Unleashing the Power of Drone Data in Modern Infrastructure

Vipul Singh

In this era of technological renaissance, grasping and utilising the potency of data is essential. Vipul Singh, Co-Founder & CEO of Aereo, highlights the transformative role of drone data in contemporary infrastructure development in an exclusive conversation with Kaanchi Chawla of Elets News Network (ENN). Edited excerpts:

For smart infrastructure projects, what role can geospatial data and technologies play in smart highway bridge and facility management?

The significance of geospatial data has grown exponentially in the modern age, especially as users and decision-makers seek more granular, precise, and timely data.

Need for Detail
The evolution of technology and the increasing demands of users are analogous to the camera resolution journey of smartphones. Just as users now expect higher-resolution photos, they also demand detailed geospatial insights. In everyday scenarios, like driving in a city, granular details such asknowing the specifics of upcoming road conditions or infrastructural elements are essential.

From Satellite to Drones
While traditional satellite data serves a purpose, its limitations become apparent when precise engineering applications are considered. There’s a pressing need for accurate mapping down to lanes, alleys, and vents. Drones have emerged as a solution, offering detailed three-dimensional data with high resolution and accuracy, making them indispensable for modern city planning and infrastructure development.

Data Volume and Processing
Intricate mapping techniques produce enormous amounts of data. Efficiently processing this data requires robust infrastructure. Here, the cloud, especially services like AWS, comes into play. AWS’s scalable infrastructure can handle vast amounts of data, ensuring quick and efficient processing, which is pivotal for timely decision-making.

The Future and Market Dynamics
As technology advances, the way data is consumed and the decisions based on it will also evolve. With policies from governments becoming more liberal and the rapid pace of technological innovation, companies need to be agile and innovative. The cloud offers an asset-light model, allowing companies to pivot quickly based on market demands. The agility and scalability provided by cloud technology providers like AWS, empower companies to meet and exceed global benchmarks.

In essence, as we step further into this tech-driven decade, both geospatial data and cloud technologies will play an even more integral role in shaping our infrastructure and the decisions surrounding it.

How is your organization assisting industrial clients in harnessing insights from drone data to enhance areas like site planning, asset management, and adherence to HSE standards?

Let me illustrate this with a few practical examples we’re working on. Consider a major mining conglomerate with 25 locations nationwide. These vast, remote sites operate round the clock, extracting essential ores for metal and alloy production. These materials are foundational for national infrastructure and their efficiency significantly impacts economic growth.

Historically, these sites saw daily variations due to constant production. They used to measure progress on a quarterly basis, which took days to gather data through conventional methods. This data often came in a complicated coordinate format, decipherable only by specialists, and didn’t provide granular insights. Now, contrast this with our approach, we deploy drones to create 3D replicas of the site, capturing nearly 3 million data points. This offers a 10 cm precision level and 5 cm ground representation. The result? Accurate, timely assessments of changes, allowing clients to measure excavation volumes with over 99% accuracy.

Instead of quarterly reviews, we now provide weekly evaluations, even for enormous sites like the world’s largest coal mine. This involves processing vast amounts of data, converting hundreds of thousands of large-format images into 3D replicas, and monitoring changes. Traditional methods can’t handle such data scales.

Moreover, we provide a unified, accessible data repository for all stakeholders, from site supervisors to VPs, accessible from any device without cumbersome software. This data-driven approach not only enhances productivity and precision but also ensures better safety and environmental compliance. The evidence-based system replaces the older trust-based model. The result? Significant cost savings, sometimes exceeding 10% of operational expenses.

But the impact doesn’t stop there. For instance, in our project with the Rajasthan government, we monitor hundreds of industrial lands, assessing their utility and infrastructure. This data helps in planning, management, and even assessing the solar energy potential of buildings, pushing industries toward greener energy solutions. Scaling this approach across the country can lead to substantial energy savings, benefiting the environment and reducing dependence on non-renewable energy sources.

Also Read | Revolutionising Rural India: Haryana’s Drone-Powered Land Records Transformation

The challenge, however, is scalability. Our solution design ensures that when something works, it can be rapidly replicated to maximize its impact. Scalability is often the hurdle, and we’re addressing it head-on.

What obstacles do businesses encounter when embracing new digital technologies and what strategies can they employ to overcome these challenges?

The upper management’s understanding of digitalization’s value is indispensable. In smaller startups, the transition might be smoother due to the size, but larger corporates face more significant challenges. The board has a crucial role in driving the digitalization process.An approach that has proven effective is to foster an ‘appetite’ for innovation within teams by creating small groups that are eager for change and can serve as program managers at different tier. They should operate like a startup within a larger corporation, instigating innovation and ensuring everyone is geared towards lateral thinking.

From my experience, employing a brilliant, although lazy techie can yield remarkable results. Task them with a repetitive job they despise, and they’ll invariably find the most efficient solution, which often leads to digitalization.

Lastly, I feel collaboration is paramount. Look at Amazon Web Services (AWS); despite being a behemoth, they collaborate with startups to solve challenges, irrespective of the startup’s size. Digital transformation is multifaceted, and solutions must be tailored. Collaboration, both internal and external, with clear objectives, is the way forward.

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