operators that tend to use older or less advanced equipment.

So, when will this get implemented?

The proposal envisions that within three years of the effective date of approval, all UAS operating in the airspace of the United States will be compliant with the remote identification requirements. 

There have been numerous predictions that the FAA’s timeline would be disrupted due to issues caused by the coronavirus pandemic, but if Elwell’s statements prove true, and the FAA does approve the system by the end of 2021, their proposal outlines the following implementation schedule.

  • In 2021, the focus would be on creating a system to connect standard remote identification UAS and limited remote identification UAS to a Remote ID USS.
  • In 2022, manufacturers would begin to produce inventory with remote identification for availability to operators by year 3.
  • In 2023, operators would finally have to start buying the necessary equipment to be compliant with the new system by the end of the year.

In short, even if the schedule is adhered to, nothing is going to change in the short term, and as long as you stay up to date on things as they evolve, you shouldn’t be sidelined by anything major.

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!

UAS Night Operations: Are You Still in the Dark?

Lessons Learned – Part 2 of 4

A series of insights brought to you by the Consortiq team

I’m seeing a lot of good advice from people in the unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) industry.

They’re advising operators to take advantage of any down time they may have during these unprecedented times. One of the most prevalent bits of advice offered is to spend some time applying for waivers/exemptions to help expand your business when things get back to normal. 

In the United States, one of the most popular options is the Part 107.29 Daylight Operation waiver for UAS night operations, with just under 4,000 issued, as of April 22.

So, why would you want to operate a drone at night?  Why do you need a “waiver,” or permission? And, how do you get one? 

In this edition of “Lessons Learned,” I’ll share the insights I gleaned from the process of gaining that waiver.

Why would you want UAS night flight permission?

One of the more commonly publicized and discussed applications of UAS night use is in support of first responders. And, it’s easy to understand why. 

Here’s a closer look at how these tools can be used at night:

First Responder Services

Generally speaking, emergencies tend to occur at unpredictable times. That said, first responders must be able to operate in all conditions, and under any circumstances. 

Perhaps an emergency arises in which they need to  locate a person or make an assessment of an area during the night. The ability to augment a search-and-rescue mission, provide situational awareness in conjunction with law enforcement, or assist in a rescue or natural disaster operation at night may be desired … and even necessary.

Thermal Sensor Inspections

Many uses of thermal sensors benefit and, in some cases require, use at night. Not specifically due to the lack of light, but because the temperatures of objects change once the sun goes down. 

Although I’ve used them for quite a while — specifically in piloting group 3 UAS during my military deployment — it wasn’t until recently that I had formal training with thermal sensors. 

While attending a FLIR-hosted UAS thermography course, I began to understand how the time of day, or night, affects the accuracy and efficiencies of thermal sensors. 

For example, performing a roof inspection for water penetration requires a certain set of environment conditions. It isn’t simply a fact of waiting for the sun to go down – you need to allow time for the various materials to emit the heat they absorbed from the sun during the day. If you intend on offering this type of service, a daylight waiver for UAS night operations is almost mandatory.

Cinematography Services

A couple of my friends pilot UAS for large movie and TV productions. 

As you can imagine, a lot of these shots must be taken at night for artistic and storytelling purposes. Of course, if your target market includes that type of clientele, you likely wouldn’t get much business without the ability to operate at night.

News/Media Services

Like first responders services, news and media coverage requires a reactionary response.

News happens all of the time, and the event you may be called upon to cover is very likely to occur at night. Whether you operate full-time or exploring a freelance role in the news and media industry,  night operations will certainly come up at some point.

Creating Your UAS Night Operations Plan

Are you able to make a case for requiring any of the above-listed services? 

Even if you think you might have a need for any of these types of operations in the future, you would be well justified in applying for a daylight waiver. 

So, let’s say you’ve made the decision to add UAS night operations to your quiver. What’s next? 

Basically, it comes down to two action items, in this order:

1. Deciding how you will operate safely at night, and

2. getting permission from the FAA for UAS night operation. 

Now, you could reverse the process and attempt to get approval beforehand but, in the end, you will still have to address the first item. Thus, creating a night operation safety plan first will make the next step much easier.

So, if you go down the route of a copy/paste waiver submission — using someone else’s verbiage or simply paying a service for someone to create your application — you will have additional and potentially more troublesome work during the planning phase.

Here is my recommendation:

First, visit the FAA waivers sections on the administration’s website. It offers a lot of great  information. With a quick search, you’ll even find a sample “approved” daylight-operation submission. 

Personally, I found the waiver safety explanation guidelines most helpful. 

In fact, I used this information to craft Consortiq’s own night operations section for our operations manual. I didn’t use it strictly as bullet points for my submission. Instead, once the policy was created, I used that to craft my submission. 

*Pro Tip: Take a look at the waiver submission page/form before you start this process. One thing I learned was that you are limited to the amount of information you can enter into the online form. I crafted my submission document with the intent of copy/pasting it into that provided form. Unfortunately, it was 15,000 characters over the limit! For that reason, I had to spend extra time condensing and editing it. I felt as if I lost valuable and crucial operational safety information. Inevitably, on the next page I discovered that you’re able to upload entire documents, regardless of size, prior to submitting your application.

Woman flying drone - uas night operation

Considerations when crafting your night operations procedures

Our procedure is broken down into three basic areas: Training, operations, and hardware

All of which were important to the waiver application. The FAA provides solid information on the training aspect. For example, it explains how low light affects visual acuity and some of the phenomena you can expect to experience while operating at night, specifically in an aviation setting. 

Be sure you pay attention to the bullet points of the specific training the FAA looks for as well as the record keeping aspect. Consider adding in additional requirements such as recurring training and currency requirements.

How to implement procedures

This should simply be an addendum to your existing operational procedures in your operations manual.

Related: Need Help Writing Your UAS Operations Manual? We’ve Got You Covered!

One important thing to keep in mind is that your night operation procedures should not have to re-state all of your existing procedures. For example, you don’t need a section about your standard weather assessment. Just because you are following a specific set of procedures for night operation, your other procedures still apply. 

Use a statement such as, “These night operations procedures do not override the necessity of reviewing and complying with any existing, new, or amended company policy or procedure or any content published in the Federal Register by the Federal Government of the United States, the appropriate National Aviation Authorities, or any local/state regulations where RPIC intends to operate.” 

This should help you focus on the necessary information, and keep you from getting derailed by trying to cover everything related to your other procedures. Remember, this  document is devoted to night-operation-specific topics. 

Pro Tip: Using the terms, “when feasible,” or “when doing so will reduce risk,” can help show that you are aware of certain risks, and that you will do all that you can to mitigate those risks without pigeonholing you into a process that may not always be necessary.

Naturally, as you are crafting the above-listed topics, hardware should come to mind as you consider factors such as mitigation. As you identify risk mitigation and the items necessary to meet regulatory requirements, you may come to find that a daylight waiver comes with certain financial impacts. 

Now, keep in mind that, just because you attest that you will use certain hardware during your operation, it doesn’t mean you must have these items when you submit your application. You only need them when you conduct an operation. 

In our case, the cost of additional hardware was minimal. However, this may vary, depending on the platforms you intend to use. 

The anti-collision light is something that immediately comes to mind. But, make sure to also consider other items, such as handheld lights, that don’t impact night vision. Then, think about communication between the crew. 

Maybe you specified that, as a backup, everyone will have access to a two-way radio? You’ll be surprised with the amount of additional items that come to mind as you create your night operations safety plan.

Now, it’s time to get that daylight waiver. 

The process is free, and it can help you generate more jobs and revenue. And, if you need support along the way, we’re here to help!

John Fernandez - Americas Training Manager - Consortiq

John Fernandez - Americas Training Manager - Consortiq

Prior to coming to Consortiq full-time, John worked as a contractor for a leading US based UAS flight controller manufacturer, where he provided product support for civilian and government customers as well as flight testing and project management of new products and features. John has served as a civilian police officer in positions including criminal investigator, narcotics investigator, SWAT operator, and organized crime investigator.

After leaving civilian law enforcement, John deployed to Kosovo and Jordan as a law enforcement instructor (firearms, democratic policing, etc.) in support of Department of State and Department of Justice operations. John also has an extensive background in information technology and has worked for several Fortune 500 IT companies.

John has approximately 10 years of UAS operations experience, which includes a deployment to Afghanistan as a UAS pilot for the NAVAIR Copperhead anti-IED program with over 1100 hrs flight time on the Tigershark platform. John has delivered courses on behalf of Consortiq for 3 years to include clients from the energy sector, US Government, prime defense contractors, military, public service, and various other clients. His experience ranges from small UASs up to Group 3 UAVs.

John holds an FAA-authorized Remote Pilot Certificate with sUAS rating (“Part 107 Certificate”) and holds a 14 CFR § 107.29—Daylight operation CoW, is a Level 1 sUAS certified Infrared Thermographer, a Certified AUVSI TOP Level 3 Remote Pilot Instructor and is a CAA authorized UAS operator in the UK.

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

Thermal Imaging: A Colorful Introduction

Lessons Learned – Part 1 of 4

A series of insights brought to you by the Consortiq team

To understand thermal imaging and its applicability in our world, we need to start with the key question:  What is a thermal sensor?  

To understand this, we need to look at some basic – but quantum – physics. 

In essence, we can see because light reflects off an object. That light then enters the eye where rods and cones (receptors) on the back of the eye collect the inputs, and send them to the brain to be processed via the visual pathway. 

Therefore, we can ‘see’ this light, as it becomes visible.

However, “visible” light makes up a small part of the much broader electromagnetic spectrum illustrated here: 

Thermal Imaging Spectrum - Consortiq

Thermal imaging image courtesy of wikipedia on a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

All of these differing wavelengths — from very long waves, such as radio, to very short waves, such as gamma radiation (the shorter the wavelength the more frequently they arrive, hence low to high frequency) — make up the entire spectrum range.   

The key fact in all of this is that, of the entire electromagnetic spectrum, only 0.0035% is the light we actually see – “visible” light.

Thermal Sensors

So, back to thermal sensors. 

They’re capable of ‘seeing’ electromagnetic radiation in the infrared band of the spectrum. Infrared radiation is closely linked to the temperature of the object, so there is a correlation between the object’s temperature and the electromagnetic radiation it emits. 

As that object’s heat increases, it emits higher frequencies on the spectrum until it enters the visible light band and glows red hot.

To get technical, everything has a natural ‘emissivity’ level. In other words, objects have varying levels of effectiveness as it pertains to emitting thermal energy as thermal radiation. 

A thermal sensor uses those levels of emissivity to create a picture. By assigning colors or shades to different thermal radiation values, you get the familiar thermal image.

Photo By Passivhaus Institute | Image used with permission under the GFDL.

It’s not true to say that a thermal camera can measure the temperature of an object, per se. It’s possible, but only if the camera is set up and calibrated correctly. Additionally, the emissivity values for the substance being measured must be known. 

Simply put, if you know that steel has an emissivity value of “X” at a given temperature, then you can calibrate your system so that, when it ‘sees’ that emissivity value on a steel object, it displays that temperature value. However, if you use the sensor on something other than steel without recalibrating it, the system will display an incorrect temperature reading.

Now, thermal sensors are very good at displaying temperature differentials… not necessarily by amount, but they do show that there is a difference. 

By adjusting the scale — or gain — you can make these differences even more evident, which is particularly useful for certain types of surveys. 

Recent: Drones in Oil and Gas: Safe, Fast, Effective

For example, electrical components that are heating differently to the same component under the same load elsewhere may be indicative of a fault. Moisture leakage may give an artificially cooler result than would be expected.

The proper use of thermal sensors can provide greater insight into a survey area than just a visual inspection, but interpreting the resulting data is crucial. Unlike a visual inspection, there is much analysis that can be done with thermal imagery if captured in a radiometric format.

In effect, this is capturing the thermal data in what a photographer may refer to as “raw footage.”  The ‘picture’ is therefore not just an image, but an accumulation of data. That data can then be manipulated and analyzed to produce a detailed analysis of the properties of the area, item or, indeed, building which has been surveyed.  

Andy Huggett - EMEA Training Manager - Consortiq

Andy Huggett - EMEA Training Manager - Consortiq

Andy served in the British Army prior to becoming a law enforcement officer with Sussex Police for 30 years. Always on the operations side of policing (traffic, firearms, dogs, helicopter unit, etc.), he was also part of a General Aviation Team countering terrorism.

As an emergency response drone pilot for Sussex and Surrey Police, he undertook many differing roles piloting the police drones. He founded his own drone services company prior to leaving the police and, upon retirement, worked full time in this role.

Consortiq contracted Andy to deliver the UK-based Unmanned Aircraft Qualification as a freelance instructor. Subsequently, he moved into a full-time role at Consortiq as the Training Manager with responsibility for Europe, Middle East and Africa. Andy holds both CAA and FAA qualifications for fixed wing and multi-rotor aircraft.

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

Debunking the Myth About Drones

Why drone technology represents an achievable competitive edge for your company – and is no longer just for blue-sky thinkers.

Let’s be clear about one thing. Drones are not just for enthusiasts – they’re also for serious business.

But there are a few preconceptions that may be holding companies back from exploiting their full potential, and with all the disinformation circulating in the media
this is no surprise. So, we thought it was time to dispel a few of the myths.

Myth #1: Drone Technology is Still in Its Infancy

It may seem this way – but this is largely because businesses are only now becoming aware of the possibilities of using UAS
(unmanned aircraft systems). 

Behind the scenes, drone technology has been maturing and is now in use across a range of industries.

BP was a notable pioneer when, in June 2014, after years of testing (and, one would assume, lobbying) it gained FAA approval to fly drones across its Prudhoe Bay oilfields to monitor and maintain its oil pipeline infrastructure. It has since been adopted – and adapted – by many diverse sectors, from insurance and infrastructure to emergency services and the media. The number of drone-based patents being granted has risen exponentially in recent years; at the same time, economies of scale have caused the cost of the aircraft themselves to plummet.

Yet, while the hardware gets cheaper, the overall value of drone-based business worldwide remains staggering.

In a 2016 report, PWC analyzed the potential of addressable markets, taking into account the cost of labor and services that are potentially replaced by UAS – and estimated that the total addressable value of drone-powered solutions in all applicable industries was over $127 billion.

To say drone technology is in its infancy is inaccurate. If we continue the human metaphor, drone technology has grown up, gone to college, graduated from business school and is now out there in the workplace.

And, everyone wants to hire them.

Myth #2: Drone Technology is Risky

The truth is that most things worth doing come with risk attached.

But, in business, everyone knows that it’s not about eliminating risk (because you can’t) but reducing it, managing it, controlling it – and assessing the risk/reward ratio.

This is another indication of the maturity of the drone industry – or rather, the regulatory environment that surrounds it. For decades, governments and aviation authorities have been assessing its viability and safety, and they’ve refined the regulatory conditions in which drones must operate – which in turn provides a reliable framework that enables investing companies to quantify risk.

Our background at Consortiq is firmly in the aviation world, and we are reassured by the fact that drone regulations are based on the same analysis used for commercial, manned aircraft.

Research shows that much of public concern over drone usage centers on fears over the activities of unregistered private operators. Years of discussion, negotiation, expert analysis and risk assessment has given us a framework that makes drone operation as proportionately regulated as commercial aviation.

The drone industry is keen to work with regulatory authorities, and the uptake in registered operator licenses bears this out. As of March 2020, over 1.5 million drones were registered by the FAA – 441,709 of which are commercial drones. Similarly, in the UK, the CAA reports that around 2,700 businesses hold a “Permission for Commercial Operation,” 
with any number of pilots operating under each license.

In short, UAS are the tools of an expert, accredited and highly regulated industry. As with any technology, the risk of investing in it is down to the investor and outside the control of the industry. But for its part, the UAS industry can offer reassurance to investors that drone operation is expertly and responsibly managed in accordance with robust aviation industry rules.

“Drones have brought a creative step-change to the media industry in a remarkably short time.”

Michael Surcombe, Ex-BBC innovation Tweet

Myth #3: Drone Development is Driven By the Military, Not By Business

This is a myth – but a fascinating back story, nonetheless.

Being able to guide a weapon-carrying or reconnaissance aircraft BVLOS (beyond visual line of sight) is clearly a compelling advantage for any military. Yet, the military development of drones should not be confused with commercial drone development, because the two parties come from different angles.

Steeped in a tradition of airborne warfare, military drone developers are effectively starting from the desire to make existing machines pilot-less. They already have a thorough understanding of how military aircraft can be deployed for tactical and strategic advantage, and have worked to use remote control technology to recreate this but without putting personnel at risk.

The developers of commercial drones, however, had no such heritage. Drones were entirely new and were driven principally by the same technological advancements that drove mobile phones: the miniaturization of components, the improvement in battery life, the development of digital photography etc.

While the bigger picture is complex, in truth, commercial drones have more in common with your smartphone than they do with their air force namesakes.

GVC Drone Training in London - Drone Solutions - Consortiq

Myth #4: Drone Pilots are Expensive, Specialists, and in Short Supply

The worry is understandable.

Tech industries have a long history of being at the mercy of a small group of skilled professionals who could name their price (remember the first HTML programmers, the first SEO specialists?). If you are thinking of investing in drone technology, the last thing you need is the worry of a skills shortage in the critical area of drone operation.

But the answer is in the term: Operator.

Drones are not flown in the same way that model aircraft are flown, they are operated. You do not need to be a “ninja” drone pilot since drone operators are not necessarily flying the aircraft, they are in charge of the mission.

So, rather than fly the drones hands-on, the operator tells the aircraft where it should go; a fundamental difference – yet the operator still needs to be accountable for their actions. Training is, therefore, a key part of any investment, but there is unlikely to be a shortage.

In the United States, 1,055 drone pilot licenses (aka Part 107 licenses), on average, were issued each day in 2019. With numbers like that, it will not be a specialist skill that commands an expensive salary.

Instead, the trick will be designing the system that suits the application – the drone system that solves your commercial problem in the most effective way.

Myth #5: Drone Technology is All About Aerial Photography

We’ve all seen the beautiful aerial shots used in movies, ads and TV shows.

But, while aerial photography is perhaps the most obvious commercial application for UAS, enhancing the creative product while reducing costs, it is only one of many.

  • The infrastructure sector – roads, energy, oil & gas etc. – is using drones to monitor geographically distributed networks of assets for maintenance and inventory management purposes.
  • The transport and logistics industry uses them to deliver goods, notably medicines or time-critical items.
  • The insurance sector is using drones to prevent fraud and to more accurately assess risks (such as vulnerability to natural disasters).
  • Agriculture can use them to spray crops, security services use them for surveillance.
  • And, telecommunications companies use UAS as a highly effective extension to their networks (as well as a way to monitor the physical state of network assets that cannot be easily accessed otherwise).


Whether drones are delivering a payload, collecting data, or simply replacing personnel, they are providing commercial advantage in almost every conceivable sector.

Drone – What’s in a name?

In his 2008 book, “Unmanned Aerial Vehicles,” the military historian Steven Zaloga, explained how a remote control aircraft codenamed Queen Bee was designed by the British Navy in 1935 for target practice. The US military saw the craft demonstrated and decided to pursue their own development – and adopted the name ‘drone’ for later incarnations, in homage to the original Queen Bee.

Myth #6: The Future Cost of a Drone-Based Strategy is Unpredictable

It’s new and exciting. But, does that really mean that it’s unpredictable?

Most companies investing in drone technology today do  not see it as an open-ended investment. On the contrary, they see it as an open-ended opportunity.

The reason is that the competitive advantage of using UAS is only achieved when it is done at scale. Shareholders are not interested in niche deployments; the real game players are the ones who “uberize” their industry by leveraging new methods on a scale that makes a fundamental difference to the bottom line.

As a result, the investment decision right now is not about scale, it’s about proof of concept. Most companies do not know exactly how UAS will be deployed, but they know there will be opportunities in the future – and the companies best placed to exploit the opportunities will be those who got involved early.

So, the initial investment in testing and preparing to deploy drone technology will result in greater certainty in the future when you prepare to scale – because you will be ready to do in a shorter time-frame and gain real advantage over slower-moving competitors.

Myth #7: The Potential of Drone Technology Will Be Swallowed Up By a Mass of Regulations

There are plenty of scare stories about drones.

The media loves to speculate wildly when unlicensed drones enter commercial airspace, for example, and governments and aviation authorities have been busily developing the legal and regulatory framework for drone operation to prevent such events happening.

But regulations will not stifle commercial drone use for two reasons. First, as mentioned previously, the regulations and licensing requirements in place are designed to reduce any risk attached to the commercial use of UAS, which is an advantage to any organization considering using the technology. Second, and perhaps more importantly, there is great pressure on governments to provide clear regulations in order to encourage drone companies to base their operations in their country.

With an estimated value of $127 billion, the drone market is very tempting and every national government wants its slice of the pie. 

Drone flying in the sky - debunking the myths about drones - Consortiq

Myth #8: Drones Will Take Over the World

Let’s be honest here.

As suppliers to the drone industry, we must declare something of an interest in its success. But, we also believe that our interests – and yours – are best served by being realistic. So, when we see scaremongering reports about drones becoming omnipresent, a sky filled with crisscrossing unmanned deliveries and data-gathering UAVs, we feel we should also point out the limitations of drone technology – and why many of these reports are exaggerated.

In the field of delivery, for example, the drone-based delivery model is in competition with the established delivery infrastructure on the ground. In many cases, this is beneficial to using drones. Drones are likely to be preferred in situations where:

  • Delivery items are small/lightweight
  • Delivery times are critical (e.g. medical supplies)
  • The alternative infrastructure is weak (e.g. poor roads, such as in less developed countries).

But, while the use of UAVs is a breakthrough in the above scenarios, and can offer enormous benefits, this is not always the case. Deliveries of certain items in developed countries may be best served by ground based autonomous vehicles or emerging disruptive logistics infrastructure. It’s simply cheaper and easier.

But anything is possible! In other situations, it may simply be easier to use traditional ground-based infrastructure (but don’t forget that autonomous vehicles are disrupting the market here too).

In Summary

The arrival of proven drone technology for commercial use is an extraordinary development, and one that promises so much potential.

It is also unusual that, in a world of software- and data-driven disruption, it is the physical nature of drones – their ability to fly – that makes them so compelling.

And, it is a metaphor that holds true for the businesses that are thinking of how to use drones for their own commercial benefit. They too need to go somewhere new in their thinking – to take a different view of their industry and the way their businesses work. It is only by taking that different perspective that the opportunities will reveal themselves, in the same way that the bigger picture can only truly be seen from the air.

Yet, we also hope that this information has helped to clarify some of the detail. Preconceptions abound in the world of drones and we hope we have helped you to see more clearly why some of those preconceptions are unhelpful, and that the transformational effect of drones on your business may be easier to achieve than you previously thought.

Ready to introduce drone technology into your organization? We’re ready to help you with training, consulting, operations manual creation, and understanding regulations, no matter where you are in the world. Complete the form below to get started today!

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When to Use Remote Sensor Platforms (ROV)

Lessons Learned - Part 4

A series of insights brought to you by the Consortiq team

Can remotely operated vehicles (ROV) improve unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) operations? 

Yes, UAS, otherwise known as drones, are technically ROVs, but the term ROV often pertains to underwater or land-based platforms. 

So how can these platforms be used with, or instead of, UAS?

At Consortiq, we focus on UAS training and consulting. Many of our clients are well-diversified, thus they conduct various tasks that require innovative approaches. 

Some of these tasks are better suited to UAS because of efficiency, cost saving, and safety concerns. That said, when a client presents us with a pain-point in their operations, we instinctively look for a UAS solution. 

Recently, though, that’s changed. Now, we look for innovative solutions that use ROVs. 

Here are a few specific conversations that prompted this change in approach.

Remote Sensor Vehicle (ROV) Inspection of a dam
Unmanned dam inspection - Consortiq

Using a Ground-Based ROV

While providing flight training to a large company, our staff was given an overview of some of the nearby infrastructures. 

The clients explained how they used their then-current UAS fleet to inspect the transmission and distribution lines. The also mentioned that they use UAS for dam inspections, and explained the importance of looking for surface issues, such as cracks and erosion. 

They wished that their system would allow them to look for erosion under the concrete spillways. Because unknown leaks cause the earth underneath the concrete to erode to the point at which the structure fails, without visible evidence, it’s difficult to identify the issue before it becomes a greater problem. 

The solution, under those circumstances, was to use Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) to look for the voids underneath the concrete. Although there have been some operations using GPR on a UAS, it still has a lot of limitations. So, the thought was to use the standard application of GPR, which is a type of cart that someone would push or pull across the ground. 

The problem was the grade of the areas in need of inspection. It would be difficult, at best, and too hazardous for a person to try and operate the conventional system in that environment. 

Yes, remotely operated GPR systems exist. However, they’re fairly bulky, and not really conducive to steep grades. 

The situation reminded me of a presentation I attended once, which chronicled a proof-of-concept test of GPR with an ROV for a similar application. It used a tracked ROV that was low and wide, and a tether could be attached to it for use on very steep grades. That was the perfect solution for problem at hand, and it didn’t involve a UAS.

Another client with which we work has a large amount of chemical production sites. 

They use UAS for the standard visual and infrared (IR) inspections, and they mainly focus on corrosion, damage, and compliance. The majority of their structures are open and accessible to UAS, and it’s a perfect use case for reducing cost and exposure to risk while increasing efficiency. 

In one specific case, for one of their devices, a recurring inspection would have cost upward of $500K due to downtime manpower needs, and the cost of erecting the scaffolding required. For that situation, using UAS made sense. 

That operation was so successful that the client asked for a similar solution related to a container, which also required recurring inspections. Cost-wise, the situation was similar because decontamination was required prior to human entry. 

So, we’d use a UAS, right? 

It was possible. However, it’d be challenging. 

The container included internal structures, so it wasn’t just an open void. And, along with additional complexities, this was a GPS-denied environment, so we needed to use an additional platform. 

Sure, it could be done. There are specialized UAS made specifically for that type of use. But, we wanted to find a way to get it done for less money and with minimal risk. We decided to, again, use a ground based, tethered ROV with a mast-mounted sensor. 

Using an Underwater ROV

The same client who needed a solution for its container had another challenge. 

Some of the organization’s infrastructure was located under water, and the team needed a way to get temperature measurements and general inspection photos. They tried using IR on a UAS, that didn’t work. Thus, we offered the idea of an underwater ROV (UROV). 

Underwater ROV
Example of an underwater ROV

 

In recent years, UROVs have really advanced. Entry level systems now cost less than $1,000. Granted, the industrial systems with expanded abilities cost much more. But now, at least, they’re more attainable for simpler tasks. 

And, it’s much easier to ask for a $500 proof-of-concept project budget than it is to request $100K to fix a major issue.

Bringing It All Together

There are many other ingenious ways to use ROVs in addition to, and including, the ones I outlined. 

Every time we’re presented with a problem a client needs to solve, we step back and think about which platform is the best to use, as opposed to trying to make their specific platform work as the solution. 

Also, there may be times when a UAS is the best option but, it’s not feasible due to regulatory requirements. That’s when an ROV, while not the preferred solution, might be the best one.

Need help creating the best drone solution for your business? We’re here for you! 

Contact us today by completing the form below.

John Fernandez - Training Manager Americas, Consortiq

John Fernandez - Training Manager Americas, Consortiq

Prior to coming to Consortiq full-time, John worked as a contractor for a leading US based UAS flight controller manufacturer, where he provided product support for civilian and government customers as well as flight testing and project management of new products and features. John has served as a civilian police officer in positions including criminal investigator, narcotics investigator, SWAT operator, and organized crime investigator.

After leaving civilian law enforcement, John deployed to Kosovo and Jordan as a law enforcement instructor (firearms, democratic policing, etc.) in support of Department of State and Department of Justice operations. John also has an extensive background in information technology and has worked for several Fortune 500 IT companies.

John has approximately 10 years of UAS operations experience, which includes a deployment to Afghanistan as a UAS pilot for the NAVAIR Copperhead anti-IED program with over 1100 hrs flight time on the Tigershark platform. John has delivered courses on behalf of Consortiq for 3 years to include clients from the energy sector, US Government, prime defense contractors, military, public service, and various other clients. His experience ranges from small UASs up to Group 3 UAVs.

John holds an FAA-authorized Remote Pilot Certificate with sUAS rating (“Part 107 Certificate”) and holds a 14 CFR § 107.29—Daylight operation CoW, is a Level 1 sUAS certified Infrared Thermographer, a Certified AUVSI TOP Level 3 Remote Pilot Instructor and is a CAA authorized UAS operator in the UK.

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