DroneDeploy’s New Products Go Far Beyond Drones

DroneDeploy's new productsDroneDeploy’s New Products: company launches mapping, inspection and ground-based robot products

By Jim Magill

Drone software company DroneDeploy unveiled a suite of new products, allowing customers to virtually walk through construction sites, capture and process data across miles of pipelines or electric transmission lines, and control walking inspection robots from across continents.

At its virtual DroneDeploy Conference 21, held in October, the company released the following products: its Walkthrough for iOS App and Floor Plan view, to improve the inspection capabilities at construction and industrial sites; Corridor Flight, which facilitates the creation of highly detailed maps roadways, railways, canals, pipelines or other linear areas; and a beta version of its Ground Robotics capability, which allows users to send quadrupeds, such as Boston Dynamics’ dog-like robot Spot, on autonomous inspection missions.

In addition, the company introduced new precise 3D measurement and photo-inspection tools and an improved view-only link-sharing capability for its inspection software, allowing users to call up visual inspection data on a project for a specific date, or for the entire project.

James Pipe, vice president of product, said DroneDeploy’s new products help further the company’s mission of transforming how businesses collect, manage and interpret drone data.

“Last year customers on our platform did 1.5 million flights. Many of those flights get uploaded as mapping missions, but people are capturing all kinds of data: photos, videos, 360-degree panoramas and inspections,” he said.

DroneDeploy's new productsAlthough the Corridor Flight software was designed as a tool for mapping and analysis across great lineal distances – tracing roadway, railway, and oil and gas pipeline rights of way and conducting vegetation encroachment analysis – it can also provide detailed data for infrastructure inspections, such as finding a hot spot on an individual high voltage transmission tower.

Corridor Flight allows the user to create a corridor flight plan on a desktop computer or mobile device. As the drone begins its flight, the software package it carries will automatically track the terrain and check the airspace availability along the designated flight path.

“Then you set the width you want to capture, 100 feet, 200 feet or 300 feet of right-of-way that you need to be visible inside of the capture, Pipe said.

DroneDeploy released the software in a beta version several months ago and one customer already has mapped over 1,500 miles of roads and bridges, he said.

Walkthrough for IOS

The Walkthrough app that DroneDeploy released allows users to conduct site tours in 360-degree mode. “It starts with a mobile app you install on your iPhone. You have a 360 camera and you connect that to your phone and you walk around the site and create this beautiful path that goes through your construction site,” Pipe said.

The company also offers Floor Plan View for construction sites. This software can be used after the walls go up on a construction site and allows project managers to do reality captures of the indoor space. The data can be directly overlaid on floor plans and organized by level so that viewers can get a 3D representation of the entire building project.

“You can just jump in the floor plan and start viewing it,” Pipe said. This view is particularly useful for subcontractors as it allows them to assess the stage of readiness that a building project is in before they arrive on the job site.

“Tradespeople want to know the situation on the ground before they show up with a bunch of materials,” he said. He added that the software provides a multi-view perspective on a construction site, eliminating the need for interested parties to have to travel great distances to do an in-person inspection. “You can jump into the site from 3,000 miles away and move around in the interactive view.”

DroneDeploy's new productsDroneDeploy’s New Products Help Usher in a Robot-Enabled Future

While its Walkthrough technology does not necessarily involve the use of unmanned aerial vehicles, the   BETA launch of DroneDeploy’s Ground Robotics solution represents the employment of another kind of robot, the walking kind.

With this new technology, users can send ground-based robots, such as rovers or quadrupeds on autonomous inspection missions. Equipped with payloads such as 360 cameras, thermal cameras, or gas sensors, the robots will capture data from their surrounding environment and send it back to the DroneDeploy platform for analysis.

The Ground Robotics application that DroneDeploy launched consists of three components: the robotics operations platform itself, cloud-based tele-operation and fully autonomous 360 Walkthrough.

The latter two components were demonstrated in a video presented at the DroneDeploy 21 Conference. David Inggs, DroneDeploy’s New Zealand-based head of Ground Robotics acted as pilot, while a Spot robot in the U.S. autonomously performed a simulated mission. “He drove the robot around using remote control from New Zealand via the cloud. Then he created an autonomous mission and then the drone stood up and walked around the set,” Pipe said.

Tele-operation gives the user the ability to wake up a robotic vehicle remotely, from virtually anywhere on earth and have it walk around and perform its inspection functions. The next level of remote operation is scheduled autonomous 360 walkthroughs. The robot wakes itself up at a predetermined time, walks around on the site, and captures a predetermined set of data and then returns to its home base and goes to sleep until it’s time for the next inspection.

Pipe predicted that the development of its Ground Robotics software would help usher in a robot-enabled future in the construction and other industries.

“There are going to be thousands of robots across many different settings, both industrial and commercial, but they’ll start with industrial settings where they’re collecting data on a schedule,” Pipe said. “They’re able to go anywhere a human can walk and capture that data.”

Read more about DroneDeploy’s movement towards a one-button process, work on disaster relief, and global expansion.

Jim Magill is a Houston-based writer with almost a quarter-century of experience covering technical and economic developments in the oil and gas industry. After retiring in December 2019 as a senior editor with S&P Global Platts, Jim began writing about emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence, robots and drones, and the ways in which they’re contributing to our society. In addition to DroneLife, Jim is a contributor to Forbes.com and his work has appeared in the Houston Chronicle, U.S. News & World Report, and Unmanned Systems, a publication of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International.