August has been an exciting month at Aerotas: we officially launched our first non-consulting offering.
The Aerotas Mapping System is an all-inclusive package of everything an organization needs to start mapping by drone, and it leverages many lessons that the Aerotas team has learned in our consulting practice. It leverages the technology — hardware and software — that we have vetted and found to be most reliable. It leverages our hard-learned best practices in the form of operations guides and training. It leverages thorough study of efficient insurance coverage and regulatory compliance. But the one lesson that it leverages more than any other is this: start simply.
The best way to Succeed with drones is to start easy
Drone technology has progressed at incredible speed, and every component of the drone ecosystem has become significantly more user-friendly. However, this does not change the fact that for almost any organization, integrating a drone into its workflow involves a lot of change, and a lot to learn. A crucial lesson we have learned is that a company starting a drone program is most likely to succeed if it focuses on minimizing the amount of change and learning that has to happen at once.
The many opportunities and promises of drone technology make it tempting to chase every idea simultaneously, or to try the most cutting edge idea or technology first. However, the organizations that are most successful are those that start with the most basic objectives, and put in place the minimum viable drone program that will accomplish that objective. They only expand once they have proven their proficiency with that one objective, and proven the return on their investment.
A minimum viable approach to surveying by UAV
The Aerotas Mapping System is designed to allow surveyors, civil engineers, and any other organizations that can benefit from mapping, to take this “minimum viable” approach to mapping by drone. Focusing on a minimum viability led us to creating a comprehensive system of compliant technology, operations, training, and insurance that is optimized across four variables:
- Low cost
- Minimal learning curve
- Creates high-value deliverables
- Scalable to more units or advanced capabilities
Optimizing for these variables ensured that we would create the most efficient and effective solution to start mapping by drone.
THE EASIEST VALUABLE JOB A UAV CAN DO
The easiest deliverables that a drone can produce that offers value to mappers is an orthophoto and surface model. Using this 3D surface model, surveyors can complete topographic and planimetric mapping jobs digitally, and thus far more efficiently than prior -- our clients report 60% time savings. Simply clicking points and drawing lines on the model in order to produce a CAD-importable surface replaces the time-intensive process of walking a grid on a project site and occupying points with GPS. Further, this workflow means that companies can complete aerial mapping jobs in-house, eliminating the need to pay for expensive aerial contractors. Finally -- and crucially -- this model and orthophoto serve as a verifiable record of a job site, and minimize the chances of a field crew missing a shot.
Processing to create accurate deliverables requires know-how
Building the operational know-how to successfully use a drone for business requires a substantial learning curve. Learning a completely new, highly technical new data processing software program requires another, even more substantial learning curve. Integrating ground control effectively and reliably in the model, and knowing how to detect and correct for nuanced processing errors, require significant know-how. Learning this concurrently with the drone operations risks overburdening staff. In order to make the Aerotas Mapping System as approachable and affordable as possible, we provide the processing support so that surveyors can focus on creating value with the drone.
Start easy, then upgrade with proficiency
At Aerotas, we tend to refer to the Aerotas Mapping System as “Level 1.” While this system is highly capable, enabling accuracy to 0.2’ vertical, it is likely that many companies will want to advance their capabilities once they have become proficient and proven the ROI. We have designed this system to be as scalable as possible -- it will set the foundation to be able to efficiently grow as soon as the organization as ready. This is the best way to begin mapping by drone: the most cost-effective, efficient, and scalable way to prove the value of mapping by drone. Once your organization has become proficient at “level 1,” we will be ready to level you up.