Up With Precision | Global Trade Magazine
Global Trade Daily
  February 13th, 2018 | Written by

Up With Precision

Automated UAVs and the Future of Mapping Industrial Environments

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  • Endless hours of manpower go into industrial mapping.
  • Industrial mapping involves long hours are spent in harsh and often unsafe environments.
  • Manual industrial mapping can yield imprecise results that can be detrimental to operations.

When the topic turns to the most difficult and dangerous jobs in industrial environments, the general public may not think of mapping. Anyone who has ever worked in an industrial environment, however, knows the onerous, endless hours of manpower that go into industrial mapping. They know those long hours are spent in harsh and often unsafe environments, and they know that no matter how careful you try to be with measurements, plotting and data capture, the end results can be imprecise and detrimental to overall operations.

Anyone who has ever worked in an industrial environment also knows there has to be a better way. A way that’s a cut above, so to speak. Enter the automated industrial UAV.

The automated advantage

Drones or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) have been the buzz in a wide variety of industries for a few years now, and while any high-quality industrial UAV is capable of providing the aerial data necessary for improving the mapping process, only automated UAVs have the potential to truly revolutionize industrial mapping.

Automated UAVs generally require little to no human intervention in order to complete its operations. This means launching, flying, landing and data collection and processing can all be completed automatically by the drone. Leading UAVs can even swap their own sensors to make a wide range of applications possible, as well as complete their own routine maintenance such as battery changing.

All in all, automated drones offer major advantages over standard industrial drones by eliminating the significant cost of a drone pilot, the time spent waiting for a pilot to report for an on-demand mission, and the downtime required for routine maintenance between flights.

If an automated UAV can do all that to improve UAV operations, just think of what it can do for mapping.

Uncharted territory

To improve the mapping process across industries, automated UAV mapping has five main objectives: simplify the mapping process, prevent human employees from being exposed to dangerous conditions and environments, save time, save money, and produce maps with more accuracy and precision than can be achieved through traditional mapping methods.

With an automated drone, the industrial mapping process is as simple as the industrial mapping process gets. Pre-defined missions are flown exactly as scheduled and planned and not a single business process needs to be interrupted to allow a limitless number of measurements or photographs to be taken or for any other data to be captured. This is contrast to how operations may need to be halted to allow human mappers to complete their jobs without facing additional hazards on top of the ones that naturally exist in industrial environments.

Speaking of human mappers, the only way UAV mapping can unquestionably keep employees out of hazardous mapping situations is by saving companies significant time and money. Otherwise, some companies may find traditional mapping methods to be more cost-effective and keep putting human employees at risk for the sake of mapping. This is where a drone being automated is essential, as the substantial cost and wait time for a human drone operator is entirely eliminated. Both scheduled mapping missions and on-demand missions are notably faster and less expensive to complete, making it unreasonable to send employees out for anything from a comprehensive mapping project to a double-check of a single measurement.

Further, leading automated drones have the ability to automatically collect unlimited aerial data with precise measurements, and with their data analysis and processing capabilities can in turn create highly detailed and accurate orthophotos, terrain maps and digital elevation models. With an automated drone, there is also no possibility of the quality of a map being affected by human error in flight, data collection or map creation.

Better, simpler, faster, cheaper, and with no risk to human employees. If UAV mapping needed a slogan, that might be it.

Finding the way

As automation continues to make its way into industry, many will naturally think of self-driving haul trucks or other robotic heavy machinery as the major innovations. Those driving change in industries know, however, that automated innovations big and small are revolutionizing operations across the globe by decreasing costs, increasing efficiencies and protecting human employees. Automated drones are at the forefront of this push, improving processes ranging from incident response, inspections and surveillance to stockpile evaluation, surveying and, yes, mapping. When such a tedious, time-consuming, hazardous and necessary process can be improved, the benefits can be remarkable.

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