For half a decade, Andrea Blindenbacher has been training individuals and companies on how to best utilize senseFly’s drone technology. As Global Head of Training, she has developed online training courses to teach operators what they need to know while flying an eBee. Recently, Waypoint sat down with Andrea to discuss what her training process looks like, her background in remote sensing and what the future looks like for drones.
Tell us a little about yourself and your background.
I’m originally from Switzerland, where I studied environmental sciences. I then went to study geographical information systems (GIS) and remote sensing at Ottawa University in Canada. Once I completed my studies, I began teaching GIS and remote sensing at the university. I also worked for Natural Resources Canada (NRCAN) as a researcher.
After a few years, I came back to Switzerland and focused more on the GIS industry.
How and when did you get started with senseFly?
In the fall of 2014, I discovered senseFly was hiring. I was intrigued by the company’s forward-thinking, their employees’ passion and the energetic atmosphere, so I applied for a training manager position. With my experience in GIS and remote sensing, they thought I was a great fit and hired me shortly after.
When I started at senseFly, I didn’t know much about drones. I had an advantage since I knew so much about photogrammetry and related products, but it was still a steep learning curve. I also understood the applications where drones are necessary but didn’t know much about the technology itself. Thankfully, I learn quickly!
What does your average day at work look like?
If I’m not with clients, I’m either communicating with them to organize future sessions, or I’m catching up with team about the latest products. I work closely with the R&D department and product managers to understand the ins and outs of both the hardware and software. I also help prepare webinars and tutorials with the marketing team. But for the most part, I’m with clients helping them better understand senseFly technology.
Training with clients is usually a two-day process. The first day always starts with a cup of coffee to help us get to know each other. They explain their needs and what they’re looking for from their drone. This comes in handy later when I need to direct them to certain applications or examples that correspond to their needs.
Next, I introduce senseFly and the eBee mapping workflow. I tell them about the hardware, how to set up the drone and what the specifications are. We also discuss the my.senseFly portal and do an introduction to our flight planning software, eMotion.
The afternoon is more exciting: it’s the first time the client launches an eBee. But first, I demonstrate step-by-step how to do it safely. We spend a couple of hours in the field before heading back to the office where we import data.
The second day is all about applying what the client has learned. We discuss their entire workflow and figure out which camera will work best for what they’re trying to achieve. For example, if the client is in the surveying industry, I’ll set them up with a senseFly S.O.D.A. 3D or Aeria X camera. I’d also introduce them to an RTK/PPK workflow, which includes how to integrate base stations, set ground control points and more.
We spend the majority of the day in the field to make sure the client understands the process of drone operations. This also includes troubleshooting, safety and regulations. It’s important that the client knows all aspects of utilizing drone technology.
What is your favorite thing about working at senseFly?
Other than the senseFly team, I really enjoy working with the clients. It’s a pleasure to teach them about the technology and make sure they’re getting the most out of the product. I work hard to ensure the material I create for them is written simply so they can use their skills and utilize our product without frustration. My goal is to have their workflow up and running quickly and successfully.
It seems like everyone at senseFly shares the same passion for drones and the drone industry. What about drone technology are you most passionate about?
It’s more about what you can do with this technology and ensuring that it flies safely. Understanding the complexity of UAVs isn’t easy, but the entire process is fascinating
Coming from a remote sensing background, I understand how expensive and laborious it can be to use traditional methods. Whether it’s running around with base stations, using expensive airplanes to collect imagery or waiting for less-than-perfect imagery from a satellite, there are so many hindrances that can impact a mission. It’s absolutely incredible that we can quickly, safely and easily put an eBee in the air to collect aerial imagery that can generate such high-quality data outputs.
Where do you see the drone industry heading in the next 3-5 years?
The next big step in the aerial drone industry is the integration in the global aviation airspace. This will allow us take drones to the sky even more efficiently.
As for mapping drones, the autopilot and sensor technology will mature further to allow for more sophisticated applications. This will allow us to work more efficiently and generate more data to help us continue to make informed decisions.
Then, of course, we will see an array of drones emerging for completely different applications, like indoor mapping, transportation, search and rescue and more.