This month’s dronepreneur, Andrew Blogg, is the very definition of an early adopter. A GIS specialist, Andrew created one of the world’s first UAV mapping firms, Digital Mapping and Survey, back in 2012. Then in 2014 he co-founded Future Aerial, which has already provided surveying, inspection and 3D modelling services to clients right across the globe and also operates the Drone Operations Network (DON).
1. Hi Andrew. Why don’t you start by telling us a little about your journey into the world of drones? When, how and why did you first start using this technology?
My career began following an MSc in GIS when I took a job as a GIS graduate. My first roles were GIS analyst and consultant jobs. After a slight change, to a GIS Sales Consultant job, I was then handed the responsibility of looking after what was potentially a new and exciting tool: the senseFly Swinglet CAM.
Working for a survey equipment sales company, this drone would complement our existing data capture tools. It was new to all of us, even senseFly!
Following a successful couple of years introducing this mapping drone to the market, I saw the potential of drones as a service, so I left that role, started my own company and began offering a drone mapping service using the Swinglet.
I saw the potential of drones as a service
At the time this approach was totally new to everyone, but with my GIS background I had a sound understanding of the data we could produce with a drone. Since then I have worked all over the world, mapping everything from golf courses to mines.
2. Can you tell us about one of your favorite or most challenging drone projects? What made this stand out and what did you learn?
This would definitely be mapping an exploration mine in the Republic of Congo. I don’t think anyone in the world had really mapped such a large area with a drone at the time, let alone there. We covered 50 square kilometres in just two weeks, putting in all of the ground control points and handling all of the flying and giving the client the most cost effective way to obtain this type of data.
I don’t think anyone in the world had really mapped such a large area with a drone at the time
It’s jobs like this where you learn the most – taking extra kit for every eventuality, not rushing, and checking the data after every flight (since you can’t simply go back and fly again in the Congo!). You really begin to understand the characteristics of the drone [by then an eBee] when you have so many flights to do in a short period of time—the landing spaces required, how to get the most from batteries, and when to adjust flight plans due to the wind and weather conditions.
3. What impact would you say drone technology has had on your working life?
Positive. I run my own business, working with a team of great clients and partners, travelling the world flying drones!
4. What kind of role do you see drone tech playing in the future for companies such as yours? Can you imagine what your working life might look several years down the line?
I think drones will always play a central role in our company, however I can also see the landscape changing dramatically over the coming years.
Whilst drone tech remains the sexy subject at the moment, things are starting to move on, to really seeing drones as just a tool. The added value is in what we do with the data and options, such as our DON model for giving scaleability; that and our cloud back-end are where we’re investing.
The added value is in what we do with the data and options
Software and visualisation developments are one key area of development for us, but in terms of the physical drones themselves I believe this will become more and more automated, to a point where they are stationed around the world with no human input.
Once regulations catch up with the technology, I think we can expect to see highways of drones all carrying out their jobs in the sky.
5. If you could give 3 tips to a budding dronepreneur, what would these be?
1. Get involved – we don’t see many industries come along that are so new and fresh, with so much opportunity.
2. Be different – we’re seeing so many basic photography companies out there already that you need to offer something different to add value to your work.
3. Focus on the area you want to work in. There are loads of industries and jobs that can be done with a drone now – don’t try to do them all when you’re starting up.
Click below to view a range of Future Aerial’s drone-sourced point clouds:
Thanks so much for your time Andrew!
Industries served: mapping & inspection (covering mining, environment, sports/golf, infrastructure, construction etc.)
Drones: eBee, Falcon 8
Software: Pix4d, Agisoft, Correlator3D
Avg. flights per month: 20
Total flight hours: hundreds (“my eBee was one of the first 10 made!”)
Dream robot: human input free