Barely a day goes by without drones being in the news for one reason or another. Every so often those stories are negative in nature: Pilots flying where they shouldn’t, that kind of thing. But the vast majority feature interesting applications that are changing the way we do business.
Here are a few industries benefiting from adopting drone technology.
Construction companies are using drones to carry out a range of tasks: mapping out sites to help with project planning, providing an aerial view of progress as builds move forward, and inspecting infrastructure along the way.
Drones are performing construction tasks faster, for less and with more efficiency. And in some cases they are preventing humans from being put at risk.
In a competitive real estate market, first impressions are important. Listings need to stand out from the crowd and premium properties have to come with premium marketing material.
Drones give agents a way to capture real estate in a memorable way from a unique perspective, highlighting key features in a manner that wouldn’t be possible from the ground.
With a few simple shots, a skilled pilot can bring a real estate listing to life.
Alongside commercial use cases in traditional industries, drones have started to capture the imagination of the public in ways that could prove to be lucrative.
These include the setup of professional drone racing organizations, such as DRL, which have won multi-million dollar sponsorship deals and taken drone racing worldwide with international fixtures.
We’ve also seen the rise of drone light shows, largely from tech giant Intel. These aerial displays feature hundreds of LED-carrying drones, flying in sync and creating dazzling performances that many think will replace fireworks in the long run.
Police, firefighters, ambulance crews and search and rescue teams around the world are all beginning to adopt drone technology.
Police are using drones to gather intel, provide situational awareness, monitor traffic violations and more. Firefighters are combining optical imaging with thermal cameras to better understand blazes and spot signs of life during rescue efforts. Several companies are using drones to deliver medical supplies and even emergency equipment, such as defibrillators.
Search and rescue teams worldwide are looking to drones to cover more ground during missions and relying on high definition video streams and thermal cameras to locate people in danger.
First, they rely on a drone’s mobility to cover ground quickly. Second, they help to ensure that first responders aren’t themselves put at risk in dangerous environments. And third, they provide an eye in the sky that saves lives through the use of aerial imagery.
Researchers around the world are finding uses for drone technology, too.
Mostly these involve gathering data in ways that would be dangerous, costly or impossible without the help of a drone.
Examples include mapping out rainforests to keep track of deforestation, mapping out wetlands to monitor mosquito movements and help prevent the spread of malaria, and using drones as a countermeasure against illegal poaching.
In some cases, drones are having a more direct role: Ocean Alliance uses them to fly above whales and collect biological samples from the animals’ blow; UK conservation group The Plastic Tide is combining drones with AI to measure and document the amount of plastic waste on beaches.
These are just a handful of examples outlining who is using drones and why. If you want to start your own journey in the industry, check out our pilots’ page today.
Source: DroneBase – Who Uses Drones?
FAA Certified drone pilot
DJI Phantom 4 Advanced
Drone mapping for smart cities
In smart cities around the world, unmanned systems are being tested and deployed to quickly collect, aggregate, analyze and deliver highly accurate and highly detailed data: the foundation of a smart city.
In smart cities around the world, unmanned systems are being tested and deployed to quickly collect, aggregate, analyze and deliver highly accurate and highly detailed data: the foundation of a smart city. This data facilitates applications that improve operations, engage residents and support communities.
Worldwide spending on the technologies that enable smart city initiatives are expected to reach $80 billion in 2018 and climb to $135 billion by 2021, according to the International Data Corporation (IDC).
At least some of that investment will be in systems that gather data safely, quickly and accurately, such as drones.
Public agencies from North America to New Zealand are taking advantage of these small, but powerful devices to connect our world.
Located in the south-east corner of New Zealand’s North Island, the Tararua District is likely not the first location that comes to mind when talking ‘smart cities.’ The district’s constellation of tiny towns – total population of 17,800 – is spread over 4,300 km² of rugged farming and forestry land, slotted between the Ruahine mountain range and the Pacific Ocean. Despite its remote location and small population size, the Tararua District Council is a leader in Oceania in its use of drone-captured data to inform and engage its citizens.
The Tararua District Council is responsible for both the day-to-day management of services like trash and recycling, and bigger-picture planning such as emergency management, transportation systems, and water and wastewater. The Council has a long history of seeking ways to improve connections to its citizenry — largely because of its vast service area. The underpinning of that effort has been wireless connectivity, which facilitates all forms of current and future IoT possibilities. Already, district agencies use the wireless network to capture telemetry data about water supplies, sewer systems, roads, and bridges.
Rock walling on Waitahora Road on Pix4Dmapper- courtesy of Tararua District Council
More recently, the Tararua District Council has been working with agencies to test and deploy drone-based mapping technology for a variety of applications. Aerial data is captured with drones and used to update the district-wide GIS, capture infrared photos for carbon model analysis, track construction project progress and for large bridge inspections.
Blair Rogers, Master Business Systems’ GIS Consultant to the Tararua District Council, says, “The Council is very progressive. Their goal is to un-tie otherwise isolated data and make it available to the entire organization and, where possible, to the community. They see drones as the ideal vehicle to support all manner of services.”
Key in realizing the value of the drone-gathered data is the ability to easily and quickly develop and share images. That’s where Pix4Dmapper comes in. Rogers explains: “Pix4Dmapper lets us produce all manner of outputs from highly accurate orthomosaics to 3D models to traditional contour and terrains maps to name a few. Typically, we post-process with Pix4Dmapper, upload the data to online publishing platforms and share the data with the council, stakeholders and the community.”
The imagery is used to map areas of local historical interest (such as the Settler’s Cemetery, where townspeople were buried between the 1880s and the 1950s), and to create 3D models for publicity. More urgently, drones are used to capture images of slips on the district’s network of rural roads, and where streams have scoured their banks to threaten the streets, allowing transport issues to be resolved faster.
Rogers believes drone imagery and reliable, post-processing software will be most valuable during emergencies and in responding to disasters such as floods or earthquakes. He adds, “The Council has to work 24/7. If there’s a weather event on a weekend, we’re expected to respond — we can’t wait until Monday morning for an outside service provider to give us the data. With Pix4D, we process on-demand and fast.”
The power and potential of these systems for data capture is so high that the council has created a permanent drone operator position. This individual has the equipment, software and funding to acquire data whenever and wherever needed.
Rogers believes that it won’t be long before every engineer in the council district has a drone, adding, “Within a few years, maybe sooner, these devices will be another tool in the toolbox, as relevant as a telephone or total station.”
Explore the Waitahora Road on the Tararua District here.
Mapping towns of all sizes
Across the U.S., cities and towns of all sizes are looking to improve connections with residents and business owners.
GEO Jobe UAV, a geospatial data provider based in Nashville, Tennessee, has a seat front-and-center of the smart cities evolution in the U.S. The firm provides high-resolution digital mapping products such as ortho-aerial maps, topographic data and models to public sector clients in local and county governments, as well as private sector clients in the engineering, construction, utilities and land surveying industries.
Jeff Lawrence, UAV Business Development for GEO Jobe, says, “As a service provider in the drone market, we’re seeing a whirlwind of interest from communities interested in using aerial data for a wide variety of applications from improving asset management to programming bus routes.”
Lawrence points to a project Geo Jobe recently completed for the owner of a resort community in Florida. The 9 km² property is essentially a small city with residential, commercial and recreational facilities such as golf courses along with almost a kilometer of beachfront. The client wanted a high-resolution map to better assess potential stormwater issues.
“It used to be that mapping contours at less than 3 meters above sea level was highly problematic because it’s so flat,” says Lawrence. “Not with drone and advanced sensor technology. In areas with elevation change, we can easily achieve one foot [30cm contours]. In this case, the owner wanted 6 inch [15cm] contour maps — and we were able to do that as well.”
Combined with data gathered on the ground with handheld GPS units, the owner now has a comprehensive map of drains, manhole covers and the pipes that will be used to manage the infrastructure assets.
Now, that same owner is looking to compile other layers of GIS data like local zoning ordinances, mosquito spraying programs and working on community engagement applications. If there’s a flash flood or a backed-up storm drain, a resident could simply tap into the community app to report the incident. Or the property maintenance team can push out information such as the beginning of a flood mitigation program or areas impacted by a recent rain event to alert residents and business owners.
Parcel map – courtesy of Geo Jobe UAV
Lawrence adds, “The basemap becomes a two-way source of conversation and connection between the community public works team and residents and businesses.”
Even for communities that are not yet addressing smart city applications, drone mapping capabilities are helping set the foundation for the future. Consider the town of Tiptonville, which sits between the Missouri river and Reelfoot lake in northwest Tennessee. Tiptonville covers barely 3.5 km² and is home to less than 5,000 people. The small town is growing: the number of people living in Tiptonville almost doubled between the year 2000 and 2010, and the growth brought with it all the engineering challenges of any population boom.
Still too small for a public works department, Tiptonville relies on engineering consultants and drones to support the operations and maintenance of sewer and water utilities. Looking ahead to opportunities to better understand, manage and upgrade their infrastructure, town leaders hired Geo Jobe to develop a high-resolution ortho map of the town’s water utility infrastructure.
Utility map – courtesy of Geo Jobe UAV
Geo Job’s Lawrence believes the ability to quickly and affordably develop a micro-GIS is one of the greatest advantages of drone technology for smaller municipalities. He adds, “Before drones and high quality microsensors, Tiptonville would have had to hire a plane to develop a topographic map—and they would have been lucky to get two foot [60cm] contours, for a much higher cost and then it would have taken several months to produce.”
Geo Jobe was able to develop the topo map of the town with 30cm contours in a couple hours, post-process the data within Pix4Dmapper and deliver the ortho image within a week.
Lawrence concludes, “Mapping with drone-based sensors and flexible, fast post-processing tools is an affordable way to create basemaps and build a GIS for a fraction of what it used to cost. For small towns like Tiptonville, it doesn’t make sense to fly a plane. Drones can do it faster, cheaper and more accurately —thereby opening the door to smart city initiatives in communities of all sizes.”
Smart tech, smart city
A city doesn’t have to be big to be smart. What matters is the technology driving the change. With Pix4D, mapping has never been more flexible, affordable or accessible. Small cities like Tiptonville and the Tararua District are leading the way with agile and inventive uses of the new technology, proving that no matter what the size of the town, it can be smart.
Check out this 1-minute real estate listing video that we produced for Sophie’s Home Team. Jonathan Mulkey holds an FAA part 107 remote pilot certification and has over 6 years of experience with sUAS’s.
It’s been reported that for every star a business gets, it will see an increase of approximately 5-9% in business revenue. So if an increase like that sounds good to you, start paying attention to those reviews.
What would be the benefit of a 5-9% increase in your business?
Whatever the answer is, would it be worth spending an hour or two per week responding to online customer reviews for your business? Having an online reputation management plan for reviews can have many positive effects.
It shows potential new customers that you understand customer service and it doesn’t just happen at your location, but also happens online, and before or after the customer engages in a transaction with you.
Positive reviews can help improve how your business ranks in local search. “Prominence,” as defined by Google, is “how well-known a business is.” The third factor that Google uses to determine local ranking in search, prominence factors in recent ratings and reviews. You can read more about that here. When someone uses the word “best” in a search query (like “best restaurant,” “best plumber,” or “best hospital”) the search engines interpret that as a signal that they use ratings to quantify.
In the article Crush Your Competition with these Website Building Basics, I talked about how to “super juice” up your website with first-party reviews. First-party reviews are feedback that a business asks customers for directly — and which live on a business’s own website.
If you are really gunning for success, first-party reviews should be part of your online reputation management plan. According to Yext, “Customers and search engines make decisions about your brand every day based on your ratings and reviews. If you don’t pay attention to this important source of customer feedback, you could be leaving revenue on the table.”
So take the time to properly manage those first-party reviews — they can help your business to be found online.
Before we dive deeper into first-party reviews and how you can leverage them for your business, let’s have a quick refresher on third-party reviews. When a customer leaves a review of your business on a site that is not your business’s website (e.g. Google, Facebook, Yelp, TripAdvisor, Foursquare, etc.), that is considered a third-party review. In other words, they are reviews that are on third-party websites.
Now let’s talk about first-party reviews. The big difference between these and third-party reviews, is that they live on the website for your business. They are a powerful tool in driving customer advocacy and SEO results, but there are guidelines that you have to follow. In short, you can’t “fake the funk on a nasty dunk.” Basically, they have to be 100% real and unbiased.
There are no universal comprehensive guidelines out there on first-party review conduct. That’s mostly because each of the publishers and intelligent services have their own rules. And those rules frequently change. That being said, there are some good rules of conduct you can follow with first-party reviews that won’t steer you wrong.
- Do not do anything that incentivizes customers to leave a review
- Ask all your customers for a review (don’t only ask customers you know are happy)
- Do not cherry-pick or delete any reviews, no matter how negative
- Reviews cannot be written by the business owner, employees or associates
If you operate inside those guidelines, you should be in safe shape.
How do you get first-party reviews on your website?
Well, that’s where compliance gets easy. You’ll need to use a system or software as a service to collect and manage your reviews. I’d, of course, point you to Yext, who offers a first-party review collection and management system as part of their overall review management solution. It also offers instant notifications and a system of organization that allows you to see every review customers leave of your business across the web, and to filter those reviews by site, star rating, response, and other items. It’s really powerful. However, there are other options out there.
Once you’ve chosen a system, it’s important that you reply to all reviews — no matter how positive or negative — and demonstrate that outstanding customer service you’re known for.
Knowing this, it’s important for companies to pay attention to what is being said about them online. And to be sure to respond to each and every review or message that they can.
In many ways, winter is the perfect season for aerial photography. The light is at its best, landscapes transform and occasionally the elements will work in your favor. But taking to the skies in the winter months comes with its challenges, too. Here are a few practical steps you can take to make the most of your drone over the festive season.
It’s an obvious one, but being dressed for winter conditions is a must. The last thing you want to be doing is adjusting your clothing once your drone is in the air.
The most important thing to consider is buying a pair of touchscreen gloves. These will keep your hands warm and make sure numb fingers from the cold don’t become an issue – without interfering with your ability to fly.
Prepare for the worst
If you’re flying for fun or on a job in the winter months, you need to prepare for the worst. Expect the weather to turn at a moment’s notice and consider planning more than one landing spot in case the conditions change.
With the weather being such an important factor, planning flights days, not hours, in advance is probably your best bet.
That level of preparation should also go down to the details of your kit, too. The vast majority of drones on the market aren’t designed to withstand wet weather. But batteries can also perform differently in cold temperatures.
Before setting out for a winter shoot, make sure that all your batteries are fully charged and that you have plenty of spares to hand. Older batteries can be unreliable in cold conditions, so give your kit the best chance to perform by keeping it protected from the cold while you can. Little things, such as keeping your gear in the back seat of your car rather than the boot, can make a big difference to performance.
You can also buy insulation stickers for some drones, such as the DJI Inspire 2. These provide extra protection from the cold and can give you a few extra percentage points of performance in freezing conditions.
Stay dry and stay safe
It’s another obvious one, but keeping your drone dry should always be the priority when flying in winter. That doesn’t simply mean not flying in the rain. It also means being careful about your take-off and landing points.
Consider buying a launch mat to keep your drone dry when taking off and landing. Also keep a towel close by in case you need to wipe off any rain or condensation after a flight.
Wind is another important factor. Winter often brings high wind speeds, so take those into account before you take off and while you’re flying.
Aside from the weather, keep an eye on your battery temperature and voltage when flying in the winter.
If you’re using an application like DJI GO 4, this information can be found in your battery settings. Voltage is shown in a color-coded system of red, amber and green – Anything below 3.2 volts is usually in the red. Optimum battery temperature may vary depending on which drone you have; you can check that in your manual.
Making the most of your time in the sky
With all the safety steps covered, think about how best you can use the light and the landscapes of winter in your aerial photography. Time lapses look great with snow, blue skies, and clouds. But there are plenty of ways you can get creative with winter scenes.
Why not consider getting an ND filter or two? Having a few filters to choose from can give you more flexibility when shooting in winter’s bright light conditions.
Instead of pushing up your shutter speed to properly expose the scene in front of you, a neutral density filter lowers the amount of light that reaches the camera and gives you more creative freedom.
All set to take on the elements and shoot some magical winter scenes?
Clients are confused.
They’re not really sure where they should focus their attention. Should they focus on local business listings, reviews or leads? What about content, social media and call tracking – how much attention do they dedicate to those channels and tactics?
Local clients want the most bang for their buck, but most of the time, they don’t have a plan. They definitely don’t know which local marketing tactics will produce the results they want.
The worst part?
What works for one local business, may not work well for another.
There’s confusion about what works best for local marketing
Experts recommend a variety of different tactics.
“Focus on your local listings. No, no, no, you should be investing in Facebook Ads. If you’re focused on content marketing and SEO you’ll have lots of free traffic.”
The suggestions are typically very broad, incredibly vague and focused on the wrong things. Nine times out of 10, the advice from these “experts” misses the mark. This leads to a tangent of unfocused ideas that suck up a client’s time and budget, but fails to produce results.
Your clients are listening to the wrong people.
Listen to bad advice and your local marketing campaigns will fail
There’s a problem here.
What is bad advice? Where does bad advice come from?
A better question would be to ask where great advice comes from. The answer is simple and obvious. It comes from your client’s customers.
Does this mean their customers are experts?
It means you’re able to listen to what your client’s customers say and you’re able to watch what they do. This is how you determine what matters most for your local marketing campaigns.
That doesn’t sound right, does it?
How are your client’s customers the best source for information? They’re typically the least knowledgeable group you can draw data from. Why would asking them for advice work?
Your client’s customers know what they want
They don’t have to be experts on your industry, business, product or service. They just need to know (a.) what they want and (b.) how they buy.
There’s a lot packed into that simple statement, what does that mean exactly?
It means you know your target audience / ideal customer. These are the customers who are both willing and able to buy. These are the people your clients want to turn into long-term customers. Your job as an agency or consultant is to learn everything you can about their customers.
This means you know…
1. The demographics and psychographics of their target audience.
2. Where to find customers that match the demographics and psychographics above.
3. Know the books they read, shows they watch, brands they buy/follow, etc.
4. Their fears – in the form of frustrations, problems, and objections.
5. Their buying process – what they want, what they look for, where they go to find answers, etc.
6. The authority figures they trust, follow or listen to.
Do these details matter all that much from a client standpoint?
Any experienced agency professional or consultant will tell you they understand the importance of these details. Here’s the surprising part about these details.
Most small businesses (and many medium-sized businesses) don’t have this data.
Most of the time, clients believe they already know the answers to these questions. Often times your clients are able to rattle off comprehensive details about their customers.
But, are they right?
The bad news about their data? It falls apart under close scrutiny. Their customer personas are often based on imaginary or non-existent data, they don’t have answers for their customer fears, and their buying process isn’t in line with what customers actually do.
Most businesses don’t know what their customers want
That’s a pretty bold statement to make. The bad news is that it’s true.
How do we know?
Research from CB Insights, found that most startups / small businesses failed because of “the lack of a market need for their product.” This is the number one reason, cited by 42 percent of the startups in their study, for business failure.
This is a video that we recently produced for Burgin Homebuilders to promote this newly built home in The Grove Park community in Harrison, TN.
Mulkey Design Co.
Aerial Reel 2016
DJI Phantom 3 Advanced