Editor's Letter Insights

Commercial Drone Industry Partners Up for Success

Written by Jeff Child

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.

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 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

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Former Editor-in-Chief at Circuit Cellar | Website | + posts

Jeff served as Editor-in-Chief for both LinuxGizmos.com and its sister publication, Circuit Cellar magazine 6/2017—3/2022. In nearly three decades of covering the embedded electronics and computing industry, Jeff has also held senior editorial positions at EE Times, Computer Design, Electronic Design, Embedded Systems Development, and COTS Journal. His knowledge spans a broad range of electronics and computing topics, including CPUs, MCUs, memory, storage, graphics, power supplies, software development, and real-time OSes.

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Commercial Drone Industry Partners Up for Success

by Jeff Child time to read: 3 min