Strengthening Our Focus: The Evolution of Drone Technology

Time Flies When You're Having Fun

As few as twenty years ago, many people considered commercial or consumer drones to be science fiction fantasy. Although military use was common for surveillance, mapping and warfare, not many people could envision the variety of drones that fly civilian skies for non military purposes today. Back in 2005, Microdrones ventured into the drone business by offering resilient, heavy-duty drones engineered from the ground up for commercial field use. Today, the company offers advanced turnkey solutions that make it easy for businesses to start using UAVs.

Sebastian Long, Microdrones Sales Manager for Canada, compares the evolution of the drone to the early stages of the cellular phone. “Remember those early phones, from back in the 80’s?” Long recalls. “Not only were they the size and weight of a brick, but they cost upward of $3,000! Today, they’re smaller, efficient and much more practical. It’s the same evolution in the drone industry. Companies used to spend lots of money to have helicopters and planes gather pictures, measurements and data. As drone technology advanced, we were able to create smaller and safer unmanned aircraft that are much more cost effective than operating planes and helicopters.” Of course, traditional manned aircraft still have a critical role for aerial photogrammetry, but in many cases smaller areas of land are mapped more efficiently via unmanned aircraft.

Today, drones can be used for consumer, commercial and military applications, from the $19.99 big box retailer toy to the US Army’s multi-million dollar Medium Altitude Long Endurance Reaper drone. Microdrones has staked their flag in the geomatics industry by providing fully integrated solutions for surveying, mapping, inspection, construction, mining, volumetrics, and precision agriculture.

The Microdrones aircraft platform is built for the rigors of commercial field use and each system is designed with a specific customer application in mind.

Safety in The Air

The mdMapper1000DG is one of the systems that helps conduct site surveys with more reliability, safety and precision. As an example, Sebastien talks about working with White Birch Paper mill in Quebec City. The mill processes wood chips into cardboard. Getting an accurate measurement of the volume of wood chips is critical for inventory, production and control processes. In the past, surveyors used to walk among the heavy machinery, climb dangerous mounds of chips, and collect survey data over a 2-3 day period, to properly analyze the volume of wood chips.  By partnering with Microdrones, “This is safer, faster and we get a better data set,” Long said. “The numbers we get are more accurate than what they used to get from surveying and it keeps the surveyors out of danger. With the drone, they can get better coverage of the surface than someone walking the pile. The drone covers 100 percent of the pile and we’re able to give them accurate data of the volume and their inventory.”   

The Microdrones Difference

The White Birch Paper Mill is just one of many success stories Microdrones have experienced.  However, as drone technology advances, so does the competition. Mike Dziok, Microdrones Marketing Director, explains how they differentiate in the marketplace. “It’s getting very competitive.  But one of the things we try to do is provide the whole solution. We call it mdSolutions. We don’t just sell drones and a sensor. We sell the drone, the sensor, the software, the recommended work flow and full support and training. Professionals who invest in our systems know that they can hit the ground running after they’ve completed their training and start using it right away to generate results.”

Investing in the Future

Generating results and keeping customers satisfied is a large part of what Microdrones can help accomplish with an investment in one of their UAV solutions. The Microdrones team considers their product another tool in your tool box. To ensure you’re getting the most out of that tool you need to have the right people using it. Dziok explains, “When someone buys a system from us, the minimum cost of entry is probably $35,000.  Some of our systems go up beyond $300,000. As part of that we also recommend an operator with a background in geomatics to ensure the data is collected properly. A Microdrones system helps a company to save time, money and grow their business. It’s a big investment with big rewards.”  

Looking forward to LIDAR

One of the new mdSolutions that’s getting a lot of attention is the mdLiDAR1000. This system empowers professionals to create a point cloud visualization in standard ASPRS LAS format usable in any GIS or CAD software environment. Sebastian Long is excited about the new technology. “We’re getting LiDAR underneath our drone because this is what our customers are asking for,” he says. “The LIDAR bounces a laser off the ground to create 3D imaging. It’s such a nice fit, because of the characteristics of the aircraft to begin with. We can carry heavy payloads. Depending on payload, the aircraft offers up to 45 minutes in flight. It’s really fun for us to be able to integrate our drone with the LIDAR sensors and some of the heavier sensors that we can carry. It puts us is in a great position to utilize the new technology.”

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