It’s been exciting to watch the commercial drone industry grow and evolve over the last several years. I’ve talked before in this column about how in my previous life I covered the defense electronics market for several years. Writing about advances in the radar or communications systems aboard the Predator drone got pretty stale after a while. In contrast, the commercial drone space is filled with a rich assortment of application challenges and evolving technology solutions.
As with any growing market, partnerships play a key role. The stakes are particular high in the commercial drone space, where a drone manufacturer might need to team up with a service provider with expertise in agriculture or building construction in order to achieve a solution for a particular market. And on the technology side, drone makers may need to partner with companies that have application payload technology expertise— whether that payload is an advanced camera suite or a multi-sensor platform.
In a recent example, in February, European drone maker Parrot announced that it’s partnering with RIIS, a provider of mobile app, web development and IT consulting services. The two companies plan to develop custom AI applications for Parrot’s ANAFI drone platform. Parrot and RIIS are keen to explore the use of AI and computer vision technology, combined with drone data capture, to solve industry challenges. Parrot and RIIS have released a technical whitepaper, which provides step-by-step instruction to add AI and computer vision to the ANAFI Drone using Parrot’s open source Ground SDK.
Parrot and RIIS are actively exploring use cases which could include municipal use of drones for assessing parking lots, public parks and streetlights; crowd monitoring; warehouse inventory counting; automated inspection of cell phone towers and solar panels; property surveillance for real estate professionals and developers, and much more. This technology is expected to significantly enhance the often-tedious processes required to complete professional projects across a variety of industries and sectors.
Partnerships between drone makers and camera vendors are particularly common. Last fall, commercial drone manufacturer Yuneec and Leica Camera began a strategic partnership which began with the release of Yeneec’s Typhoon H3 drone with an ION L1 Pro camera. It is a drone equipped with a high-end 1″ sensor camera that was specially developed for sophisticated aerial photography. Both the software and the hardware of the ION L1 Pro camera were developed in collaboration with Leica engineers.
The drone/camera solution is designed to be a precision tool for photographers and filmmakers. According to Yeneec, the components of the H3 and the ION L1 Pro camera are precisely calibrated with one another and make it possible to take highly detailed, brilliant pictures from the air. The technical versatility of the camera offers a wide range of options—from automatic exposure bracketing and semi-automatic through to wide dynamic range.
Exemplifying the niche nature of some commercial drone team-ups, drone maker Kespry partnered with XAP 360 last fall to deliver a new country-wide dronebased residential roofing inspection program. XAP 360 is a nationwide network of certified roofing contractors. The new program is designed to create the most transparent and accurate roof inspection experience possible for homeowners, and ensure claims payouts occur rapidly.
According to XAP 360, home roofing inspections have often been a frustrating experience. Trust levels are low between roofers and insurers tired of dealing with questionable assessments, who then have to conduct their own secondary inspections for verification. XAP 360 and Kespry are working together to regain the trust of residential property owners by establishing verifiable, credible standards for residential roof inspections, involving AI and machine learning-based analytics. With Kespry and XAP 360, manual inspections that used to take up to 90 minutes are being replaced by an autonomous drone-based solution that takes as little as 10 minutes to complete the same work.
These partnerships are just a few interesting examples of drone companies expanding their market reach by finding partner companies to help them craft innovative solutions. Exciting stuff!
PUBLISHED IN CIRCUIT CELLAR MAGAZINE• APRIL 2020 #357- Get a PDF of the issue