Drone use is becoming more prevalent across the globe, and in this episode of Microdrones podcast, Propelling, we shine the spotlight on Latin America to hear about the influence, growth and future of Drones as told by Jesus Zenteno and Robson Augusto, Microdrones sales managers for Latin America.
Jesus and Augusto discuss the time saving benefits that UAVs have enabled in various business processes, the regulations that govern UAV use within each country, piloting education and qualifications, smart city concepts, and how having the right tool is impacting both Latin American industries and citizenry with easy operation, and powerfully enhanced, yet less costly data capture.
Of particular note, this is the first version of Propelling that is spoken in Spanish. So, for those of you who need translation, please review the summary below or download the .pdf at the end of this page for the full translation.
Please enjoy the latest Microdrones Podcast, Propelling: Using Drones in Latin America
Meet Robson Augusto and Jesus Zenteno
Robson Augusto and Jesus Zenteno, the Microdrones Regional Sales Managers in Latin America, are at the forefront of the drone industry in Latin America, working with various companies and customers to find innovative new ways to put Microdrones Integrated Solutions to work.
Jesus started his drone career on the engineering side and was introduced to UAV’s as a photogrammetric alternative. Jesus says, “I had the opportunity to be part of projects where we started using drones and it was fascinating to use them as tools and to see how they made the job easier. Previously I was working in the field of creating maps and layouts in civil engineering, which required, expensive, lengthy, photogrammetric flights. These flights were always logistical challenges. Drones started to solve these issues. The ease of use, execution, and reduction in turnaround time was wonderful. This is when I realized their potential and became attracted to the industry. Having the right tool makes the job simpler, reducing the time to obtain results, all while doing it at a lower cost.
Drone and Phone Evolution
Having worked for various companies in the UAV industry, Robson has witnessed the evolution of drone technology throughout the years and attributes a direct correlation to drone growth from the proliferation of smart phones. “I believe that one of the major enablers to the drone industry has been the mobile phone,” says Robson. “This is because the cost of all the basic electronic components in a drone, like the GPS and the accelerometer sensors, have decreased since the introduction of the “smartphone”. This has been a big motivation to build safer and more stable drones which can execute multiple functions like Jesus mentioned: capturing images and executing faster and more precise tasks. Therefore, the drone industry has significantly evolved with the innovations in communication and development of mobile phones.”
As innovations in smart phone technology extended into unmanned flight, drones became more accessible to people, both for commercial use and as a hobby. “You used to need a very skilled pilot, using his/her abilities to control an unmanned aircraft remotely." says Robson. "Now, using a Microdrones solution can automate the flight plan on an Android tablet. First, the pilot plans his mission. Then the flight plan gets uploaded to the tablet. At that point, the drone is ready to go. The system takes over and executes the flight automatically. The pilot’s role is simply to supervise the flight and take control of the drone prior and during landing. The electronic controls have helped develop a very safe tool to get the job done.”
Drones in Latin America
Latin America is a very large and culturally diverse area which accounts for different geographical challenges when it comes to flying drones. According to Robson, South America, has experienced a similar UAV renaissance as the United States, with the adoption of drone technology. He says, “Currently, the financial potential and utilization of this technology is reserved for larger clients and corporations, due to the investment level and local tax structure. Many of these large corporations have similar industrial uses that you find in the US: surveying, mapping, mining, agriculture, and construction. The volume is different, however, due to the economic conditions of the region.”
Jesus finds similar trends in Mexico and Central America, where the economy is the main stimulus for drone usage. “For our clients, obviously, we are always searching for the best, economical solutions,” says Jesus. “One drone alone does not solve a problem. It needs to be accompanied by a workflow, training, a series of sensors, and procedures. That’s a solution. That makes the difference and that’s what makes Microdrones valuable in Latin America.”
Latin American Drone Rules and Regulations
Across the world, there is no set of unified rules and regulations for drone use. This is also true in Latin America, where countries throughout the region have different guidelines and regulations for flying unmanned vehicles and using them to gather information. “We have different laws in every country,” says Robson. “But the important thing is that they are all based on operating safely. I’ve noticed that may of the regulations are very similar to the laws that apply to the photogrammetry industry. There’s a standard application to notify air control about the goal of the mission, the altitude of the flight, and what you’re going to do with the drone. This is good for Microdrones because we apply the highest standards of aviation in our solutions and the safety requirements follow the pattern set by photogrammetry.”
Understanding the rules and regulations also make Robson and Jesus an asset for their customers. “We help our clients understand the regulations in the region,” explains Jesus. “That way we can guide them through the implementation of projects in regions that are unfamiliar to them. In most of Latin America, regulation exists, and if we want to use a drone for commercial work, it is necessary for us to approach the local aviation authorities and abide by the rules. We have to maintain certain distances from airports; there are places where it is forbidden to fly over crowds, over animals; and obviously, we have to make sure not to drop any objects. When it comes to drones, some countries require risk coverage or some insurance. We also develop strong relationships with our suppliers to be made aware of different laws when we cross into different regions.”
Drones in Mining, Engineering, and Agriculture
Three of the main industries, in Latin America, where drones are creating opportunities, innovation and finding success are Mining, Engineering and Agriculture. For mining, Robson notes that UAVs can be used help perform volumetric measurements. “With traditional technologies, you would have to do manual, terrestrial processes using a lot of equipment to take measurements or then make a photogrammetric flight that, as we already talked about, is very expensive and requires very complex programming. In contrast, the Microdrones platform manages to measure greater distances than terrestrial processes and make faster calculations of the volume of extracted material. This makes it very efficient for mining, calculation of volumes, taking photos and monitoring all of the soil movement.”
Jesus, who has a background in engineering, has observed the rise in drone use across all the different branches and stages along the engineering process. “From the planning aspect, civil engineers, need to obtain data and information about the land, in order to create models and design roads for transportation systems. Drones can help get that information faster and more efficiently. Once the construction stage begins, the drones can be used to help map and monitor the progress of work, practically in real time. Nowadays, UAV solutions let you fly in the morning and have the data and information already processed by the afternoon. Virtually any infrastructure, any engineer can benefit, regardless of the stage—when you employ the drone as a tool in the process.”
When it comes to precision agriculture, drones are literally planting the seeds for success. The Agricultural market has inherent challenges as it pertains to large geographical areas, across many different regions. However, technology has always help nurture crop growth. “This is where a drone can be very effective.” Says Robson. “A Microdrones system can take very high-resolution images that can help track planting and identify whether any corrections must be made. Furthermore, the drone can cover large and difficult areas to access. So, in all the steps of agriculture—from planting, to nurturing, growth, pruning, to the harvest, the drone can help the entire vegetation process be maximized.”
There’s a bright future for drones in Latin America, with other potential applications including shipping, transportation and security. Inspection is also a large sector with many different opportunities to put drones to use. “We are watching the future unfold.” Says Robson. “We already have a methane gas detection system—the mdTector1000CH4. It’s a perfect example of how we can help grow into new industries. You can use the mdTector to inspect areas that would typically require putting people in harm’s way, to look for gas leaks. So, I think we're always going to see the evolution of technology when we talk about drones, and I think we have a very exciting future for drones in Latin America.”
If you are interested in putting drones to work in Latin America, click here, and we’ll be sure to get you in touch with either Robson or Jesus so that you can learn how to Plan, Fly, Process & Visualize with Microdrones.