Propelling: How Rentals are Growing the UK Drone LIDAR Surveying Market
with Dave Pendrill
Adaption to technology often depends on cultural factors.
While touchless payment is widely accepted in countries like Russia or China, it’s not widely adopted in the United States. The same is true of unmanned autonomous vehicles, or drones, which are being used on nearly every product in an industry in some countries but are still being rolled out in others.
Dave Pendrill, Sales Manager for the Northern Europe region for Microdrones, has extensive experience in South Africa but sees a booming drone market in the United Kingdom and one that is very receptive to the new sales model, Microdrone as a Service (mdaaS), available from Microdrones.
“In the UK, up until recently and in the drone sector, specifically, everybody has been buying. So, Microdrones has taken the initiative to come out with the ‘as a service’ sales model,” Pendrill said. “I definitely see that it’s going to take the market by storm because that’s what they do in the UK in construction, surveying – anything. If they need a tool and they don’t have it, they will hire it for the day, for the week, or the year.”
In addition to the attractiveness of the mdaaS concept for companies that may need a drone only for a given period of time, there’s also the service guarantees Microdrones provides so customers know they’re always able to deploy the latest technology.
“With other providers, you need to buy the unit. You need to buy the software,” Pendrill said. “Microdrones provide you with all firmware upgrades. We provide you with all software upgrades. That’s an ongoing phase with us. We’re keeping the customer totally updated and integrated all the time as we move forward.”
You can learn more about all the benefits of using drone surveying equipment from Microdrones and listen to hear Pendrill’s enthusiasm about the UK market in the latest Propelling podcast from Microdrones. A summary is also available below.
Dave Pendrill recently became the Microdrones sales manager for the Northern Europe region, but he’s already noticed clear distinctions between his new and old stomping grounds. When it comes to surveying technology, he said, the United Kingdom market is better positioned than South Africa for drone usage.
“In South Africa, the people are reluctant to change,” Pendrill explains. “They would like to continue with the practices that are in place. You've got people still booking stuff by hand. Robotic total stations in South Africa are very few and far between.”
Outside of certain areas such as strip surveying, Pendrill said, South Africa has not embraced drone surveying. Nor has the Southern Europe region, to a large extent. The contrast between these areas and his new area of responsibility is sharp, he said.
“I don't think geospatial technology is unique to any one specific country. Anyone can have it,” Pendrill said. “In the UK, I feel that they definitely utilize everything to its utmost. I think that's what's going for them. I mean, it doesn't matter what industry you go to, whether it be construction, agriculture, or land surveying, everybody's using technology as far as double positioning systems is concerned.”
While cultural factors play a role in the different approaches between regions, a fiscal factor may be the most decisive. With the advent of the rental concept, the UK surveying industry is in the early stages of a drone-usage boom, Pendrill said.
“In the UK, up until recently and in the drone sector, specifically, everybody has been buying. So, Microdrones has taken the initiative to come out with the ‘as a service’ sales model. I definitely see that it’s going to take the market by storm because that’s what they do in the UK in construction, surveying – anything. If they need a tool and they don’t have it, they will rent it for the day, for the week, or the year.”Dave Pendrill, Microdrones Sales Manager Northern Europe
And Pendrill’s company is a pioneer in the area of drone rental. Microdrones as a Service (MdaaS) puts the full array of surveying hardware and software solutions from Microdrones within the grasp of many more surveyors. He points to the presence of 40 drone pilot academies in the UK as evidence of the rental model’s impact.
Pendrill said the cost-effective MdaaS model is unique. The drone is rented for 12 months or more. You could then rent Microdrones software on a daily, monthly or yearly basis. Microdrones can estimate for you the cost of your project, he said.
“It's totally flexible,” Pendrill said. “Other providers do not provide that type of service. With other providers, you buy the unit, you buy the software and that's it, you sit with it. We provide you with all upgrades, firmware upgrades, we provide you with all software upgrades. That's an ongoing phase with us as well. We're keeping the customer totally updated and integrated all the time as we move forward.”
This flexibility leads to some interesting projects in the UK, Pendrill said. In his short time with Microdrones he’s seen customers survey building exteriors via drone, survey the interior with a conventional scanner, then merge the two data sets together. This creates a three-dimensional space model, he said. He’s also seen drones in roofing projects take days to achieve what would have taken weeks through conventional surveying methods.
Outright purchase of your drone can be a costly affair, Pendrill said, but the rental option opens the drone technology market to more companies. Companies don't feel the financial impact of a big investment. This and the region’s hunger for faster and more accurate solutions make the United Kingdom and Microdrones a natural match. For example, the most recent UK distributor of Microdrones, Drone Pilot Academy, trains new drone pilots and demonstrates how the software is easy to use. The personnel capturing the data in the field don’t necessarily need surveyor qualifications, just a drone pilot license.
While surveyors have to adapt to legislation surrounding drone usage, Pendrill said, Microdrones has systems in place to help its European customers adapt and get the most benefit from the technology. Microdrones UK customers are quickly realizing drones will help them overcome expensive labor costs and improve production, he said.
“More and more people are wanting to go to the imagery side of things, to the photogrammetry side of things. We're just putting them in a position where they can actually do it, much more efficiently,” Pendrill said. “Microdrones as a Service, is more like a leasing program than anything else and makes it achievable for small businesses to go into the point cloud industry, for want of a better word, and get accurate survey data.”
Pendrill sees the COVID-19 pandemic only accelerating the UK market’s use of drones. Using drones, he argued, decreases the time and physical interaction between people necessary to complete a project.
“All you need is your pilot, and he'll go out to the field and do his flight and mission planning, then tell the drone where to go and what it needs to do.” Pendrill said. “Yes, definitely. I think COVID is ... obviously, it’s a pandemic worldwide, but it’s forcing us to utilize technology differently going forward, and definitely the drone industry, our way of doing it, is the way to go.”
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