Businesses are deploying drones to accomplish an ever-expanding range of tasks - and with each of those tasks comes a wealth of helpful data. While a drone mission may be intended to provide the company with imaging, mapping, or a short video, the volume of data gathered during a flight can provide additional insights or benefits that a company may inadvertently overlook.
In fact, many businesses are unaware of the long-term data capabilities that drones provide.
When it comes to understanding the full capabilities of drones, it is important to clarify what drone data is, how the data can be analyzed and used to generate reports, and how that data can be used to benefit your business.
What is Drone Data?
Drone Data is a collection of hundreds or thousands of images from a flight - or collection of flights - that is converted using imaging software to create an organized and cohesive data set for businesses.
The data collected from these drone images can then be measured, analyzed, tracked, and compared over time.
When it comes to mission planning, there are several other types of drone data that may be critical to businesses.
What Types of Drone Data Are There?
Drone data collected during a mission can include:
Flight data: Many businesses will find it useful to track flight data over time. This includes the telemetry of the drone, manual flight logging, length of flight, number of flights, and more. This data enables transparency into your drone program, allowing both pilots and management to track progress, programs, and efficiency over time.
Sensor data: Collect and store drone sensor data including images, videos, LiDAR (light detection and ranging), photogrammetry, thermal readings, and more.
Key observation data: Allow your team members to store their notes and key observation data. This allows pilots, data analysts, and key stakeholders to store everything in one place.
Flight planning data: Keep your flight planning data organized including KML files, GPS waypoints, specific camera actions, and more.
Asset data: Tracking your physical assets is critical to a successful drone program. See which drones flew for which missions. Track damage and repairs. And assign drones to specific pilots.
Personnel data: Keep track of mission pilots, program managers, and analysts for specific flights.
Airspace and weather data: Access to airspace is key to your program. Track how the weather and access to airspace are impacting your missions.
How to Analyze and Report On Drone Data
In order to gain valuable data and insight from your drone program, you need to have the right tools. A centralized mission planning and execution software is a great place to start. This allows you to keep all of your flight data in one place making analysis easier over time.
You can easily pull reports on your team’s flight hours, pilot performance, drone assets, and incident reporting in seconds with a fully integrated drone software.
Drone Imaging Data
The images gathered during a mission can be processed using your software to sort, organize, and manage the data contained within the images. Image processing tools then produce a final data set that can be easily analyzed and provide valuable business insights such as the severity of damage on a wind turbine blade or the degree of degradation of insulators on a powerline.
If desired, the data can also be turned into 2D or 3D maps using photogrammetry engines to provide orthomosaic maps, digital surface models, or contour maps.
Storing and analyzing drone data from every mission allows the end-user to easily make comparisons over specific timeframes. Examples include the progress on a construction site, the number of materials stored in a specific location, or the incremental degradation of a wind turbine blade.
A final report can then be generated to share with key stakeholders or decision-makers to review and take further action if needed.
Ways to View Your Drone Data
Depending on the software you utilize, you should be able to view your data concisely in the following ways:
Report Exports: including CSV, PDF, and charts, graphics, and tables
Platform Analytics: including performance figures on orders, missions, inspections, flights, pilots, data
Return on Investment: so you can track efficiency, safety benefits, and program results
Data Mapping and Navigation: with a graphical user interface to navigate across 2D/3D models, visualize on maps, and click through images
The Benefits of Drone Data For Businesses
Businesses are finding an ever-increasing number of ways to utilize drones and drone data to make improvements to their operations.
1. Drone Data Improves Safety and Efficiency
When the power goes out due to a problem with a transmission tower, typically a lineman has to go up the tower to inspect the issue, which is dangerous work to begin with. Adding to the obstacles, the only way to get to the tower might be through difficult terrain which is only accessible by way of private property, or the tower is above a line of trees, obstructing your view from the ground. It may also take a couple of days to obtain permission to walk across private property and to schedule a small crew to trek to the tower and run an inspection.
With a drone and licensed pilot readily available, the same inspection can be accomplished in a matter of minutes. Drones can be used in areas too close to trees or homes for helicopters and in areas that are too difficult to access for ground patrols. There are no hazardous man-hours involved. And you get a clean look at the tower in real-time, allowing your team to properly diagnose the problem and suggest a remedy before you even leave the site.
This increases the efficiency of teams, allowing them to accomplish more work in less time. “Every time we fly, we're literally saving 2-3 days of work,” says Stephen Dorsett, Contract Coordinator and Journeyman Lineman at Indiana Power & Light (IPL).
2. Drone Data is Highly Accurate
To test the accuracy of our drone inspection data, we conducted an experiment. We took the results of a solar inspection by drone and sent out manual inspection crews to run the same inspection on the same plants. The results the crews came back with from the manual inspection mirrored the results from the drone data with 99 percent accuracy, but the manual inspection took two days for each site compared to two hours with the drone.
3. Drone Data Can Be Manipulated for Analysis
Unlike data gathered manually by an inspector that ends up as a photo or in a spreadsheet, drone data can quickly and easily be manipulated and analyzed from different angles. For example, in a single drone mission, you can gather data that provides exact shading conditions of a solar site at any time of the year.
On a construction project, drone data allows users to overlay actual construction progress imagery with site plans to gauge whether construction is proceeding according to specifications.
4. Drone Data Lives Forever
When you record drone data with a drone software solution, the data lives forever. All too often, critical data lives in the head of the inspector doing the work, or on a miscellaneous spreadsheet. But recording drone data with your planning software lets this data work for you over time.
This allows businesses to easily perform year-over-year analyses by comparing data sets and adds the ability to reference prior data to make smart decisions about future work. The ability to store drone data is critical in businesses where employee turnover is prevalent. With drone data, you don’t have to reference a person, only a database, to know what the last inspection picked up.
If you are interested in learning more about how Measure’s Ground Control can help your business effectively manage, analyze, and store drone data, click here.