The state of the Canadian drone surveying market
Drone surveying equipment is becoming more popular in the surveyor’s toolbox. So, how are different markets adapting to the technology?
featuring Cansel and Microdrones
On this episode of Propelling, host Daniel Litwin spoke with a panel of experts about drone surveying in Canada. The roundtable discussion included Sebastien Long, Sales Manager, Canada for Microdrones and Moathe El-Rabbany, Key Account Manager, Iliana Tsali, Technical Account Manager Geospatial Business Line, and David Laflamme, Project Manager, all from our Canadian distributor Cansel.
Tune in to the podcast to hear their feedback or read the summary provided below.
Drones take off in Canada
Drones are poised to take off as a must-have surveying tool in Canada.
Governmental regulations have eased in recent years to allow for easier adoption. Customers that might be hesitant to make a big purchase up front can ease into using a fully integrated UAV solution through new options like Microdrones as a Service, which offers flexibility and affordability. Furthermore, drones can help surveyors to complete jobs efficiently with the use of top-flight technology that produces accurate results in a fraction of the time.
“We're still in the early stages of drones in Canada. There's still a lot to do, a lot to prove,” said Sebastien Long, Canada Sales Manager for Microdrones. “But I think we're on the right track right now.
“I think more and more every day, businesses across Canada are discovering new opportunities to take advantage of drone surveying equipment,” Long added.
Cansel has helped to lead the way across Canada. A geospatial solutions provider based in Quebec, Cansel distributes Microdrones integrated systems across Canada.
In business since 1966, Cansel only entered the UAV business about eight years ago, flying just fixed-wing drones that cost around $100,000 each. Just as big a stumbling block then was the roughly six-to-eight month wait to get approval to fly the drone from the Canadian government, said David Laflamme, segment manager for aerial and terrestrial imaging for Cansel.
Regulatory changes in 2019 reduced wait times to put a drone in the air. Today, a customer can fly a drone in as soon as 24 hours of filing for approval.
“In the past few years, there have been new regulations in Canada that have helped a lot,” said Laflamme, who also is project manager for Cansel’s Quebec region.
Gaining trust and familiarity
Surveying companies drove early interest in using drones, though Cansel executives say there was a lot of hesitation. The wariness, in part, was due to lack of trust and familiarity with a product that wasn’t stationed in plain view on the ground. Some companies found the cost of using a drone to be prohibitive.
“In the past, people were kind of iffy about it, thinking, ‘I’m really going to do this entire field in two hours, which would usually take more a whole week to walk with a GPS?’” said Moathe El-Rabbany, key account manager for Cansel in Ontario.
“People just find it a little bit hard to believe at first, and to trust the technology versus what they’ve already used,” he said.
The return on investment helped to sway skeptics. Once regulations eased, more companies jumped in to help validate the technology and give it more clout for enterprise industrial use cases.
The emergence of LiDAR, which stands for Light Detection and Ranging, opened up new applications with better accuracy. It’s a method of remote sensing that uses light in laser form to measure distances to the earth.
Drone photogrammetry also offers advantages, especially for customers looking for more affordable options to break into the drone world. Iliani Tsali, account manager for Cansel in Alberta, said the company is committed to tailoring to the customer’s needs.
“Because, we’re still in the early stages of professional UAV adoption in Canada, it’s our responsibility at Cansel to educate our customers,” Tsali said. “That will bring more opportunities for them, and more opportunities for us as well.”
Iliana Tsali, Cansel Technical Account Manager Geospatial Business Line
Because, we’re still in the early stages of professional UAV adoption in Canada, it’s our responsibility at Cansel to educate our customers. That will bring more opportunities for them, and more opportunities for us as well.
Keeping up with demand
In Ontario, surveyors are having hard time keeping up with demand, El-Rabbany said. Some clients have told him that they are turning to buying their own drones because of a shortage of surveyors in some parts of the province.
Turning to drones can also help with in-house manpower shortages among clients. For instance, Long said, a job that might cover tough terrain might be better suited for a smaller drone crew that can finish the job quickly. A larger crew might then be able to get started earlier on another project in a different part of the country.
Microdrones as a Service offers the added benefit of pricing flexibility that caters to customer needs by offering rental and purchasing options. It gives clients a lower entry point to gain access to powerful technology or offer an opportunity to add resources to help work through a project backlog.
“So a customer will have a leasing option for the drone hardware,” Long said. “And then they’re going to be able to select the best plan to process all of their data through mdInfinity– our unique data processing software.”
With Microdrones as a Service, maintenance can be included, too. “We’ll train you on everything. Cansel will go through that,” Long said. “And that’s it – this removes a lot of troubles and worries into the overall process.”
Weathering the winter
And it can save money during the winter months, too, when the weather may not always be ideal for flying. Microdrones as a Service allows customers the option to pay for data processing per project.
If they do fly in the winter, Microdrones integrated systems have proven to hold up well in Canada’s cold climate. Exposed moving parts are limited. Cables are all secured inside the drones. Maintenance needs usually are minimal.
“I think all these points do speak to the quality of the drone,” El-Rabbany said. “Microdrones, with its quality and ablity to deal with harsher temperatures and higher wind speeds allows you to use it for more scenarios than not.”
Overall, the offerings of products and services from Microdrones aligns perfectly with Cansel’s strong reputation across Canada in the surveying, engineering, and construction markets, Tsali said.
This, in turn, lends itself to supporting a growing clientele increasingly interested in turning to surveying for various needs.
“Our vision is to partner with the best manufacturers in hardware and software, and providers of services and support,” Tsali said.
Added Laflamme: “Two companies partnering together, that have exactly the same vision for the customer is just a win-win solution for all of our clients across the country.”
For more information on working with Cansel or adding surveying equipment from Microdrones to your workflow, CLICK HERE to speak to a representative.