Drone tech - Common use cases for aerial imagery in enterprise business

Written by
Brooke Hahn
February 1, 2023

Web-based software platforms that enable aerial imagery and mapping have brought with them huge operational efficiency gains for Enterprise businesses. Huge benefits that is. In the past (and we still see it commonly), businesses would deploy people to do such things like; inspect tall structures from the ground, or hire expensive helicopters to inspect large areas of pipeline, or wait until solar panels simply stop providing the required power to take action. There are literally 100’s of similar human-powered tasks that Enterprise business triggers on a daily basis that could be solved in a much faster, safer, and scalable manner - drone-based aerial imagery. In this article, we look at the common use cases for aerial imagery - utilising drone technology and associated aerial intelligence software (also known as photogrammetry software).

Haven’t used drone-based aerial imagery before? Read on, we might just be able to improve your operations significantly in a matter of weeks.

Use cases for aerial imagery

There are 1000s and 1000s of effective use cases for aerial imagery, but we aren’t going to cover them all. Take a look at some of the cool applications of aerial imagery we see in the Enterprise market, and hopefully you can use that to inspire ways that you can benefit from aerial imagery. If you think of something drone-based aerial imagery could help with in your business, ask us and we’ll figure out what’s possible!

1. Measuring 

1.1 Stockpile Volumetric Measuring: Manage your production and control your stock levels with regular measurements of stockpile volumes. Receive frequent stockpile volumetric reports and plan ahead to optimise resource and staff allocations. By using centimetre-accurate 3D models and georeferenced orthophotos for measurement and analysis, you can ensure accurate and reliable data. Drones and ground control can be used for safe, quick and cost-effective data capture with minimal disruption to your operations. With this, you can generate high-res orthophotos, digital surface models, and volumetric reports.

Use cases for aerial imagery - Stockpile Volumetric reporting

1.2 Land surveying / cartography: By using survey drones, you can generate high-resolution orthomosaics and detailed 3D models of areas where low-quality, outdated, or even no data are available. Furthermore, they can help you quickly and easily produce high-accuracy cadastral maps, even in complex or difficult to access environments. You can also extract features from the images such as signs, curbs, road markers, fire hydrants and drains. After post-processing with a photogrammetry software, you can use the same images to produce very detailed elevation models, contour lines, and breaklines, as well as 3D reconstructions of land sites or buildings.

Photogrammetry orthophoto aerial imagery

1.3 Slope monitoring: By using automated GIS analysis, you can extract slope measurements from DTMs and DSMs generated by drone imagery. This will allow you to classify the areas based on steepness and use them for slope monitoring purposes, including landslide mitigation and prevention. By comparing orthomosaics taken at different times, you can detect changes in earth movement and measure its velocity. This data can help you predict landslides and prevent potential damage to roads, railways, and bridges. Compared to traditional monitoring techniques, where sensors are placed on single points, drones enable more comprehensive data collection. Drones with PPK capability, which do not require the laying out of multiple GCPs, are optimal for this application as these areas are often hard to reach or even dangerous.

2. Reporting

2.1 Crop agronomy: Agritech is a growing industry, as farmers across the world use aerial imagery data reporting to make informed decisions, maximise crop yields, and reduce waste. Aerial imagery in multiple wavelengths allows growers to plan scouting, management, and interventions.

2.2 Site safety reporting: Drones, deployable from safe locations, can be equipped with sensors and cameras to monitor conditions on just about any worksite to provide real-time monitoring and reports in safety. From keeping track of assets and workers to identifying potential safety hazards before any accidents take place, this access to live monitoring is unprecedented and invaluable. What’s more, that data can then be visualised within platforms like Birdi for effective decision-making.

2.3 Traffic management reports: Effective traffic management on location is essential to reducing risk to yourself, your workers, and visitors. Therefore by planning and mitigating hazards, you can achieve significant cost savings in time, maintenance, and vehicle wear and tear. More importantly, you can prevent crashes, save lives, and avoid delays due to shutdowns while investigations are conducted. Implementing traffic management protocols will help you to keep your work site safe and running smoothly.

  • Road Safety Audits
  • Road Width Assessments
  • Road Gradient Assessments
  • Berm Assessments
  • Intersection Line of Sight Assessments
  • Traffic Management Plans

3. Collaborating 

3.1 Team collaboration: The use of aerial imagery, specifically drones, helps coordination efforts in disaster management. It allows for relief workers, community leaders, and stakeholders to gain a clear understanding of the affected area, which can greatly improve situational awareness and potentially save lives. Studies have shown that drones can even save one life per week. For example, in late 2015 in India, drones helped rescue up to 200 people from severe flooding by narrowing the search grid for rescue teams.

4. Monitoring and inspection

4.1 Assets inspection: The use of aerial imagery has revolutionised the way assets are monitored, making it more efficient and cost-effective. Conversely, traditional methods of inspection can be time-consuming and require significant logistical resources. With aerial imagery, asset monitoring can be done remotely, allowing for easy access to high-resolution images of public utilities, private facilities and other assets. This approach to monitoring enables proactive and preemptive maintenance, ultimately saving resources in the long run.  A perfect example of this application is inspecting solar panels, roofs or other inaccessible assets in large factories. Use asset inspections for:

  • Surface defects
  • Cracks / Splits
  • Seals / Leaks
  • Rust / Corrosion
  • Fixings / Fastenings
  • Misalignment / Deformation
  • Safety Hazards / Guarding

Aerial imagery for asset inspection

4.2 Progress monitoring on construction sites: By monitoring the progress of your construction project, you can ensure that it is progressing as planned. Therefore, progress monitoring not only helps you detect when a project has fallen behind but also prevents delays before they happen. You can be alerted to issues as they arise and implement solutions early before the issue slows down construction by collecting progress reports consistently.

Construction progress monitoring may include:

  • Observing the construction work and its level of completion
  • Observing any potential work hindrances or stoppage
  • Assessing conformance to the construction schedule
  • Assessing the quality of workmanship
  • Assessing the supply of stored materials for adequate quantities
  • Identifying construction changes and potential or pending changes, ensuring that your construction project runs smoothly, on time, and on budget.

Aerial imagery for construction progress reporting

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Brooke Hahn
Brooke has been involved in SaaS startups for the past 10 years. From marketing to leadership to customer success, she has worked across the breadth of teams and been pivotal in every company's strategy and success.

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