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US Chamber of Commerce says China drone ban not beneficial

A recent report from the US Chamber of Commerce contains a section that appears to criticize the Department of Interior’s banning of Chinese-made drones, or drones containing Chinese-made parts. It’s very much worth noting, as this has become a huge issue in the drone world lately.

If you like to follow politics, money, and intrigue – you simply can’t beat the drama that has infused the US drone market recently. It’s been building over time, but the very condensed story is this: Some people have expressed concern over the data security of Chinese-made drones. The Department of Interior has banned the purchase of these products for its internal use. And more recently, a group called the Defence Intelligence Unit, or DIU, has come up with a list of five drones that it considers meet security requirements, as well as “Made-in-the-USA” status. This is seen by many as an “approved” list of drones.

DJI, long the preferred vendor for non-military drones, is not on that list.

Security? Or trade protectionism?

The question arises: Is this about security? Or it is about boosting American-made products? DJI believes it’s about trade, pure and simple. And as for allegations of issues with security? DJI has pushed back against those suggestions for some time. In fact, it recently posted a special blog designed to address and refute all allegations. We wrote about that here, and encourage you to read both our story and to explore the DJI blog post.

DJI Logo Clean

Of course, this isn’t simply about DJI’s reputation. It’s also about sales to the growing Enterprise market.

Enter: US Chamber of Commerce

Into this wades the US Chamber of Commerce. It recently released a report subtitled: Building the Foundation for the Future of Transportation. A significant chunk of that report is spend examining the world of Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS), which most of us call “drones.” It wasn’t long before DJI’s Brendan Schulman, often the face of the company when it comes to the regulatory world, was Tweeting about it. First, on October 28:

And then again October 29:

Lots to read

There’s a lot to digest in that 60-page report – it’s absolutely worth reading. But for the purpose of today’s story, it’s worth examining a couple of shorter segments:

The United States has also begun to grapple with Chinese dominance in the manufacture of small unmanned aircraft, where the market share of the largest manufacturer, Da-Jiang Innovations (“DJI”) is estimated to be 77%.21 A robust and competitive UAS and UAM market is essential to ensure continued private sector innovation and U.S. leadership in these technologies. The federal government, led by the Department of Defense (“DoD”), correctly recognizes that bolstering U.S. competitiveness in UAS is essential, and it has led the way in developing programs such as the Blue sUAS, which identifies secure and trusted UAS manufacturers…

Building the Foundation for the Future of Transportation

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Skydio X2 commercial drone

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Skydio’s X2 is on the Blue sUAS list…

But what about ‘Country of Origin’ bans?

Here’s the most significant bit, at least with respect to DJI’s concerns:

Some policymakers have also proposed imposing country of origin restrictions on Chinese manufactured UAS and certain components through executive actions and legislation. These proposed restrictions would prohibit federal agencies from purchasing, operating, or funding Chinese-produced UAS and components, and some proposals would also prohibit the operation of Chinese-manufactured UAS over federal lands. While well-intentioned, these proposals will inadvertently harm U.S. competitiveness, given their adverse impact on the operations of many American companies as well as harm to companies engaged in the broader UAS supply chain. Considering these pitfalls and the existence of alternatives to increase UAS security and strengthen the domestic UAS industrial base, it is unlikely that blanket country of origin restrictions would be ultimately beneficial to United States leadership in UAS.

Building the Foundation for the Future of Transportation

DJI Matrice 300 (M300) specifications and Zenmuse H20 hybrid thermal camera
Highly capable drones, like DJI’s Matrice M300, are not on the Blue sUAS list

Anything else?

While the report doesn’t see bans as being beneficial, it also is very aware of how important the market is to US drone manufacturers. And it sees protecting and promoting those companies as being an important part of the way forward. The following, including bullets, comes directly from the report:

“To increase United States competitiveness in emerging aviation technologies, policymakers should strengthen the domestic industrial base, make targeted investments, and provide American leadership in standards development. Specifically, policymakers should:”

  • Prioritize federal investments in research and development activities at entities such as the FAA, NASA, and DoD that advance American leadership in emerging aviation technologies.
  • Supportpublic-privatepartnershipssuchasDoD’sTrustedCapitalMarketplaceand Blue sUAS programs to bolster the United States’ domestic industrial base for UAS.
  • Support the development of voluntary consensus-based standards through direct engagement in standards activities domestically and internationally, provide any necessary funding to support the development of key standards, and promote fa- vorable standards internationally.

There’s more:

“Country of origin restrictions are an overly broad and restrictive tool to address supply chain or security concerns regarding UAS.”

  • Avoid adopting overly broad country of origin policies through executive action, regulations, or legislation. Country of origin polices burden American companies with high compliance costs and ultimately harm the broader UAS supply chain while creating a false sense of security.

Finding a balance

As you can see, the report is somewhat split. On the one side, it recommends protecting and promoting US companies in the UAS space. On the other, it suggests Country of Origin policies should be avoided.

Obviously, these two goals – depending on perspective – are not 100 percent in sync. So it’s worth considering what it mentions elsewhere: Pushing ahead with international standards in a variety of areas.

Parrot’s Anafi USA is also on the Blue sUAS list

Such areas, just waiting for international standards, include data security. As DJI has pointed out, having a Country of Origin policy does nothing to ensure that your data is secure (though Blue sUAS apparently has some specific guidelines in this regard). Having a clear international set of parameters for Security would be transparent, simplify the issue, and level the playing field.

Our view?

We’ve said it before: We’re not coding experts or data security geeks. But we do know what constitutes fair. And it would arguably be fair, in our opinion, to have a transparent set of standards and tests that determine whether a drone is “secure” or not. Use that as the benchmark for any approved list.

Leverage other options to help promote and ensure that US companies in this space thrive. But to deny purchasers the option of choice – including choosing a secure drone with the required feature set at the desired price point – doesn’t make sense to us.

Don’t get us wrong: We’re not pro-DJI or anti-Blue sUAS. We get the sensitivities. We just think there’s probably a better way than what’s now evolving, and we hope all parties can eventually pursue that common ground.

FTC: We use income earning auto affiliate links. More.

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8 drone podcasts worth subscribing to

Whether you’re looking to stay on top of the latest drone industry updates during your daily walks, or you want to learn something new about drones while doing housework, consider subscribing to drone podcasts. The best drone podcasts can make it easy to consume news, reviews, commentary tips and maybe even drone industry rumors while you’re on the go, so you can reduce screen time while staying informed (and maybe even getting some of those Fitbit steps in).

With that, I’ve compiled the 8 best drone podcasts to tune in to (and maybe even subscribe to permanently!). The following drone podcasts are listed in no particular order:

interdrone podcast

1. The Interdrone Podcast

The Interdrone podcast is the weekly, audio version of its namesake drone conference, Interdrone, which is one of the largest annual drone podcasts in the world.

The weekly podcast does an excellent job staying and top of the latest drone news, delivering stories from a variety of news stories alongside fresh commentary on the week’s news. Commentary typically comes from the weekly guest; the Interdrone podcast typically chooses a different prolific figure from the drone industry each week to serve as a guest. Notable guests have included Dronecode’s Ramon Roche, UAM researcher Dr. Tulinda Larsen, DJI’s Romeo Durscher and yes, even myself a couple times.

Shows tend to last an hour and generally follow a delightfully predictable format of the week’s latest news (for the first half of the show) followed by a dive into a hot new product, broader discussion topic, or profile of an interesting person (in the second half).

Hosts: Mike Pehel, chairman of InterDrone, and CJ Smith, Marketing Manager at Interdrone

Where to subscribe: Apple podcasts, Interdrone’s launchpad website, or as the hosts say, pretty much “wherever pods are casted.

FAA podcast

2. The Air Up There

The Air Up There is the only, official Federal Aviation Administration podcast. While not specific to drones, it’s worth a listen for drone pilots looking to expand their knowledge of aviation (and maybe one day get a manned pilot’s license). That said, the podcast does promise to cover drones, in additional to all other aspects of traditional aviation.

The Air Up There is a newcomer to the drone podcast world, having just launched in August 2020, but the podcast is proving to be timely. Recent episodes focus on how the FAA is handling the current COVID-19 public health emergency, but upcoming episodes promise to look toward the future, diving into topics like drones delivering packages to your doorstep, air taxis that fly without a pilot onboard, and supersonic planes that can transport people across the world in a fraction of the time passenger planes do today.

Hosts: Alison Duquette, who has worked at the FAA for more than 20 years, and John Croft, an FAAer, general aviation pilot and a flight instructor

Where to subscribe: Apple podcasts or the FAA’s website

Where to subscribe: Apple podcasts, Interdrone’s launchpad website, or as the hosts say, pretty much “wherever pods are casted.

AirVuz After Hour drone podcasts

3. AirVuz After Hours

AirVuz is shaping up to be the place to go for all things drone media. They rose to fame for being a site to host your aerial footage, popular especially among FPV drone racers. But the online drone video sharing site has massively grown, especially after AirVuz acquired the popular NYC Drone Film Festival (which will be held virtually this year due to COVID-19). Their online presence doesn’t stop there; of course, they also have a podcast called AirVuz After Hours.

The weekly podcast lasts about 30 minutes and offers up plenty of fascinating interviews with drone racers, while also often covering other aspects of the drone industry including interviews with National Geographic photographers and even, once, me!

Hosts: Jacob Blaeser, Director of Community Outreach & Projects at AirVuz, and Tyler Mason, Director of Digital Media at AirVuz

Where to subscribe: Apple podcasts, Soundcloud, or directly on the AirVuz website (which I recommend, so you can see their great visuals, too).

CommercialDrones.FM podcast drone podcasts

4. CommercialDrones.FM

CommercialDrones.FM is one of the longest-running drone podcasts out there. The podcast first caught my attention all the way back in 2016 when they ran and excellent episode covering test prep and study guides for the FAA’s Part 107 knowledge test. That podcast episode (it’s episode #6!) is still relevant and worth listening to today if you’re hoping to pass your Part 107 test. And shortly after that, the podcast actually featured The Drone Girl.

Episodes are infrequent, but that’s not a bad thing. Smith only covers the biggest news without the weekly fluff, such as one of his latest episodes diving deep into the Skydio 2 drone. It’s a great one to subscribe too if you already feel inundated with too many podcasts, but still want to stay informed of the top drone news.

Hosts: Ian Smith, CEO and co-founder of Ware, whichWare deploys drones for warehouses to automate their inventory tracking and digitize their assets. Smith previously worked at Delair and DroneDeploy.

Where to subscribe: Apple podcasts, Spotify, Google Play or the CommercialDrones.FM website.

Drone to $1k drone launch academy podcast

5. Drone to $1K podcast

My favorite thing about the Drone to $1K podcast is the unique focus it brings to the table. Unlike all the other drone podcasts that primarily go over drone news, this drone podcast is deeply focused on the business side of drones. It’s usually for entrepreneurs, small business owners or anyone looking to start a side hustle or freelance in drones.

The podcast gives listeners an inside look at how successful drone business owners got started and scaled their company. The schtick? The guests are making $1,000 per month and beyond — appropriate to the name of the podcast.

Hosts: David Young, who is also the founder of Drone Launch Academy, one of our favorite websites for both Part 107 courses and online drone photography courses.

Where to subscribe: Apple podcasts, Spotify, Podbay and the Drone Launch Academy website

drone trainer podcast Chris Anderson

6. The Drone Trainer Podcast

The Drone Trainer podcast is another great one for someone looking to kickstart their own drone business. Chris digs into insightful stories from his guests — and he chooses interesting guests at that, such as an episode about flying BVLOS in Belize and the Maldives with Melissa Schiele and an episode about drone swarm light show with Hitomi Uematsu.

Hosts: Chris Anderson, CEO of The Drone Trainer and offers online drone training courses (note that’s a different Chris Anderson than another notorious Chris Anderson in the drone industry, CEO of 3D Robotics)

Where to subscribe: Apple podcasts or the Drone Trainer website

AIRT drone podcast Christopher Todd drones for good taming disaster


AIRT is somewhat of a newcomer to the world of drone podcasts, having launched in June 2020.

AIRT is actually a “dual-program podcast series” launched by the Airborne International Response Team, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization supporting Drones For Good and official home of DroneResponders, a group that focuses on the use of drones in public safety and fire rescue.

The podcast focuses on using drones across the emergency management and public safety sectors, with episodes diving into how emergency managers, disaster response professionals, and non-governmental and humanitarian organization volunteers are using drones to make a positive impact around the world; as well as how public safety agencies are using drones to help save lives and protect property while also increasing first responders’ safety.

Subscribers will get episodes of two separate podcasts, the DroneResponders: UAS for Public Safety and Fire Rescue podcast, and a second podcast called Taming Disaster. The podcast is delivered weekly, with the two shows alternating each week.

The podcast has some serious backing, with sponsorship by AirXOS, which is part of GE Aviation, First iZ and Pix4D.

Host: Christopher Todd, a Certified Emergency Manager and Florida Professional Emergency Manager, FAA-certified Part 107 Remote Pilot, and executive director of AIRT; and Charles Werner, retired fire chief of the Charlottesville, Virginia fire department and director of the DRONERESPONDERS program.

Where to subscribe: Apple podcasts, Google podcasts, deezer, Pandora, Spotify and YouTube

Drone Radio Show Randy Goers

8. Drone Radio Show

While I can’t say for sure, Drone Radio Show might be one of the longest-running drone podcasts out there, with shows dating back as far as 2014 (that’s ancient, in drone years!).

The weekly Drone Radio Show discusses emerging opportunities in the drone industry and how you can be a part of it. Goers always finds fascinating guests including, once, me! He talks to big industry players like AUVSI’s Brian Wynne, to cool researchers like a team of shark researchers at the Fullerton Drone Lab. And very importantly, his podcast has top-notch audio quality.

Hosts: Randy Goers, a full-time urban planner with a great side hustle: drone podcaster

Where to subscribe: Apple podcasts, YouTube or Soundcloud

Do you have another great drone podcast worth subscribing too? Leave a comment below!

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RID, Who Doesn’t Like To Ex Parte?

For the bag holders and Best Buy flyers, “ex parte” is Latin and loosely translates to
a backroom deal, or sometimes just good old-fashioned private, public rulemaking.

This RID thing is going to be great; everyone over at the FAA has been promising the bag-holder unfettered BVLOS (not just the dutiful and rule-abiding Drone Zone using PrecisionHawk anymore), and over people flying. Like getting the veritable keys to the kingdom, or at least the equivalent of sitting b!#ch in the backseat of the 78 Firebird mit Scorpion style sideburns.

For those of you that love yourselves up some draconian data logging, you’ll be getting everything the AOPA was afraid their members would get with ADS-B.

Sure, everyone is all about safety until the lobbying starts. And that is how the not in all
airspace Sky King VFR flight plan was saved. Kind of like how FPV went under the regulatory radar for the RC hobbyist. I don’t even think that would be doable in today’s clampdown climate, as all of the unwavering friends of RC have routinely shafted the hobbyist for a crack at a RID mandate. The payoff is close, maybe even in Santa Mao’s big red bag for some of you?

And who amongst you is not going to appreciate some profit chilling landing fees?

Hopefully, some of us will be lucky enough to pay for Amazon’s infrastructure. Old Jeff Bezos just went through a messy divorce, and the poor dude is down on his luck; why should he have to pay when the FAA has a bag holder who is ready and willing to pay? This lucrative real estate photography market should provide enough landing fees to buy up radar units like burritos at a street fair. Anyway, the ASH biz-plan is to log data for enforcement, both the future and past, and this data logging won’t be in China. (See FOIA #1 below)

Would you like your RID spoofable or hackable?

Everybody has got choices, and you can apparently either go with the FAA enabled
Chinese product mandate reinforcing the monopoly, or door number two, buy Intel’s aftermarket solution. Good news! The RID part of the T-Mobile subscription is free if you purchase the data package. It gives a fellow warm cockles when he thinks about everyone who is just looking out for the RC hobbyist. With all of the love, AMA might even be able to fire the ex-FAA guy who designed the problem in the first place? What kind of Rube would buy the notion that the FAA wanted to regulate toys as not to have to regulate them?

This Quantico RID Demo was almost as well locked down and exclusive as Kim’s 40th, but without the bikinis. (We don’t know for sure as we haven’t seen the photos yet.) How did the cohorts work out technology solutions in private? Who was involved, did you get on the A-list? I have FOIA’d the guest list, Jay Markle’s texts and the who showed up list from the Marine at the gate. (See FOIA #2) There are no community-based standards (insert guffaw here) as far as I know, and the foreign companies got the boot from providing LAANC. Come on, man!

I’m smelling some malarkey or, at the very least, some shenanigans here. Why the tight lips? (See FOIA 3)

Sampling for the latest round of FOIA’s –

  1. The FAA’s ASH Business Plan on page 18 says, “Initiative: Promote UAS
    Compliance through Safety Oversight and Enforcement This initiative will establish
    a pilot program utilizing available remote detection or identification technologies
    for safety oversight from which potential investigations can be developed to enable
    FAA enforcement cases or educational outreach for operators violating FAA
    regulations. Activity: Promote UAS Compliance through Safety Oversight and
    Enforcement This activity will develop a mechanism for the public as well as FSLTT
    to report operations of unmanned aircraft suspected of violating applicable federal
    laws and regulations with data collection activities to occur initially in three
    locations. Target: Establish a Pilot Program Establish a pilot program using available
    UAS remote detection or identification technologies for safety oversight.” The link is
    At AUVSI Exponential, Michelle Root talked about a similar plan called UAS Digital
    Investigations Program.  Her contact information is AXI Director, Office of
    Investigations Michelle Root, 202-267-1456, [email protected]
    I am requesting the Concept of Operations (CONOPS) document for the UAS Digital
    Investigations Program”
  2. I am requesting all text messages or messages on messaging applications similar
    in form to text messages (such as Signal, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Twitter
    DMs, etc.) regarding agency business sent or received by Jay Merkle on his cell
    phone from March 2, 2020 to this present date which have in the message the
    following words:
    “remote identification”
    “ex parte”
    “remote ID”
    “to the right”
    Text messages regarding “agency business” broadly includes, at the very minimum,
    all communications that would ordinarily comprise federal records per 44 U.S.C. §
    3301(a)(1)(A) which defines federal government records as, ”all recorded
    information . . . appropriate for preservation by that agency or its legitimate
    successor as evidence of the organization, functions, policies, decisions, procedures,
    operations, or other activities of the United States Government or because of the
    informational value of data in them[.]” FOIA cannot be evaded by merely conducting
    agency business on privately owned devices.
  3. The FAA posted a summary of a remote ID demo up

    It said, ” If you have questions please contact us at [email protected] or call 844-
    FLY-MY-UA and include “Remote ID demo” in the subject”
    I do have some questions.
  4. Was it open to the public? 
  5. Did anyone from the FAA post this in the Federal Register before it happened so
    members of the public could attend?
  6. Why did the FAA organize this?
  7. Who in the FAA organized it?
  8. Why was it open to only members of law enforcement and security?
  9. Can you provide a copy of the email invitation sent to everyone?
  10. What was discussed during the demonstration? 
  11. Was Casey Nair at the meeting?
  12. Was Jennifer Ambrose at the meeting?
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Aberdeen medical student builds drone prototype to deliver medical supplies to injured hillwalkers

© SuppliedSophie Barrack has built a drone to assist mountain rescue teams in an emergency.
Sophie Barrack has built a drone to assist mountain rescue teams in an emergency.
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B.C. group hoping to launch flying passenger drones by 2025

VICTORIA — A group of B.C.-based aviation experts has announced its plans to make vertical flying passenger drone technology a reality.

On Wednesday, the Canadian Advanced Air Mobility Consortium (CAAM) spoke at a press conference on how it is planning to change the aviation industry as we know it.

“It’s really the launch of the modern-day version of The Jetsons, with flying vehicles, zero emission aviation and advanced air mobility,” said JR Hammond, executive director of the Canadian Advanced Air Mobility Consortium.

The consortium is a multi-stakeholder group based out of Vancouver. It is looking to streamline research, development and commercial operations of advanced air mobility.

“The critical date is 2025,” said Hammond.

That is when the group is aiming to make passenger flight a reality. In the short term, the delivery of medical supplies by drone is the consortium’s starting point.

“Medical initially, then cargo, with passenger being the last,” said Hammond. “Just to ensure that the highest degree of aviation safety is not compromised in any of those steps.”

Danny Sitnam is the president and CEO of Helijet International, which is based in Vancouver. Helijet has been in operation for 34 years and is a key player at the table.

“We have a mature market that is already very comfortable flying (in) vertical takeoff technologies, i.e. the helicopter,” said Sitnam.

Helijet’s experience in the market will be useful as the technology develops, according to CAAM. Meanwhile, the company is already looking to integrate smaller passenger aircraft into its fleet.

“You could be coming in and connecting onto a smaller air vehicle,” said Sitnam. “Like a vertical takeoff and landing vehicle that will take you out to Langley or a suburban area. It would be less expensive to do that than using a conventional aircraft.”

He went on to say that there’s a strong desire by aviation operators, including Helijet, to become more sustainable in aviation.

“This Jetsons technology is not two generations down in the future,” said Hammond. “It’s actually just around the corner.”

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LiDAR Drone Market Size, Trends, Companies, Driver, Segmentation, Forecast to 2026

The MarketWatch News Department was not involved in the creation of this content.

Oct 29, 2020 (Market Insight Reports) —
Selbyville, Delaware According to the research report titled ‘LiDAR Drone Market Share, Size, Trends, Industry Analysis Report, By Type; By Range; By Component; By Application; By Regions; Segment Forecast, 2020 – 2026’, available with Market Study Report LLC, global LiDAR drone market is expected to reach a valuation of USD 372.5 billion by the year 2026.

The rapid expansion of global LiDAR drone market can be attributed to its widespread adoption in applications such as construction, mining, hydrology, forestry and transportation. It is to be noted that LiDAR drones can collect data points at relatively high speeds.

Request sample copy of this Report:

These drones also offer increased safety, high quality data as well as cost effectiveness. Growing demand for LiDAR drones from agriculture sector in order to improve crop yield, soil conditions and overall crop health management is further augmenting the industry remuneration.

As per type, although the rotary-wing segment accounted for the largest share in global LiDAR drone market in the year 2019, fixed wing segment is predicted to witness considerable growth in the forthcoming years. Fixed wing LiDAR drones not only offer longer flight autonomy but can also cover large areas while providing high quality data. Moreover, these drones have noise cancellation, better control over image quality, and high aerodynamic performance, which is fueling the segmental share.

Moving on to component type, global LiDAR drone market from cameras segment is expected to grow substantially during the forecast period. Cameras play a vital role in LiDAR drones as they are primarily used for capturing images of a targeted object or the environment. They can also be optimized using a 3D sensing technology and can capture videos in real-time. In fact, 3D cameras are widely adopted for construction, agriculture, surveying, space research, aeronautics and military applications and hence, is positively influencing worldwide LiDAR drone industry dynamics.

Speaking of application scope, the report cites that the construction segment is estimated to emerge as a major revenue generator for global LiDAR drone industry. The product is widely adopted by land developers for construction well as mapping purposes. LiDAR drones can be used for large scale projects such as piping, energy transportation lines, canals, railroads and roads. Thus, supportive regulatory framework which encourages mining, engineering and construction activities is adding traction to the overall market size.

Highlighting the regional spectrum, North America LiDAR drone industry is estimated to generate lucrative revenues during the forecast period. Mounting use of LiDAR drones in government, defense, mining and agriculture sectors coupled with surging defense expenditure are favoring the regional market outlook. Growing demand for high quality images coupled with technological advancements are also boosting LiDAR drone market outlook in North America.

3D Robotics Inc., Leica Geosystems AG, microdrones GmbH, Sick AG, Delair, LiDAR USA, OnyxScan, YellowScan, RIEGL Laser Measurement Systems GmbH, Optech Inc., UMS Skeldar, Phoenix LiDAR Systems, Velodyne LiDAR Inc., SZ DJI Technology Co. Ltd., Trimble Navigation Limited, FARO Technologies Inc., and Geodetics Inc. are the major companies operating in global LiDAR drone industry.

Question & Answer: LiDAR Drone Market

Question 1: What factors are augmenting the growth of worldwide LiDAR drone market?

Answer: The rapid expansion of global LiDAR drone market can be attributed to its widespread adoption in applications such as construction, mining, hydrology, forestry, and transportation.

Question 2: Why are fixed-wing LiDAR drones witnessing high popularity across the globe?

Answer: Fixed wing LiDAR drones offer longer flight autonomy, cover large areas, provide high quality data, allow for constant control, thereby fueling the popularity of the product.

Question 3: How is the competitive landscape of global LiDAR drone market defined?

Answer: UMS Skeldar, Phoenix LiDAR Systems, Velodyne LiDAR Inc., SZ DJI Technology Co. Ltd., Trimble Navigation Limited, FARO Technologies Inc., and Geodetics Inc. are the major companies operating in global LiDAR drone industry.

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Drone-a-thon : Propelling Sustainability

A 10-day challenge inspiring young minds to be the future innovators and future entrepreneurs in UAV/Drone sector

In collaboration with 3DEXPERIENCE Lab and Drone Federation of India 

The ability of Unmanned Aircraft Vehicles (UAVs) to reduce the cost of compliance and cost of the technology, while also enhancing the value of the information gathered through these systems have been the key drivers for increased adoption of UAVs in India. Coupled with the applications from other synergetic technologies like 3D modelling, Internet of Things, artificial intelligence and augmented as well as virtual reality has opened up multiple possibilities for organizations to leverage the use of UAVs/drones and its associated technologies across their operations.

Adoption of Drone / UAV is increasing in India and it is projected that the value of industry and market would be around US$ 885.7 million, while the global market size will touch US$ 21.47 billion by 2021.

There have been a number of Indian Governmental Agencies and PSUs that have piloted and even scaled up operations of drones.

Drone-a-thon: Propelling Sustainability’ is a Design- Simulate- Experience 10 days challenge that inspires Young Minds to be the future innovators and future entrepreneurs in UAV \ Drone sector. This  hackathon is in collaboration with 3DEXPERIENCE Lab and its aim is to use 3DEXPERIENCE platform and boost participants’ innovation capabilities, develop more creative solutions and create the conditions for remarkable talents to stand out.

Agriculture, City, Healthcare, Defense and Logistics

Who should participate?  
Academia, Startups and Industry Associations for Drones

How to Participate? 
Phase 1: Application
1) Submit your interest by filling the form below
2) You will receive an email confirmation with a link to post your idea/renders/design/blueprint 

• Submission Deadline : Projects/Ideas to be submitted between 19th October- 31st October

Phase 2:  Idea Selection & Training
3) Top 10 teams will be eligible for the ‘Drone-a-thon : Propelling Sustainability’ Challenge  from 9th November to 20th November, 2020  and will be given a training on 3DEXPERIENCE platform 

Phase 3: Pitch/Presentation
4) Top 3 Teams will be selected and will get an opportunity to present their design on 25th November, 2020
5) One Team will get a chance to win exciting prizes 

Judging Criteria
Ideas will be selected on the basis of following parameters: 
1) Innovative 
2) Commercial Suitability
3) Fully compliant safety and regulatory standards-based design
4) User friendly design 
5) Aesthetics
6) Platform and payload interchangeability
7) Automated safety modes
8) Enhanced intelligent piloting models
9) Full autonomy
10) Full airspace awareness

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Harnessing the Power of Hydro

Blueye team members inspect a hydropower facility for Statkraft, Europe’s largest generator of renewable energy.

Hydropower is the most widely-used renewable energy source, representing about 17 percent of global electricity production. In the U.S., more electricity is generated by hydroelectric facilities and dams than wind, solar and geothermal power combined.

Many of these facilities rank among the oldest power plants, however, with the average U.S. installation in operation for 64 years. As these aging structures reach the end of their design lives, the need to identify repairs for upgrades becomes increasingly critical. The pressure is on to keep the power on, not just for today’s energy needs, but for the needs of the future.

Utility owners, asset managers and contractors are increasingly turning for help to unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs) and remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) equipped with sonar imaging devices, cameras and sensors.

These systems offer a safe, cost-efficient alternative to sending traditional dive teams underwater for emergency or routine inspections—and they’re playing a key role in minimizing downtime, reducing outages and avoiding catastrophic shutdowns.

“ROVs are expanding our capabilities to safely perform inspections on inaccessible features,” said Ryan Hedrick, a hydrologist at the Bureau of Reclamation, which oversees hydroelectric power generation across the U.S. “This saves a great amount of time and gives us the ability to document structures that are difficult to access.”

Drones That Deliver Where Divers Can’t

One advocate for the use of drones in hydropower inspections is Rory Alsberg, senior business development manager at J.F. Brennan Company, a 100-year-old marine construction company based in La Crosse, Wisconsin, that specializes in dam construction and repairs. In addition to a team of 60 ADCI-certified commercial divers, the company relies on UUVs to assist in keeping facilities up and running.

Alsberg is a somewhat unique authority on hydro inspections; his father started North American Hydro in 1978, so he’s had a front row seat to the ways maintenance techniques—and the case for drones—have evolved over the years.

“Manned inspection teams have expanded from two to four-men crews, so that’s double the cost,” Alsberg said. “Also, new dive guidelines for some larger utility companies require ROVs to test water flows and inspect turbines, intake grates and trash racks before a diver even enters the water. Companies like ours always use an ROV first to scout things out and check water conditions.”

In fact, Alsberg admits there are times when an ROV is the first and only option. Going 100 feet or more below the surface, for example, is exceedingly dangerous for traditional manned methods: “In many cases, such as deep water, confined space or unknown conditions, only a drone can safely get the job done.”

The Blueye Pro ROV can be operated via the Blueye app on an iOS or Android device via a user-friendly controller.

Full-Package ROVs

One of the companies leading the way in safe hydroelectric inspection is Deep Trekker, an Ontario, Canada-based developer that specializes in underwater ROVs. Sales manager Cody Warner believes they’re needed now more than ever.

“Right now, if you have an asset—whether it’s a highway or a utility structure—the goal is to extend the life of it,” he said. “If we enter a recession in the next decade, there won’t be much building, so you have to inspect.”

The best way to do that, he says, is remotely. That’s why Deep Trekker launched REVOLUTION NAV in August. This full-package system includes an expeditionary ROV with improved navigation and current-fighting capabilities. It’s equipped with Bridge software that combines a Doppler velocity log and USBL positioning, as well as optimized sensor data that provides a Google map display with waypoints, along with a 260-degree revolving high-definition camera and manipulator, and six thrusters for stabilization.

Despite these robust upgrades, Warner said, it’s ease of use that sets it apart: “You can take the ROV out of the box and it’s up and running in an hour or two. If you’re an owner or contractor of hydro dams, you can be confident in how to use it and know it’s mission ready.”

Unlike the high costs and lead times associated with manned dive teams, the ROV package allows preventative maintenance inspections at any time to extend the life of a dam. “Many of these structures were meant to be replaced by now, so you have to keep a close eye on them,” Warner continued. “ROVs get into tough places for a much lower cost and in a much safer way. They help build a plan for high-priority structures, to determine how to prevent major catastrophes now and what can be left alone for a while.”

The AES Corporation’s AES Tietê team in Brazil collaborated with a local university to develop an ROV system that has replaced manned diving teams in the region.

Benefits Beyond the Drone

Another leading manufacturer is Trondheim, Norway-based Blueye, which develops and builds drones for underwater inspections around the globe. 

In January, the company launched the Blueye Pro, an ROV equipped with a camera tilt-function, powerful LED lights, an advanced piloting system, improved camera quality and a depth rating of 1,000 feet. It can be deployed in minutes with minimal training and is operated via the user-friendly Blueye app on an iOS or Android device.

The ability to remotely assess the condition of hydro structures is incredibly efficient and cost-saving,” Blueye CTO Jonas Follesø said. “The Blueye Pro is small, so it can be easily transported and can inspect inside tight spaces where humans can’t reach. At the same time, it’s also powerful and robust.”

Follesø predicts that as regulatory guidelines require asset owners to become increasingly proactive with inspections, reliance on ROVs’ benefits will only increase.

“The problem with dive teams is they aren’t necessarily the experts, and you only get one shot at capturing data,” he said. “The quality of inspections tends to increase if the customer can inspect things themselves virtually, because they know exactly what to look for.”

That’s why the Blueye Pro is equipped with an HD camera that is streamed live to the controlling Blueye app. The Blueye Dive Buddy App can also connect to the stream from a separate device, enabling multiple stakeholders to view and report findings in real time.

“Blueye was founded to give greater access to drones, and that extends to our software,” Follesø said. “We release updates that enhance our drones over time. Using a standard iOS and Android enables us to take part in the larger mobile app ecosystem.”

During COVID-19, for example, the company released a software update allowing inspections to be streamed via a virtual Microsoft Teams meeting. The feature enables customers to conduct remote inspections from anywhere with the Blueye drone joining as a “participant.”

“This empowers what customers can do during remote inspections, and demonstrates the flexibility of the platform and ability to roll out features quickly,” Follesø said. “It’s an example of utilizing software to provide benefits beyond the drone itself.”

Rovco’s R&D Autonomy Software allows ROV inspections to be supervised in real time from anywhere in the world.

Advancing Autonomy 

Also working to take underwater inspections to greater depths is Bristol, England-based subsea technology company Rovco. Its use focuses on developing autonomous systems to improve safety in hazardous, extreme subsea environments such as hydroelectric dams and windfarm monopiles.

“Safe and efficient construction, operation and decommissioning of subsea assets are critically important to energy production,” said Rovco CEO and founder Brian Allen. “This is particularly true for hydroelectric facilities where cost efficiencies are necessary to deliver clean power that is cost-competitive with other low-carbon systems and at an affordable scale.”

Rovco recently secured Innovate UK funding to develop a cutting-edge 3D visualization system, and through the development of AI and path planning algorithms the company is demonstrating the ability to navigate the subsea fully autonomously and perform underwater inspections that can be supervised from anywhere in the world.

Trials are being conducted at the facilities of Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult, the UK’s leading technology innovation and research center for offshore wind, wave and tidal energy.  According to Allen, this testing is vital to creating small, capable, intelligent autonomous vehicles that allow more efficient surveys to help get people out of harm’s way.

“Autonomous robotics and intelligent data systems are poised to change how the world works,” he said. “It’s been needed for years, but this tidal wave of change is building up rapidly now, and our industry is about to be accelerated into the future.”

When divers cannot be safely dispatched, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation deploys a VideoRay Pro 4 ROV with sonar to inspect the structural integrity of dams.

Global Inspections at Scale

ROV developers and subsea technology companies are only a piece of the energy puzzle—energy providers themselves play a critical role. In an effort to improve safety and enable more efficient inspection services, The AES Corporation, headquartered in Arlington, Virginia, has been pioneering a global incorporation of unmanned systems.

Among its 150 drone use cases across seven applications, the AES Tietê team in Brazil is perhaps the company’s most mature business in terms of integrating unmanned systems for hydropower. With nine hydroelectric plants, two wind complexes and two solar complexes, AES Tietê is one of the largest power generation companies in the country.

When sending divers for inspections became too hazardous and costly the team collaborated with UNESP—São Paulo State University to design an ROV equipped with Teledyne Blueview imaging sonar before transforming the research project into a full-scale AES maintenance program, team hydrologist engineer Daniel Sperandelli said.

“In 2018, we avoided more than 1,080 risky job diving hours by using these ROVs,” Sperandelli said. “We also avoided the costs of a dive team and the anticipated two weeks advance notice generally needed due to the risk of the job. If the power plant calls us today, tomorrow morning our team can be there to inspect and solve the problem quickly.”

In addition to the first and second-generation ROVs developed with the local university, the AES Tietê team relies on a Teledyne Oceanscience Q-Boat 1800, a remotely operated hydrographic survey vessel, to obtain bathometry data, and aerial drones such as the DJI Phantom 3 to visually inspect the hydropower dams. These efforts have earned them global recognition and multiple awards, such as an AUVSI XCELLENCE Award for operations and safety improvements.

Deep Trekker’s rugged REVOLUTION ROV provides advanced stability for underwater inspections.

Assel Ayapova, AES’ global drone program manager, leads the company’s efforts to adopt drones at scale for energy inspections. Now four years in, she said the program is entering its next phase—the digital transformation stage of software data and analytics—which will continue to push that adoption to the next level.

Avapova’s quick to point out the critical role drones with play moving forward.

“This is an important time for energy companies to recognize and understand the benefits of these unmanned systems, and how they can safely, affordably and sustainably contribute to the world’s increasing energy needs of tomorrow.”