Inside Unmanned Systems

DEC 2018 - JAN 2019

Inside Unmanned Systems provides actionable business intelligence to decision-makers and influencers operating within the global UAS community. Features include analysis of key technologies, policy/regulatory developments and new product design.

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ENGINEERING. PRACTICE. POLICY. 51 December 2018/January 2019  unmanned systems inside STOCKPILE REPORTS Stockpile Reports specializes in inventory management for any companies that have "piles of stuff," Vice President of Product Tony Jacobson said. Their system helps clients easily measure these piles and make decisions based on their numbers. Until they started using drones, the main measurement methods involved private pilots and a ground-based solution available via an iPhone app. Now, Stockpile Reports uses DroneBase and a few other service providers to send licensed drone pilots to complete these measurements via unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). This solution works well for large companies that have multiple locations and piles that need measured on a regular basis, Jacobson said. It's just not feasible for them to send pilots to these different locations and to truly scale up their operation. Many customers tried implementing their own drone program, then decided it would be more beneficial to use a service. The process is almost like requesting an Uber or Lyft, Jacobson said. The customer sends a request through Stockpile Report's website, a pilot shows up to complete the flight, and the imagery is uploaded. "We can schedule 20 pilots to go to all the client's locations in a single day and get the entire inventory done at once," he said. "The scalability factor is off the charts, versus having two or three pilots run around all week long traveling from site to site. It really comes down to time, cost and scalability." An internal team member spends time monitoring the flight activity each week, so if something prevents a flight from happening, say a weather delay, there's communication between the service provider, the client and the team at Stockpile Reports. A lot of that is now automated through DroneBase's system. "We help people track and manage their inventory and make good business decisions from that data. Flying drones is a component of what our customers do and a service we provide to our customers but not our core business, so we didn't want to spread ourselves too thin," Jacobson said. "We let someone else focus on that so we can focus on our own business." The power company centralized its drone operations into a Global Drone Program in 2017, Global Drone Program Manager Asel Ayapova said. They worked with Measure as they scaled their in-house program because they wanted to partner with a company with expertise in drone operations and data analysis. AES works with Measure to test different applications and use cases across the seven energy verticals they serve. The first step was developing pilots, and AES now has grown from 76 trained pilots globally to 170. All members of the global team aim to identify areas where drones can replace regular inspections and save man hours, Ayapova said. So far, they have found 45 use cases. The team also works with the AES R&D department as well as universities and research institutions to customize systems to fit various needs. Ayapova communicates with each business unit and encourages everyone to share best practices and achievements during routine calls. Many AES businesses, especially power plants, have restricted areas. If something happens and they need a drone to complete a quick inspection, it would take too long to get a third party vendor in to do it, Ayapova said. In-house employees know the safety requirements and can fly right away. But there are other times when it's best to bring in Measure. "Our pilots are maintenance engineers who have the extra skill of flying a drone. They are not full-time pilots," she said. "That's why it's very important to have a combined program." The most critical piece of building an in-house drone program is involving the right people from the beginning, Ayapova said. Leadership must think the program is valuable and employees must be willing to make the necessary changes. It requires a shift in mindset as well as better communication. Employees must be involved in and excited about the program, and part of that comes from educating them on how the technology benefits the company and makes their jobs easier. Pilots should be properly trained and champions of the program, and companies should seek guidance from outside service providers when necessary. It's also important to have a centralized, secure place to store all the data collected that's easy to access. "Break the program down into several phases and have a long-term vision of the final aim of the program," she said. "It should be clear what the longer vision is and the connection point with asset management and the performance of the business. Everything should be integrated with asset management and all data should serve for better decision making." AES CORPORATION Point cloud with drone photo positions.

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