Better regulations and wider acceptance from the general public are key to the growth of commercial drone use across the region.
Drones are playing an increasingly important role in optimising processes in various industries – providing efficiency and effectiveness while prioritising safety and savings. Their near limitless aerial perspective offers the ability to gather and analyse data, and when combined with artificial intelligence (AI), are revolutionising the way companies inspect, survey and map terrain, infrastructure and agriculture.
Malaysia based Aerodyne has carved a global name for itself by combining drones with AI’s powerful analytics. Apart from asset inspection, management and project monitoring in various sectors, Aerodyne also actively provides services in geospatial intelligence, emergency response, 2D and 3D mapping and precision agriculture.
A relative newcomer to the scene, the four-year-old company now has a presence in 24 countries and is ranked the world’s seventh best drone operator by Drone Industry Insights, a market research and analytics company based in Germany. Kamarul Muhamed, Aerodyne CEO and founder said that the growth in commercial applications for drones has resulted in global interest for his company’s unique AI-driven services. However, he admitted that most of his subsidiaries are based outside of Southeast Asia.
Apart from its business in Malaysia, Aerodyne is also active in Indonesia and has contracts in Singapore and Brunei as well. Though he praised the Philippines for being early adopters of the technology, Kamarul said that drones and their accompanying services are tightly regulated in most ASEAN countries.
“In general, ASEAN has adopted a wait-and-see approach to drone use – but we should be taking a leadership role,” Kamarul told The ASEAN Post this week.
“We have inherited a lot of regulations which do not necessarily promote or support (drone) innovation. There are some regulations now based on drones’ usage, their weight and the height they are flown at, but there is no licensing requirement. If we have licensing, we can regulate the industry better,” he stressed.
While Kamarul pointed out that rules are especially tight in countries like Lao PDR and Myanmar, there is no region-wide consensus on drone regulations. Even in Singapore, which has long been at the forefront of technology in ASEAN, lawmakers are still reviewing changes to drone legislature that was proposed by the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) last April. Among the changes include a pilot licensing scheme, a compulsory online training programme and stricter requirements such as partial or full certification for heavier unmanned aircraft.
Kamarul used BVLOS (Beyond Visual Line of Sight) as an example of legislation playing catch-up with technology. BVLOS is a concept which allows drone operators to gather data over large areas without having to be in close proximity to the drone and is seen as the next step forward for the industry.
“Traditionally, it has been seen as dangerous and irresponsible – but the technology is increasingly maturing. If you certify the operation, it is very safe,” he said.
Explaining that while drone adoption is about to go mainstream globally, Kamarul said ASEAN only represents less than three percent of the global drone market which is forecasted to be worth US$127.3 billion in 2020. However, he added that it still represents a substantial sum and there is huge potential within the rapidly growing region. There are a lot of services that can be unlocked in terms of efficiency, and this is especially true in countries which are just building their infrastructure and are looking at cost-efficient ways to maintain them.
Apart from a framework which supports businesses and innovation, there is a need to educate the public on the benefits of drones and their role in building cities of the future. Safety and privacy are the public’s two biggest concerns surrounding drone use, but their increasing adoption in our daily lives is helping to change negative stereotypes.
Airbus successfully trialled the world’s first shore-to-ship delivery in Singapore in March, and in January, Chinese e-commerce platform JD.com conducted what is believed to be Southeast Asia’s first government-approved drone delivery by delivering backpacks and books to Indonesian students in a rural school more than 250 kilometres away. In another regional first, Thailand started using drones to address worker shortages in the farming sector last year, deploying them to help map and survey crops as well as spray fertilisers and pesticides.
While these trials are a good first step, ASEAN member countries should consider implementing training programmes and licencing to better regulate the industry. With drones set to play an increasingly prominent part in the region’s economy, key policies have to be put in place now to ensure better integration without negative effects on society.
12 April 2019
In the wake of Industry 4.0, many companies have tried to utilise automation and data exchange in manufacturing technologies. This is especially prevalent in the construction industry where the need for increased efficiency and delivering a quality product both, physically and digitally has now become a necessity rather than an indulgence. Many technologies have sprung up to meet the challenge, such as artificial intelligence (AI) and drones.
Call it a drone, Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) or Remote Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS), it usually involves a flying platform that is remotely controlled by a pilot assisted by flight software, onboard sensors and Global Positioning System (GPS) / Global Navigation Satellite System (GLONASS). It has a payload which is usually a camera system, but could also be technologies such as LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) and thermal cameras. There is shared telemetry between the drone and the ground control station which enables the pilot to fly in a stable manner.
DroneDeploy, a cloud software platform for commercial drones has compiled statistics on drone usage based on 100 million aerial images from 400,000 job sites in 180 countries in 2018. Below are some of the findings:
• The construction industry has seen an increase of 239 percent in the adoption of drone technology. The other two industries directly related to construction, namely surveying and real estate, have an increase of more than 100 percent for each industry.
• There are many benefits that are associated with the use of drones in construction, namely increased safety, cost saving and better data collection and usage.
• Drones are primarily used for progress tracking and communication, preconstruction and site planning, quality control and assurance, bid process preparation and job site risk mitigation.
55 percent of DroneDeploy customers report increased safety as a result of implementing drones.
Accenture indicated in their article titled, “A business approach for the use of drones in the Engineering & Construction industries” that drones “optimise project and maintenance costs”. In the current business climate, being able to optimise project costs and maintenance costs is crucial for the viability of a business.
A drone allows for tasks to be automated and conducted in parallel with operations. Inspection can now be done while the construction is being undertaken. Various drone platforms now allow for automated drone operations that provide vital information for construction, such as cut and fill parameters, volumetric analysis of stock piles, comparison against design data and conducting accurate and repeatable topographical surveys.
Drones also “reduce workers exposure”. Health and safety are a crucial element on all construction sites. Drones allow access to dangerous areas (working at height, chemical exposure, heat exposure) which were previously deemed as high risk to personnel and cost intensive. For example, an inspection of a rooftop would utilise scaffolding and harnesses, which take time and effort to setup, whilst a drone could capture a wealth of data in a fraction of the time and cost.
But that’s not all as drones also “enable best decisions to improve quality”. The key element in the progression of technology is the ability to provide humans with better information to be able to make better decisions. A bird’s eye view of a live construction site allows for accurate decision making based on real-time information as opposed to relying on narratives and benchmarks. Another element that drones bring is that data collected can be reviewed for lessons learnt, comparison for benchmarking and general archiving.
The who and where
Many construction companies around the world have started using drones as a vital tool in their projects. International companies such as Kier, Balfour Beatty, Vinci Construction and Mitie have started to use drones as a tool on site. On the Malaysian front, projects like the Tun Razak Exchange (TRX) and various rail projects such as the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) extension extensively use drones for project monitoring and various land use analysis. It is becoming more and more commonplace in Malaysia for drone operation in data collection and analyses.
Drones are perfect for all manner of construction, engineering and inspection projects as they provide the ability to work in an automated manner and collect data that allows for better decision making.
Now is the time for companies to make the shift towards the many benefits that come with responsible drone operations. There are two ways to achieve this. The first is to hire a professional drone company that complies with the various regulatory requirements. Some discussion is usually required at the start to ensure the deliverables are in line with the need of the construction project.
The second option is to develop drone capabilities in-house to the company. The best way to achieve this is to hire an external consultant that could guide you through the process, thus speeding up the time to setup a competent drone team. The consultant will guide you through the process including purchasing, operation manual setup, audits, maintenance plan, training and software selection.
The next step
Drones will continue to improve and become commonplace in many industries. With AI starting to move into the drone space, the amalgamation of these two cutting edge technologies will produce a quantum leap in useable data that will help reduce cost, increase safety and maximise performance. The construction industry has to maintain a view of the future which will certainly include the use of drones, so as to ensure that it remains relevant and competitive in this ever-changing world.
*This article was contributed by 27 Advisory and Aerial Ascent. The 27 Group is a 100 percent Malaysian owned local consulting firm that is fast, flexible and focused with unique expertise that blends local socio-economic policy settings, global engineering-built assets and detailed financial analyses. Read more about 27 Group’s consulting services at 27.group. Aerial Ascent is a drone specialist company.
27 Advisory and Aerial Ascent
20 December 2019
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) are one of the most game-changing technologies to appear in recent years. They are a hot topic of discussion and the subject of some debate. One of the fastest growing applications for drones is UAV surveying, since land surveyors can use these devices to quickly and efficiently survey large areas. In this post, we take a look at the rise of UAVs, which industries are embracing the technology, and how UAVs are changing the world of land surveying.
The Origins of UAVs Surveying
When this idea of UAVs first surfaced, the military was using the concept to identify mines in Afghanistan. Tudor Thomas, an aerial-imagery specialist behind the concept, took his knowledge and transformed it into a lucrative business model.
Using the single-frame images from the photos, Thomas and his team developed software to correct those images, blending them into a single consumable. Known as orthorectification, this process created a geo-referenced map though real-world location data based on the GPS reading of ground control points.
Some of the earliest adopters of commercial drone technology include businesses in agriculture, energy, construction and land management. Most of these industries have been experimenting with UAV technology for years. However, now that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has been issuing Section 333 status to businesses, which allows them to legally use drones for commercial purposes, these industries have started to include UAVs as part of their service offering.
Here are some facts about drone technology adoption:
Most growth in the drone industry is on the commercial side, as drones move away from being primarily in the military market. This market is estimated to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 19% between 2015 and 2020, compared to 5% growth on the military side.
Package delivery and E-commerce will not be an early focus of the drone industry.
Disaster relief and conservation experts welcome drone mapping as an alternative to satellite imagery.
The global commercial drone market will take shape around applications among a number of industries such as utilities, mining, energy, agriculture, real estate, new media, construction and film production.
How UAVs are Changing Land Surveying
Land surveying is one industry that has been particularly keen to adopt UAVs. There are three main reasons for this:
UAV technology allows land surveyors to survey large areas with ease. Challenges such as rough terrain become effortless when the survey is done with a UAV.
Since the drone is airborne and does not need to drive from point to point in order to perform a scan, it can survey a territory in significantly less time than a traditional survey. This means that projects that once took a week can be completed in a day.
Because surveys created by a UAV can be done quickly and don’t take as many man-hours or resources to complete, they are less expensive. Since many of the industries that typically need land surveys (energy, real estate, etc.) are constantly looking for ways to reduce costs, this is particularly important.
Thanks to advances in photogrammetry, these surveys can not only be done quickly and inexpensively, they can also be done with the same level of accuracy as traditional surveys. This means there is no real trade-off in accuracy with a UAV generated survey.
Because of the above reasons, UAVs are a game-changer for professional land surveyors and a benefit to their customers. While few surveyors have access to the technology, and fewer still have experience using it, the technology can still be a huge benefit for construction projects. Project managers simply need to partner with a professional land surveyor that does have experience using UAVs.
February 25, 2016
Image source: development seed