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Komatsu Brings its Autonomous Surveying Drones to the U.S.


Komatsu has been one of the heavy equipment makers at the forefront of technological innovation in construction. With its Smart Construction service, the Japanese company has made big bets on autonomous equipment, intelligent machine control and drones.

Drones play a key role in the popular automated site prep service, which is being used on more than 5,500 jobsites in Japan, adding more than 1,500 in the past 10 months alone, according to Equipment World. Using autonomous earth moving machines equipped with GPS/GNSS machine control, autonomous survey drones, and 3D laser scanners, jobsites can be prepped with little to no human intervention.

The company recently launched a new service option called EverydayDrone, intended for customers who only want the surveying service. But until now, the U.S. market was left out in the cold, with Komatsu’s autonomous drone surveying technology only available to customers in Japan.

The company does offer the Smart Construction service in the U.S., but although the two share the same name, the offering is very different. The U.S. service focuses more on providing customer support for intelligent machine control, according to Equipment World.

Partnering with Skycatch, the two companies recently announced that the Skycatch Explore1 high-precision RTK drone and the Edge1 GNSS base station are now available worldwide. According to Komatsu, the Skycatch Explore1 drones can produce 3D site survey data accurate to sub-5-cm in as little as 30 minutes.

“Conducting a site survey using a drone used to take hours. However, by implementing Explore1, users can carry out surveying quickly and easily. 

“Conducting a site survey using a drone used to take hours. However, by implementing Explore1, users can carry out surveying quickly and easily. Now it is possible to perform drone surveying every day. Taking off, landing and flight route setting are all automated...3D data is immediately generated and an entire construction site can be visually checked with the 3D map,” Chikashi Shike, president of the Smart Construction promotion division at Komatsu said in a DJI and Skycatch news release.

That’s all well and good, but where the real magic happens is how the drones partner with the Edge1 base station. Not only does the base station eliminate the need for ground control points to guide the drone around the area it’s surveying, but the Explore1 drones send their collected photographic data directly to the Edge1, no Wi-Fi needed. 

The company calls the base station “a powerful ruggedized computer” which converts the data provided via drone into richly detailed 3D models.

Obviously, that level of flexibility makes the system a game changer in autonomous drone surveying, enabling companies to perform centimeter-accurate site surveys anywhere without setting up or maintaining an on-site internet connection.

“The introduction of Explore1 and Edge1 have already revolutionized the Japanese market, and we are excited to share this technology with all Komatsu distributors globally,” Shike said.

“Edge1 accuracy and powerful in-field aerial analytics will become the center of automation for all future job sites, especially in North America.”

Komatsu might have tipped its hand about its intentions this summer when it placed the largest commercial drone order in the history of the world, purchasing 1,000 from China-based drone maker DJI, makers of the well-known Phantom line of quadcopter drones. With that kind of investment, it’s clear the world’s second-largest equipment manufacturer believes drones have a real future in construction.

To learn more on how to successfully use drones on your jobsite, check out how Procore and DroneDeploy's integration allows you to easily import high-resolution drone images from your DroneDeploy account into Procore projects.


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