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!

How Total Uses Drones to Enhance Oil & Gas Operations

Using drones within the oil & gas sector isn’t always about inspection and surveying.

The number of applications are limitless, especially within an industry that has multiple sectors. All three major sectors (upstream, downstream and midstream) utilise UAV technology to assist with becoming carbon neutral; to reduce emission; and to become smarter & greener whilst enhancing preventative measures to reduce the total environmental cost. 

The major and super-major players all understand that they don’t always have the answers. However, they’re also receptive to new technology. But, the tech and subject-matter experts need to demonstrate the issue it will solve and the value it will bring.

Earlier this year at the Oil and Gas IoT Summit in Lisbon, it was stated that ‘the O&G industry needs new leaders from Generation X, and they need them now’ – citing that the major companies are being shown up by other large organisations, such as Google and Amazon, due to their lack of willingness to adopt new tech and their level of data understanding. 

RELATED ARTICLE: DRONES IN OIL & GAS – SAFE, FAST, EFFECTIVE

So, how can UAS technology be used to bridge the gap between implementing new tech from smaller organisations and improving the collection of data, regularly, repeatedly and reliably? 

The Case of Total: Drones and Data Acquisition

Total, one of the supermajor oil companies in the world, has been pushing these boundaries within this space for over five years. 

Total has their Multiphysics Exploration Technology Integrated System (METIS®), a system that aims to improve the quality and speed of data acquisition through real-time quality control and processing. An example of this uses autonomous drones and a ground vehicle to drop off and retrieve seismic sensors without human intervention.

METIS® technology is said to reduce the environmental footprint for onshore exploration and appraisal campaigns in harsh environments — such as the desert — which are tough on people and equipment.

Total focused on innovating seismic acquisition data back in 2016 to minimise surface impact of petroleum activities and improve the quality of sub-surface images. 

Smaller organisations ultimately help crunch the data,  produce ‘digital twins,’ or plan for preventative maintenance using software where the data has been collected by multiple means, including drone technology. These companies all work together to enable the oil and gas giants to reduce their total environmental cost. 

Another application that Total has been working on is HELPER, which stands for Human, Environment & Life Protection Emergency Response. It claims to be the world’s first autonomous multitasking drone dedicated to safety at sea, which can be deployed as a ‘local’ solution for responding immediately, 24/7. The specifications could give a manned aircraft a run for its money! 

Integrating Drone Technology into Your Business

Consortiq has first hand experience of being there for oil & gas companies who are attempting to explore new ways of using drone technology.

Recently, we trained a team in the United States to assist them in capturing the health of their seismic nodal sensors, similarly to Total. These sensors are out in oil and gas fields across the globe and, traditionally, this would have been a manual task of vehicles and people collecting the same data. The process is  labour-intensive, and it comes with high overhead costs. 

Around two-thirds of the world’s daily oil production comes from mature fields, and around 80% of these fields are located in the Middle East and North Africa. Understanding how to collect seismic data efficiently is important to oil and gas extraction and transportation, especially in the Middle East, where in this area alone has had 751 earthquakes over the past calendar year. Reducing time spent in receiving the data or understanding device status/health in an environment like this could save organisations thousands of dollars per year. 

From our experience, Consortiq believes that any organisation should be open to new ideas, share best practices within industry, embrace new ways, say “yes”  to new tech, and listen to the smaller companies. As it’s said, ‘if everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.’

About Consortiq

We are made up of experienced and passionate aviation and training professionals with both civil and military flying and ATM experience. As a UK CAA National Qualified Entity (NQE), soon to be a Recognised Assessment Entity (RAE), and an AUVSI Trusted Operator Programme (TOP) Level 3 organisation, we have a proven history of excellence in training and consultancy services. Safety is at the heart of everything we do.

Consortiq is the Unmanned Air Systems (UAS) division of The Diplomat Group of Companies (TDG), a 40-year-old company providing innovative logistics and transportation solutions to governments, commercial companies and NGO’s globally. Consortiq helps organizations throughout the world innovate with a specific focus on utilisation of UAS. We combine consulting, internationally-recognised, award-winning training and Drone as a Service (DaaS) model to enable our clients to safely scale their UAS operations from proof of concept to program roll out.

Consortiq maintains offices in the United States and the United Kingdom, and our clients are worldwide including the US, UK, South Africa, Canada, Ireland, Eastern Europe and South America. We also have support from the TDG Offices in Dubai, Djibouti, Somalia and other locations around the world.

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

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!

Texas Railroad Commission to use Drones

The Railroad Commission (RRC) of Texas has launched a statewide drone inspection program designed to help inspectors quickly inspect oil and gas sites that are made inaccessible during emergencies.

RRC Executive Director Wei Wang says that the program has massive potential to enable safer and faster data gathering in critical situations, which could be a big win for residents and the environment.

What counts as an “emergency?”

The RRC’s definition for emergencies requiring drone use is broad and includes hazardous leaks and spills, as well as fires, flooding, and other natural disasters – pretty much anything that makes a site inaccessible.

And, as the COVID-19 pandemic sweeps Texas, RRC representatives have also stated that drones may supplement or substitute traditional inspections to reduce inspectors’ risk of infection.

How much action have they gotten so far?

The RRC drone inspection team’s first emergency response was on April 28, following reports of a flood in Reeves County, west of Midland.

Due to the flooding, the road to the affected area was underwater, drone data gathering was the safest and most efficient option. And, at the end of May, the RCC performed a drone inspection near Portland, Tx. to confirm that a two-mile portion of a nearby creek didn’t have any signs of impact from oil or gas waste.

How big is the Texas Railroad Commission drone program?

Not a lot has been released about the program.

But, what we do know is that it consists of eight drones, with a total of 19 inspectors in the agency’s oil and gas and surface mining and reclamation divisions have received remote pilot certification from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Which drone platforms are being used?

According to the RCC, six DJI Mavic 2 Dual Enterprise Edition drones and two Mavic 2 Enterprise Zoom drones are being operated using the DroneSense platform.

Have there been any privacy concerns?

Nothing notable so far.

But, the RRC has been reminding landowners and oil companies that their inspectors use drones only for statutorily-authorized purposes, and that they can be identified as RCC inspectors by white vehicles that are marked with the agency’s logo and Texas exempt license plates.

Inspectors also carry Railroad Commission identification cards that landowners can verify by calling district offices.

Where is the program headed?

The future of drone use by the RRC will be heavily influenced by who gets elected to be the RRC’s next commissioners (there are three of them).

Primary winner Chrysta Castañeda says that the RRC needs to improve emissions accountability in the oil and gas industry and that, if elected commissioner, she would institute a program whereby drones outfitted with infrared cameras would be deployed to gather data on companies’ methane and fugitive emissions.

The agency would hold violators accountable, and publish all findings online for public access. It’s too early to tell how likely this program is to be implemented, but it’s certainly a sign that important stakeholders are thinking about expanding the ways that drone technology is used within the energy and government sectors.

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!

Germany’s Drone Detection System expects prototype tests in August

Last May, in the wake of the London Gatwick Airport drone debacle, a drone sighting at the Frankfurt airport led to the cancellation of 143 flights.

In response, the Ministry of Transportation tasked Germany’s air-traffic control authority, Deutsche Flugsicherung (DFS), with developing a drone detection system (DDS) for all large German airports. About a year later, after some COVID-related delays, DFS has announced that the system expects its first prototype tests to take place in August 2020. 

A one-year turnaround? That's pretty fast.

The DFS turnaround time is applaudable, but it’s worth noting that they weren’t exactly creating a system from scratch.

UAS have been a part of the national airspace in most countries for at least 10 years. And, there have been numerous technological advancements that have made creating and implementing counter-drone and UTM systems more feasible than ever before.

Airports throughout the US, UK, and numerous European countries have been rapidly testing and implementing various forms of drone detection systems for years now, so the DFS task force will have had many case studies and precedents to reference throughout the past year.  The most impressive aspect of what DFS is doing is that it is working to develop and implement a complete national solution, rather than leaving things up to the airports.

Okay. So, how is the drone detection going to work?

According to an April 2020 technical support tender, each DDS will comprise phased array and other customized radars, as well as radiofrequency detectors fused with primary trackers to ensure the system can distinguish between drones, commercial aircraft, and other flying objects.

 

Related: FAA Remote ID System Still a Priority For 2020

 

Furthermore, each DDS will be fully integrated within the recently launched national UTM, which will make future innovation and standardization more feasible than if each DDS operated autonomously.  

Sounds pretty failproof.

Not quite.

DFS will have to address several technical issues before DDS is fully functional. For one, the frequencies used by UAS are the same as those used by mobile phones and WiFi routers, both of which can be highly mobile.

This can cause drone detection accuracy issues that can interfere with the DSS’s effectiveness and disrupt airport operations.

To complicate matters further, the European Space Agency (EASA) ‘Prototype’ Regulation is centered around the notion that drones that weigh less (particularly those that weigh less than 250 grams) pose a relatively low risk, and thus require less stringent regulation than their larger counterparts. This will undoubtedly motivate people to opt for small UAS whenever possible, which will make it even harder to tell drones apart from other devices.

For reference, the physical footprint of a Parrot Anafi is not that much greater than most mobile phones, and smaller than many birds that also share the National Airspace with manned aircraft.

 

There must be a workaround.

Yes, but it’s far from perfect.

The UTM that Doniq has recently implemented in Germany features a 149 gram LTE modem “hook-on device” (HOD) designed to transmit the position of the drone, and its identification to the UTM via the cellular network. One hundred forty-nine grams may be nothing for a large UAS, but pilots and manufacturers of sub-250 gram drones – the ones that are the hardest to detect – are likely to resist this arrangement. That’s because it will cause the drones to go up a weight class, which will result in stricter regulatory requirements.

That said, electronics are perpetually shrinking and, in the future, it’s likely that the HOD will soon be small enough to align with regulatory incentives and UTM technical requirements.

Are these systems coming for other European countries?

Other European countries have taken an approach of tightening regulations and/or leaving the logistics of drone detection in the hands of each airport.

For instance, the U.K. NATS Holdings — formerly National Air Traffic Services — responded to the Gatwick incident by expanding the radius of the no-fly zone around airports from a minimum of one kilometer to a minimum of five, but left airports to manage the development of counter-drone systems on their own. French airports have been procuring and deploying DDS individually rather than collectively.

Meanwhile, in 2017 the Spanish Ministry of Defence purchased UAS detection systems, but airports are still left to address the issue of rogue drones autonomously. 

I zoned out... what should I take away from this?

Although there are many kinks to be worked out, Germany’s national airport drone detection system, combined with its new UTM, could place Germany at the forefront of government-driven UAS innovation.

If successful, the DSS could be deployed at military installations, prisons, and all sorts of critical infrastructure around Germany. And most importantly, Germany’s DSS could challenge the status quo of slow and fragmented development of drone detection technology in other countries.

Miriam Hinthorn - Contributing Author - Consortiq

Miriam Hinthorn - Contributing Author - Consortiq

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!

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 - 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!

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! 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!