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Planning for success with scaled drone operations

As drones, sensors, and technology improve, they are becoming increasingly invaluable for a wide range of business-critical tasks; and many businesses are looking at how to scale their drone operations effectively.

However, the complexities of tracking multiple missions, strategically leveraging the vast amount of raw data collected along with managing CAA and other legal compliance issues, create several complexities that must be considered.

In this post, we examine some of the technicalities of delivering highly effective large scale drone operations.

Safety First

One of the first and most significant challenges to address when scaling up aerial data collection programs is maintaining the safety of your staff and members of the public.

As a single or small team of operators, end to end management of safety is relatively straightforward. After all, working closely within a small group provides a high level of transparency for safety concerns to be raised.

Deploying multiple teams requires the creation and ongoing development of a formal Safety Management Systems (SMS); this is a standard practice within manned aviation.

A custom Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) safety management system typically includes but is not limited to:

  • An overarching safety statement and metrics

  • Policy's and manuals

  • Reporting

  • Ongoing Safety Training

  • Flight Crew Safeguarding

Safety should be seen as an enabler to "do things," not an inhibitor, and is core to an aerial operator's culture.

Operate Efficiently - Maximise ROI

Operating efficiently is critical when delivering large scale aerial projects while maximising economies of scale and, therefore, customer value. This process usually starts with developing a detailed and well-developed Concept of Operations or ConOps for short.

The ConOps is a form of contract between the customer and the operations team describing exactly how any data should be collected.

The ConOps also informs other requirements, such as specific payload detail as well as technical information and aircraft specification, to fulfill the data collection. Specialist training on these processes and systems is usually required alongside the ConOps.

Other often-overlooked factors are also essential to operational efficiencies, such as the transportation and packing of equipment to avoid damage and reduce the chances of delays and revisits.

Automating Compliance

As well as capturing client data, a scale aerial operation will generate a considerable amount of additional highly useful operational information.

This includes but is not limited to data such as:

  • Flights crew schedules

  • Aircraft flight logs

  • Flight crew logs

  • Aircraft maintenance data

Pulling all of this data together in a single point of view allows teams to gain useful insights that help facilitate the continual improvement of operations and is critical to any scale aerial data collection program.

The monitoring of crew currency and regulatory compliance using post-flight GPS logs can help to support improved safety processes.

Automated alerting is also critical and can be used to flag regular and required aircraft maintenance and battery cycling.

Training and Proficiency

Developing the correct processes will only get you so far; ensuring that flight crews and the wider operational business team continue to grow and evolve these processes is incredibly important.

To effectively manage and keep project delivery teams operating at maximum capacity, it's critical to maintain a high level of proficiency through ground schooling, practical flight training, and ensuring a continual learning culture throughout your business.

Flight operations are, by their nature, unpredictable, and risks must be managed effectively, decision making needs to be adaptable, and having experienced, motivated, and highly trained crews are critical to the success of scale operations.

Post Collection Data Storage & Processing

A scaled-up aerial data collection program generates scaled-up data handling and processing requirements. It is, therefore, vital to implement the right data handling procedures and technology to offload potentially thousands of images per day.

It is essential to understand how aerial data will be consumed and used to drive insights within your organization. Typically raw imagery alone is not suitable, and some form of post-processing into geospatial formats such as a GeoTiff is required, this often involves the use of state of the art data processing tools, software, and hardware.

Machine learning is now commonplace in post data processing. It is helping to drive automated insights across a multitude of industries such as agriculture, infrastructure, wildlife & conservation, as well as many other industry verticals.

Object recognition and classification "at the edge" is also becoming more prevalent, and these technologies have enormous potential for the future.

Technology & Infrastructure

Having the right infrastructure in place to process, analyse, and abstract, the necessary insights is critical to being able to make informed data-driven decisions.

Air Data Systems are agnostic when it comes to both technology and platform solutions; this allows us first to understand any challenges that may prohibit or be a barrier to getting the most out of your scaled drone operations.

Some of the areas you should consider when thinking about scaled data collection programs are:

  • Pre & post data collection solutions

  • Technology integration capabilities

  • Technology architecture

  • Security

  • Data processing

  • Server capabilities

How Can we help?

Air Data Systems provides end to end support for businesses that require scale operations, from planning and strategy, through to providing a fully managed service that meets your exact requirements.

For more information, please speak to one of our team members today!


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