Drones have long been a form of social distancing of sorts. A drone company can set up their drones to fly automated missions over farmland or oil fields, and someone on site can set the drone out to fly those missions. Some companies have taken it a step further to take humans out of the equation, to allow drones to charge without human intervention.
But with social distancing at the forefront of everyone’s minds, increasingly more companies are turning their attention to building products that require not just less human contact, but perhaps eliminating human contact completely — allowing workers to stay at home while the robots do the work out in the world.
And now, multiple drone companies are shifting the attention of their products to further enabling drones for social distancing. Today, drone mapping startup launched a new product called DroneDeploy Live Stream. Just last week, drone fleet management company Skyward — which is owned by Verizon — launched a feature within its Aviation Management Platform called Live Flights.
Both features capitalize on the idea that you can see your drone fights in real-time, without ever being anywhere near the scene of the flight.
“With countless businesses put on hold, and billions of people maintaining physical distance, now, more than ever, we are reminded of the importance of communication, flexibility, and virtual engagement,” according to a blog post from DroneDeploy. “Our customers have told us that drone inspections are an integral part of their workflow, and that they needed a platform that could scale within the organization and connect with critical internal systems.”
How Skyward Live Flights works
Skyward Live Flights is intended so you can monitor and manage drone flights from your office, field or even at home. It’s primarily targeted at large, complex drone flights, where someone might be operating a drone on the ground, but you might be in your office wanting some sort of oversight of the flight in real time. The program allows you to see all of your organization’s active drone flights in real time.
“Skyward Live Flights empowers greater oversight and transparency , while increasing situational awareness and supporting coordination,” according to a statement from Skyward.
Skyward also hinted that the program is a critical foundation for Remote ID (essentially a system of drone license plates). Skyward is one of the companies working to implement a Remote ID system.
How DroneDeploy Live Stream works
Though it’s still in beta mode, DroneDeploy Live Stream allows users to get real-time views of the drone’s video stream even if you’re not actually anywhere near the drone.
While someone will need to be on scene to launch the drone and that drone’s DroneDeploy Mission, DroneDeploy Live Stream makes it so just one person needs to be there. Everyone else on the team can stay at home. The person launching the drone and mission would simply select a feature on the DroneDeploy app that allows them to enable a Live Stream, then send a link to view to any other users who have access to that project.
This could allow a farmer to monitor her drone in the field, even if she’s at home. From an emergency standpoint, decision-makers or response teams could assess dangerous scenes and be able to address those critical issues without putting themselves at risk by being there (such as going into a vulnerable zone to inspect damage to critical infrastructure after a natural disaster.
DroneDeploy Live Stream, which launches today, is currently only available to Enterprise Accounts.
DroneDeploy is an enterprise-focused drone software company based in San Francisco, Calif. that enables professional-grade 3D modeling , imagery and analysis from a variety of drones. DroneDeploy says it has more than 5,000 customers in industries including oil and gas, construction, mining, solar, agriculture and insurance.
At the end of last year, DroneDeploy closed a $35 million Series D round led by Bessemer Venture Partners. That DroneDeploy Series D funding round brings the company’s total funding to $90 million, including another $25 million raised in 2018.
And DroneDeploy Live Stream isn’t all that the drone software company has been working on since that funding round. Along with the launch of DroneDeploy Live Stream, the company today also announced a number of other product launches and updates:
Among the biggest releases coming out of DroneDeploy this quarter include:
DroneDeploy Mission: DroneDeploy is calling this “one of our most significant enhancements to the flight experience yet.” Mission allows you to prepare what sort of tasks you want the drone to carry out (ie. shoot a video, take a panorama, or create a map), and specify their sequence. By being able to complete multiple objectives (ie. first a panorama, then make a map), users will likely be able to save time and reduce the number of flights they need to make.
DroneDeploy also makes it so you can upload your data from your mobile device, removing the need for an SD card in most cases.
Advanced Thermal Control: DroneDeploy today released an Advanced Thermal Control feature, which allows you to toggle between RGB and thermal while flying.
Org-Level Exports & Source Image Exports: In an effort to speed up workflows, DroneDeploy is rolling out a feature that allows you to automatically export every single project within your organization’s DroneDeploy account, removing the need to manually export maps onto your computer or a 3rd party software.
Esri Integration: GIS company Esri has long been a leader in the mapping industry (in fact, Esri is currently free mapping software to organizations fighting coronavirus). While Esri supports maps of all sorts, DroneDeploy is making it more valuable for drone companies. Now, DroneDeploy will automatically serve all of your organization’s maps to your ArcGIS Online or Pro account.
This product release is in beta mode, and is available for enterprise accounts only.
Simplifying how farmers can get into drones: Drone industry experts have long thought that drones and agriculture would be a more perfect pair than peanut butter and jelly. There’s no concern about flying over people, noise, crashing into trees, etc. when you’re flying over miles of cornfields. Plus, drones have useful agricultural applications including planting seeds, monitoring crop health and spraying herbicides or pesticides.
Alas, drones have in some ways struggled to gain traction in agriculture because they are still complicated to use. DroneDeploy is trying to reverse that trend by developing a process of agriculture-specific on-boarding.The startup said they wanted to make it easier for new DroneDeploy users to become familiar with the platform. To do that, they’ll provide every new agriculture user with a set of example maps tailored to their specific use cases, highlighting patterns and issues that can be identified using drone data.