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Can These New Drones Transform the Construction Sector?


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DJI, the world leader in civilian drones and drone technology, has just unveiled two game-changing drones which will provide futuristic functionality for the construction industry—and one of the drones is powered with Australian software from Propeller Aero.

DJI has announced the global rollout of the Phantom 4 RTK drone for surveying and mapping. This version of the Phantom 4 is a high-precision aerial survey drone. It combines centimetre-level navigation and positioning with a high-performance imaging system, all to improve survey efficiency and accuracy, reducing operational difficulty and cost.

It also recently unveiled the Mavic 2 Enterprise drone at the Airworks 2018 Conference in Dallas Texas. The Mavic 2 Enterprise is an ultra-compact drone with advanced controls and accessories, which will prove invaluable during critical operations from firefighting and emergency response through to critical infrastructure inspections.

Jobsite spoke exclusively to DJI’s Director of Strategic Partnerships, Jan Gasparic about how the new drone technology will change the face of construction.

“Regular GPS mapping is only accurate to 1.5 metres, with the phantom drone—to centimetre level.”

“In terms of the P4R drone, we saw a market need for a high accuracy drone for mapping for a number of purposes, from construction inspections to counting crops and cattle,” explains Gasparic. “Regular GPS mapping is only accurate to 1.5 metres, with the phantom drone—to centimetre level.”

It also houses all the intelligent flight features and a powerful imaging system as the original Phantom 4. Thus, it’s not just an aerial camera for photographers, but also a powerful tool for those doing work in inspection, surveying, and mapping.

A new RTK module is integrated directly into the drone, providing real-time, centimetre-level positioning data for improved absolute accuracy on image metadata. A non- RTK drone relies on up to 40 ground control points (GCP) per square kilometre, which can take hours to set up. The Phantom 4 RTK has an inbuilt centimetre accurate positioning system, making it faster to operate.

The Phantom 4 RTK features accurate data alignment with TimeSync, satellite redundancy with GNSS, easy flight planning, and intelligent execution. There’s a dedicated app and remote controller and supports DJI’s Mobile SDK (mobile app).

Perhaps one of the most innovative features of the drone lies in the software developed by Propeller Aero. The software takes the drone’s mapping data and turns it into 3D models.

Propeller Aero launched in 2014 with just two people onboard, and it has grown to a team of 60 across Australia and Denver offices in four years. Its success has been borne from a passion for high accuracy mapping, which was quickly spotted by DJI and multi-national high tech navigation company Trimble.  

In an interview with Jobsite, Propeller Aero CEO Rory San Miguel said: “DJI approached us when they were doing software research. There’s a natural link-up as DJI doesn’t have software like we do, and we don’t have drones. We went over to China and worked on a deal.

“With this new drone, we have created particular technology that is quite unique on the market. Its upgrade is all about how accurately it can map, and Propeller Aero has always had a real bent on accuracy,” explained San Miguel.

“We got involved in DJI initially because we were building a data platform that could take and ingest all of the outputs from drones and turn it into useful things for businesses. We were really focused on how we turn lots of overlapping images into a 3D model and then give people tools to measure that 3D model.

“If you are a construction company, you can measure whether you are building to design, how quickly are you getting there, and whether you are making mistakes."

“If you are a construction company, you can measure whether you are building to design, how quickly are you getting there, and whether you are making mistakes. These are all the things a 3D model by a drone can tell you.” 

DJI’s Gasparic discussed some of the partnerships the company had with different developers, saying: “The Airworks conference in Dallas brings all of our solutions partners together to create an ecosystem. 

“Ultimately, the vision is to have a network of partners that are building on top of our products to create software that takes the image our drones produce and processes them; it analyses them to actually make them useful for different businesses. That’s really where the rubber hits the road when it comes to commercial adoptions of the technology.”

The Mavic 2 Enterprise Drone, launched in Dallas, allows DJI accessories to be mounted to the drone’s body. It is operated through a flight control app. These accessories open new ways for pilots to communicate and work, going beyond imaging tools, and into configurable platforms that enhance productivity.

The accessories include a spotlight for low visibility inspections and a loudspeaker which can be critical during life-saving situations. It also comes equipped with 2x optical zoom and 3x digital zoom which improves the ability to inspect dangerous or difficult areas. 

“With the Mavic 2 Enterprise, DJI has created a drone that makes powerful technology accessible to every enterprise and revolutionises how they do their work,” said DJI President Roger Luo. 

"With the Mavic 2 Enterprise, DJI has created a drone that makes powerful technology accessible to every enterprise and revolutionises how they do their work."

“Mavic 2 Enterprise is the world’s most capable commercial drone, purpose-built to serve the operational needs of our industry partners as well as companies that are just now preparing to embrace the benefits of drone technology. DJI’s hardware and software set the standard for aerial innovation around the globe, and Mavic 2 Enterprise is the most compact, powerful, reliable, and safe tool to help professionals integrate drones into their operations.” 

The Phantom 4 RTK version and The Mavic 2 Enterprise Drone are available to order in Australia through authorised DJI Enterprise dealers (such as Rise Above and C.R. Kennedy), and the Phantom product has started shipping already.

If you liked this article, here are few eBooks and webinars you may enjoy:

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