From identifying new archaeological features to quarry monitoring and agricultural mapping, David Kelly has worked on a huge range of projects since he founded drone service provider Capturing A World in 2014. Waypoint caught up with David to delve deeper into what an Irish UAV trailblazer gets up to.
1. Hi there David. 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?
In 2014 I was working for a major drinks manufacturer with responsibility for monitoring raw material suppliers. One weekend I attended a photography roadshow in Dublin, primarily to source a new lens for my camera. As I walked in the door there was a stand selling drones. Something in my head started thinking about the work I carried out and how our suppliers were using near-infrared analysers to determine grain characteristics. I wondered what the effect would be of putting one of these analysers on a drone and flying over the field: could early issues be determined prior to harvesting? Without realising it at the time, I had stumbled across the world of precision agriculture.
I wondered what the effect would be of putting one of these analysers on a drone and flying over the field … without realising it at the time, I had stumbled across the world of precision agriculture
In November of that year, an opportunity to leave the drinks business and start up a drone business here in Ireland presented itself to me. Having had a few months to determine which system to purchase I went with a senseFly eBee to its compact size and ability to carry multiple imaging sensors.
Today, Capturing A World operates across a number of sectors. We act as data providers to surveyors, archaeologists and farmers, using both RGB cameras and also the AIRINOV MultiSPEC 4C camera for infra-red analysis.
2. Tell us about one of your favorite or most challenging drone projects. Where and what was it? What made it stand out? What did you learn?
One of the more challenging, and most rewarding, projects we’ve worked on was a survey of the Neolithic hillfort at Rathgall in County Wicklow, Ireland.
The first challenge we faced with this project was obtaining permission to fly at the site, as it is managed by the Office of Public Works (OPW) here in Ireland. Since our flight, the OPW has set out a temporary ban on flying drones at OPW sites while it reviews its policy—so we were lucky to get in before this exclusion set in.
Next on the challenges list was getting a good break in the weather, which is always an issue when flying in Ireland. In planning the flight, we also realised that we would need a number of flights to cover the required area, so we had to ensure the overlap of those flights while at the same time ensuring we eliminated any flights over neighboring houses.
The site itself presented us with an opportunity to test the eBee’s circular landing capabilities, as it was located on a hill top and with the fields surrounding it containing cattle the risk of over- or undershooting our landing spot wasn’t an option.
Archaeologists in Cork reported that the DSM and contours identified an outer ring to the fort that had not previously been seen in work carried out at the site.
When the flights were completed and the data processed we developed orthomosaic, digital surface models, contour lines and a 3D model of the site. This information was then sent to archaeologists in Cork who reported back that not only was the data very clear, but that the DSM and contours identified an outer ring to the fort that had not previously been seen in work carried out at the site. Our 3D model is now also in use on the new Wicklow heritage website.
The project taught us a great deal about flight planning, both from a drone perspective, but also around ensuring the correct permissions were in place from landowners.
3. What impact would you say drone technology has had on your working life?
The technology has certainly had an impact on the way we live our lives, in that by starting this business we have been able to move away from having a standard nine to five job, to one where we can choose our own work hours. It has also allowed us to get out into the country and explore areas of Ireland that we’d never been to before.
Initially the prospect of work was limited, because the technology was too new and disruptive. But we have found that over the last 18 months there is a greater acceptance now of the capabilities and benefits of drones, especially in surveying and agriculture.
There is a greater acceptance now of the capabilities and benefits of drones, especially in surveying and agriculture
4. What kind of role do you see drone technology playing in the future for companies such as yours? Can you imagine what your working life might look several years down the line?
We are at the early stages of working with the agricultural community here in Ireland, using RGB and multispectral imagery to improve yields and profitability of crops.
This is a growing market that we will continue to work in and we’re looking to the future, to bringing thermal and hyperspectral capabilities along with higher resolution camera systems and improvements in software, all of which will allow for individual plant analysis and the automatic identification of different species.
The use of drones for mapping and stockpile quantification in quarries is also an area where we see a gap currently. With the ability to map large areas quickly with the eBee, while eliminating the need to be inside the quarry, there are both safety and efficiency benefits that we can bring to such businesses.
In the future we see a combination of partnerships with industries that can translate the data generated from our systems into usable information for our clients. This is something we are already working on, along with the expansion of both the fleet of systems we use and the imaging capabilities they can bring.
5. If you could give 3 tips to a budding dronepreneur of the future, what would they be?
- Find your niche in the market—you cannot do everything, so you need to find your gap.
- Ensure that you have finance for both your business and yourself—it could be some time until your business returns your investment!
- Make sure you factor in free time for yourself in your working week.
Great stuff. Thanks so much for the insights David and we wish Capturing A World much success.
Sure, you’re welcome.
Capturing A World
Industries served: quarrying, surveying, agriculture, forestry
Drones: senseFly eBee Ag w/Airinov multiSPEC 4C
Software: Pix4D, Global Mapper, QGIS, Photoshop CC,
Avg. flights per month: 10
Total flight hours: 100 hours
Dream robot: A combined ground and air system for farmers: we envisage a system that is fully automated and can be deployed on-site, with an aerial system capable of imaging crops and identifying issues (weeds, nutrients etc.), supported by a ground unit that can find the issue and eliminate or repair the damage.