For Mining, Construction Firms, Flying Robots Keep Projects on Track

Companies in the extractive industries—including Rio Tinto—and in building construction are using aerial imaging to keep projects running smoothly and safely. We spoke with drone services provider SkyCatch about the top use cases end users are chasing.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
Nov 14, 2014

Amar Hanspal, a senior VP at 3D design software maker Autodesk, said at a recent IoT event: "Amazon talks about delivering pizza with drones, but the real action is B2B. Industrial applications are where we're seeing this take off." Autodesk imaging software is often used to turn imagery collected by unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, into three-dimensional models, using photogrammetry, a type of computer science that converts 2D images into 3D.

Indeed, a wide range of industries, from agriculture to mining, are currently either testing or purchasing drone-based solutions. Drones, toting cameras or other sensors, can serve businesses by collecting data and imagery, which they can then transmit via the Internet to software that analyzes this information to create maps or graphical representations that provide quick, accurate visibility into business processes or assets, in order to improve operations.

Last month, RFID Journal reported that Age Steel, a steel yard operator based in the United Arab Emirates, mounted an RFID reader on a drone to quickly collect inventory data from RFID-tagged inventory within a storage yard.

Mark Heynen, senior VP of client operations at San Francisco-based SkyCatch, a provider of drones and data analytics, says the most popular use cases among his company's mining and construction clients are linked to improving visibility into workflow and inventory management.

Very large construction firms that run projects with budgets in the $1 billion range, as well as mining companies, are turning to drones as a way to make daily, reliable quantifications of progress at job sites, Heynen reports. "In construction and mining," he says, "it's hard to know you're on track or not. If the information isn't digitized and collected often, you're living in the world of checklists."

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