From software developer to operations manager, the career of this month’s dronepreneur – Ajay Harduth of RocketMine – has been transformed by the arrival of drone tech. Here he explains how his team’s portfolio of senseFly drones helps Rocketmine to supply clients with faster and more accurate data.
1. Hi Ajay. Could you tell us a little about your journey into the world of drones? When, how and why did you first start thinking about and then using this technology?
By profession I am a software developer. When Rocketmine first looked into drone technology, within the mining and survey environment, we were tasked with creating a solution that was beneficial to our clients and that provided them with all the data that they require. The aim of bringing in drones was to make their operations safer and more efficient, with a major focus on data quality.
I had a general interest in drone technology, so it was easiest for me to grasp the concept and get this solution off the ground. I was then trained on the eBee and all the related post processing in a matter of days. And this is how my journey into the world of drones began.
2. Could you tell us about one of your favourite or most challenging drone projects? Where and what was it, what made it stand out and what did you learn?
This is actually a current project that we are still busy with. The site is an open pit coal mine. It is semi-desert terrain so generally flat and uniform in colour. We have been tasked with compiling volumetric measurements of the client’s blending beds.
In our initial flights, the data was inaccurate and we were a little lost. Our issue was ground control; understanding how many GCPs to use and how much spacing we needed between these points, especially in order to have sufficient ground control deeper in the pit. Since the area was very uniform, at first we used eMotion’s standard image overlap settings, but this sometimes gave us a lot of uncalibrated images. So we tried more of an agricultural approach, flying a little higher and using a higher overlap. In the end what we found worked was a 65%/80% overlap and flying higher for a GSD of 6 centimetres per pixel. That helped us find the right balance between the amount of images we took and delivery time; having a manageable amount of processing that was possible in the time we had.
3. What impact would you say drone technology has had on your working life?
It has mostly been a positive impact. My career has been completely transformed, from software developer to experimenting with processed data. Now I am the Operations Manager of the first licensed commercial RPAS operator in the South African mining sector. I am not only responsible for myself but for a team of pilots which is quite rewarding.
4. What kind of role do you see drone technology playing in the future for companies such as Rocketmine? Can you imagine what your working life might look several years down the line?
It’s crazy to try and forecast because three years ago the term drone was such a foreign concept. Already we have seen how drone technology delivers accurate data at a much faster rate for our clients. They are elated with all the output options available and the time they are saving. We have also shown how easy it is to cut costs with something as simple as on-site deployment.
I can safely say that in the future our data delivery will be even faster and more accurate. I also see my team growing so I might take less of an on-site approach and instead focus on nurturing and mentoring my team.
Watch RocketMine’s company video:
5. If you could give 3 tips to a budding dronepreneur of the future, what would they be?
- Know your client’s requirements. You can only impress a client if you can deliver exactly what they want in a more efficient manner than they are used to. You’re also the expert so you should be able to advise them what equipment and turn around time they should expect.
- Know the drone legislation of the country you’re working in. You have to always operate within regulations and air space because you are sharing the airspace with other aircraft, both manned and unmanned.
- Keep up to speed with current tech. Drone technology and processing techniques are changing at a fast pace. In order to stay relevant, you must make sure you know what’s out there – there might be a technique you can use that’s faster or cheaper than yours!
Thanks for your time Ajay.
Industries served: mining, agriculture, water & forestry, construction & engineering.
Drones: eBee, eBee RTK, albris
Software: eMotion, Pix4Dmapper, GlobalMapper
Avg. flights per month: 80 flights, per site, per month
Total flight hours: 27 hours, per site, per month
Dream robot: My dream robot would be similar to that of a transformer: one that can transform into an air- or ground-based robot depending on the task at hand. I would also like to be able to operate in stealth conditions, where I could be undetectable when required!