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.

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Drones in Agriculture

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

There are numerous ways drones are assisting the agriculture industry. 

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

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

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

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

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

Drones are at the forefront of that movement.

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

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

The Role of Drones in Agriculture

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Agriculture Drone Solutions - Drone footage - consortiq

The Future

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

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

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

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

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

David Daly - Contributing Author

David Daly - Contributing Author

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

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A Short History of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

History of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles - Consortiq 

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Shea O'Donnell - Contributing Author

Shea O'Donnell - Contributing Author

Want 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.

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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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