From The Editor: Advent of the Drones …Who Do You Want to Do Your Mapping?

A 611Kb PDF of this article as it appeared in the magazine complete with images is available by clicking HERE

Welcome to the October 2015 edition of LiDAR Magazine! This issue focuses on the UAV phenomenon: UAV’s, Drones, UAS’s, Aerial Robotics have become ubiquitous. All the hype attached to UAV’s is reminiscent of the "Dot.Com" craze and Geospatial applications are not an exception. Many in the Geospatial mapping field believe that drones will be a panacea …allowing anyone who has a flying machine with a camera and some photogrammetric software to perform mapping and surveying services.

The drone craze is similar to the Dot.Com furor of the nineties and not dissimilar from our own Geospatial field where we’ve seen the number of GIS and image processing companies that have fallen by the wayside over the last 20 years. Who will be the winners in the UAV space and whose hopes and dreams will be dashed on the rocks of future markets and potential applications?

No question UAV’s bring great value to society and business … providing a safer, economical means to survey, map, inspect, capture and record reality. Drones are becoming another arrow in the quiver of engineering, surveying, mining, petroleum, forestry, utility organizations and where they can provide great value, they will not replace traditional methods of data acquisition. For many applications, traditional methods are still the most practical.

The primary benefit of drones is that they can go places where humans, or manned vehicles, cannot or should not go such as oil refineries to inspect flare stacks or buildings, towns or neighborhoods that have been hit by storms, flooding and fires. The bottom line is that drones are ideal for tasks that are too difficult or dangerous for humans, or can be done more cheaply and accurately by a robotic vehicle.

The practical use of drones is expanding as the FAA approved more than 1,000 commercial UAV operations for applications ranging from agriculture where drones will monitor crop health, insects, irrigation to survey, mapping and inspection of dangerous and inaccessible terrain and infrastructure such as mines, pipelines, electrical transmission lines, cellular towers, wind farms, etc. However, the ease of entry into this business sector may also be its down-side … do we really want anyone getting into this business?

There are liability concerns and to date few operators employ commercial liability insurance. One study found that 62% of UAS operations do not carry liability insurance either because they cannot get insurance for negligent operation of a drone or civil operation is so new and small that insurance companies have not taken notice. This is sure to change soon.

Another critical element of the proliferation of drones in the geospatial field is it opens the door to neophytes and new comers to the surveying and mapping disciplines. This should be a major concern for those who are surveying, mapping and photogrammetric professionals.

The democratization of surveying and mapping being made possible by the proliferation of drones opens the door for anyone to start offering surveying, mapping, photogrammetry services. It is now more important than ever to promote the professionalism of your profession. You have to ask yourself … or ask your clients and potential customers, if they want some millennial type with baggy jeans hanging precariously from his hips, a backwards ball cap on his head, skate board in one hand and quad copter in the other … is this really who you want to do your mapping and surveying?

Now, more than ever we must impress upon our customers what is the cost of bad data? When it comes to mapping and surveying, it is as critical as building a solid, true foundation …faults in the foundation will jeopardize the building, the entire project. As the old saying goes, it is cheaper to do it right the first time than to have to do it over!

In today’s business environment, it is no longer enough to create superior technologies or solutions. People buy from organizations with which they are familiar, companies they like and have a feeling of confidence. Professionalism is critical to achieving a "Brand as Warranty!" This is creating a brand that is equivalent, indeed better, than a warranty because a warranty never compensates a client for a failed product or service. Therefore, you want customers to believe that they are dealing with a company that will live up to its name and perform as expected. The customer cares about only one thing … the customer! And, that they will get exactly what they contracted for, on time, on budget and on specification …that’s all the customer expects!

Until next time …. Cheers!
Roland Mangold //

A 611Kb PDF of this article as it appeared in the magazine complete with images is available by clicking HERE