DJI AirWorks 2019: Live Blog

DJI Gold Partner Heliguy is excited to be speaking at this year’s DJI AirWorks conference, taking place from Tuesday, September 24, to Thursday, September 26, 2019. We will be posting live feeds during the event to keep you updated as things happen – including new launches, case studies and important insights from drone-industry experts.

Day Two – Wednesday, September 25

4pm: New York City Fire Department spoke about their thriving drone programme and discussed the unique challenges of flying drones in densely populated metropolitan areas.

Heliguy’s Ruairi Hardman (centre) met pilot Michael Wall and Captain Michael Leo from New York City Fire Department.

Promoting Drone Safety During Awareness Week

2pm: A number of goals were set for National Drone Safety Awareness Week. These were:

  • Focus on drone safety/education;
  • Welcome all users and start (and sustain) the safety conversation;
  • Keep the public informed of the latest safety requirements and best practices.

Addressing Drone Parachutes

1pm: The Indemnis UAV recovery system was explained by Amber McDonald, president and CEO. She said: “Having a parachute recovery system does not automatically mean you can fly over people.” You need more to get a waiver from the FAA!

Global Cooperation Essential For A Thriving Drone Programme

11.45am: Heliguy’s Ruairi Hardman and Terra Drone Europe’s Patrick Rickerby presented a talk entitled Global Collaboration: The Key Driver to Mainstreaming Industrial UAS Technologies.

Ruairi and Patrick shared their drivers to success, demonstrated through client success cases in critical infrastructure, construction, oil and gas, mining and civil government.

‘The DJI M200 Series Is The Workhorse Of Our Fleet’ – Rio Tinto

10.30am: Andrew Carey, of Rio Tinto Kennecott Utah Copper, highlighted how drones are improving safety in the mining industry.

He said that the company uses a range of DJI drones, including the Mavic 2 Enterprise Dual and the M200 Series, which he described as the workhorse of the fleet – used for a lot of survey and inspection work.

He said drones are helping the mining industry for a number of reasons, including increased safety, by removing employees from hazardous areas, and increased cost savings, by improving decision making and optimising inspections.

He added that drones are used for a range of operations on a mine site, including reality modelling, asset management and drill/blast analysis.

“For us, UAVs are another tool in the tool box,” he said.

‘Some People Are Demonising The Industry’

10am: Brendan Schulman, DJI VP of Policy & Legal Affairs, said: “We need to get the message out there and educate policy-makers. Some people are demonising the industry, which could lead policy-makers make rules and regulations that could impact operations. The myths about security and safety lead to bad policy and results.”

He said that the DJI Policy Team had various missions. This included to proactively address the concerns of government, to develop technology solutions to real problems and to protect access to innovation by advocating for reasonable government policies based on facts, not myth.

DJI AeroScope ‘Is Making A Difference’

9.55am: Brendan Schulman, DJI VP of Policy & Legal Affairs, said that DJI AeroScope is proving to be an effective drone detection solution.

He said: “AeroScope is making a difference to heads of states and airports. People are understanding how they can use remote ID to mitigate a drone threat and make key decisions.”

Heliguy is an AeroScope expert and has installed the solution at major UK airports.

‘DJI Has Been Leading On Safety For Years’

9.50am: Brendan Schulman, DJI VP of Policy & Legal Affairs, said that DJI has been leading on safety for years, with industry standards like geofencing, altitude limits and obstacle sensing.

He said that DJI has spent more than 30,000 hours working on safety features since 2017.

As part of this drive towards enhanced safety, DJI will install ADS-B receivers in every new drone model above 250 grams, starting in 2020.

Mr Schulman said: “We weren’t asked to do this, but we are doing this because it is the right thing to do.”

Microsoft ‘wants to build the best platform to help the ecosystem scale’

9.40am: Dinesh Narayanan, of Microsoft, said: “We’re not seeking to launch a first party drone programme, we want to build the best platform to help the ecosystem scale.

“We’ve spoken to over 250 enterprise customers across a dozen verticals and it’s clear that the drone industry is at an inflection point. There’s unprecedented demand for drone platforms.”

He said that the Microsoft drone IoT platform is evolving for the needs of the ecosystem and was delighted to announce that DJI FlightHub will work with Microsoft Azure for fleet management for DJI Government Edition drones.

DJI X-Port Unveiled

9.35am: DJI has unveiled the DJI X-Port – an integrated automatically tuned gimbal that cuts payload development time by 60%.

This fast-track payload-to-drone integration solution has several key features, including automatic gimbal tuning and an IP44 rating. It also uses the SkyPort interface.

As part of DJI X-Port, there will be a DJI SkyPort V2.0 upgrade which powers the payload up to 17V, enables additional camera features and supports TimeSync.

Jan Gasparic, DJI’s Director of Strategic Partnerships, said: “This is a unique gimbal for payload SDK programmes. I am very excited by what opportunities this presents to the eco-system.”

Huge Increase Of Mobile SDK Activations

9.30am: Mobile SDK activation has increased massively over the last few years, jumping from 150,000 in 2015 to 6.2 million in 2019.

DJI currently has more than 60,000 developers working on DJI SDKs, but the current time it takes DJI’s partners to create a working gimbal for DJI platforms is four months.

Recent SDK solutions include the U10 Methane Gas Detector and the Z15 Spotlight.

Highlighting the value of SDK development, Jan Gasparic, DJI’s Director of Strategic Partnership, said: “Payload SDK is a unique opportunity to bring others onto our platforms. Payload SDK is really important.”

Day One – Tuesday, September 24

Drones Are Transforming Oil And Gas Industry

3.30pm: Experts in the oil and gas industry explained how drones are improving safety and leading to greater efficiencies.

Greg Aldrich, UAS Process Leader at Marathon Petroleum, said: “We found that a lot of inspections we were doing by foot could be done cheaper and safer with a drone.

“The drones have become a tool in the tool box. They are a way to save money and see things that you couldn’t see before from a helicopter. For us, they are a no-brainer.”

Dustin Waller, Sr UAS Data Analyst for Occidental Petroleum, added: “From a safety perspective, drones sell themselves. The drones also save time, reach difficult-to-access areas – for example – methane wells which are in the middle of corn fields – and have helped us find leaks that we couldn’t see using traditional methods.

“Thanks to drones we have checked 3,200 wells for methane. They have made us more efficient.”

Erik Baros, Chief Information Officer for Bruin E&P Operating LLC, said: “The biggest return on investment for us has been the ability to document a site and having a very clear and accurate record of what is happening and how things are changing on the site.”

Will A Drone In A Box Be The Future?

2.50pm: Looking ahead to the future, Brett Kanda, Business Development Manager/UAS of FLIR, said that his vision for the future was an autonomous drone in a box.

He said: “I think a drone in a box concept is where we will get to – where the systems charges and flies itself, uploads the data and replaces any parts which need switching. I think this is a big trend going forward.”

Public Perception Is Key To Helping Companies Grow Drone Programmes

2.40pm: During a discussion about drone industry trends, the panel said that public perception was key to helping companies grow their drone programmes. They felt that it was crucial for the public to have positive feelings about drones.

The panel agreed that an essential part of this was using public safety to highlight the drones for good message.

Brett Kanda, Business Development Manager/UAS at FLIR, said: “The public safety users have the biggest responsibility on this.

“I think this will change (negative) perceptions because the public are beginning to see how drones are helping teams save lives and make better decisions. This will help open people’s eyes to what the technology can do.

“As this message expands into the consumer world it will help overcome the negative perception of drones.”

Picking up this theme, David Benowitz, Associate Marketing Communications Director for DJI, said that some public safety teams had set up specific social media accounts for their drone programmes. He said this transparency and awareness was helping to boost pro-drone sentiments among the public.

Hybrid Approach To Drone Programmes

2.30pm: When it comes to building a drone programme, Mathew Rommel, of Deloitte, said that a lot of companies are taking a hybrid approach, which comprises an in-house team and outsourcing the work.

He said that there were pros to outsourcing, including the fact that it offers a scalable solution and brings in outside expertise, but admitted that a big downside was problems with allowing access to data in the cloud.

Specific Sensors Have The Power To Unlock Specific Verticals

2.15pm: During a discussion about industry trends, Dan Burton, of DroneBase, said that specific thermal sensors are needed to unlock specific industry verticals.

‘The Industry Is Growing’

2.05pm: Dan Burton, Founder and CEO of DroneBase, said that the drone industry is growing.

He said: “There is more appetite for adoption and there is more momentum from this year than last year.”

He added that data – specifically what can be done with drone data – is a hot topic right now and a key focus within the industry.

Discussing growth, Mathew Rommel, from Deloitte, added: “I have been surprised about how much growth there has been in health care. There has been news about an organ delivered by drone. Hospitals are interested in that.”

Drones In Agriculture – Save Time And Increase Profits

10.30am: Mike Winn, CEO of DroneDeploy, gave some examples of how drones are transforming agriculture.

Referencing California-based company The Equity, he said that drones had led to a 250% increase in improved data capture, a 7% increase in sales, and a 10% increase in retention rates. This in turn helped to provide sound agronomic advice and minimise grower risk.

In another example, drones have benefited the Bowles Farming Company – leading to identifying where areas of a field did not require defoliant spray, which is $11-15 per acre cost savings. To see the case study with the stats, click here.

Mr Winn concluded: “There is a real business value being delivered by drones.”

DJI Launches Two New Drones For Agriculture

10.20am: DJI has launched two new drones for agriculture. These are the P4 Multispectral and the Agras T16.

The P4 Multispectral is a high-precision drone with a seamlessly integrated multispectral imaging system built for agriculture missions, environmental monitoring, and more.

The Agras T16 drone has an improved overall structure with modular design and supports the highest payload and widest spray width ever in a DJI agricultural drone. With powerful hardware, an AI engine, and 3D-operation planning, the T16 brings operational efficiency to a whole new level.

Drones Offer Key Insights For Agriculture

10.10am: Jan Gasparic, Director of Strategic Partnership at DJI, said that drones are a valuable tool for agriculture, helping to scout fields in less time, see the unseen, and help farmers to make decisions mid-season.

He added: “When it comes to drones versus satellites, there is no comparison. Drones have two primary advantages over satellites – they map in higher resolution and provide much higher data availability. Drones offer a more intuitive process, and give farmers the tools in their hands.”

FLIR Launches New Gas Detector

10am: FLIR unveiled the MUVE C360 – a multi-gas detector completely integrated with a drone to provide real-time continuous monitoring of chemical hazards while on the move.

The sensor block boasts 8-channels, which includes a photoionisation detector (PID), Lower Explosive Limit (LEL) detector, and five other electrochemical sensors.

Key benefits include:

  • Access the scene from a safe distance
  • Significantly reduce the time to action
  • 360 situational awareness

Chris Bainter, of FLIR, said: “This is an industry-first multi-gas detector and will give more coverage than handheld gas metres. The C360 is the first line of defence and will help to reduce response time dramatically. This will help with more informed decision-making and will ultimately save lives.”

Jan Gasparic, Director of Strategic Partnership at DJI, said: “I am excited to get the C360 in the hands of our customers.”

Drones Are A Cost-effective Solution

9.50am: Alfred Poirier, Chief Deputy of Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD), explained how drones are a cost-effective solution.

He explained that LAFD does fly manned helicopters, but these are expensive to fly. Step forward the drone.

He said: “In one example, the drone was able to fly for an entire night detecting and determining hot spots. This would not have been possible with a helicopter – it would be really expensive to do.”

Los Angeles Fire Department – ‘Drones Give Us Enhanced Situational Awareness’

9.45am: Richard Fields, Battalion Chief of the Los Angeles Fire Department, explained how drones have transformed firefighting operations.

He said: “Just five years ago, my tool was an axe. Now drone technology is a force multiplier in our daily operations.”

He said that drones increase situational awareness and increase accuracy.

He added: “Thanks to the drone, I can more accurately verify what my challenges are and where the heat is, which helps me to make a better plan to deploy my resources and deploy them to safer locations.”

He said that Los Angeles Fire Department also uses drones to carry out damage assessments and technical rescues.

DJI Announces Disaster Relief Programme

9.40am: DJI announced the Disaster Relief Programme. This is a new initiative to rapidly equip first responders with DJI drone technology and support during natural disaster response and recovery missions for wildfires, hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, and earthquakes.

Drones Are Saving Lives – Literally!

9.35am: Romeo Durscher, Director of Public Safety Integration at DJI, said that, globally, drones have saved 279 documented lives.

He said: “279 people are still with us because the drone was a crucial part of the response. This is priceless.”

Case Study: Drones Played Key Role In Paradise Camp Fire

9.30am: Giving an example of drones in public safety, Romeo Durscher, Director of Public Safety Integration at DJI, told the audience about the response to the Paradise Wild Fire, in California, in 2018.

He said that 16 UAV teams were called into action, conducting 600+ missions and collecting 72,000 videos and images.

Mr Durscher said: “We drone-mapped the town of Paradise. Working with our colleagues at DroneDeploy, we were able to produce 2D and 3D orthomosaic maps. Within 48 hours we had high-resolution images which helped the community see the state of their homes.

“This data, even a year later, is being used for insurance and construction purposes, as well as debris removal. This data has been tremendously impactful to many!”

Huge Rate Of Adoption In Public Safety

9.25am: Romeo Durscher, Director of Public Safety Integration at DJI, said that DJI is seeing a ‘tremendous curve of adoption right across public safety in the USA’.

“The pieces are coming together to support large-scale deployments,” added Mr Durscher.

‘Drones Have Proved Their Value In Public Safety’

9.20am: Romeo Durscher, Director of Public Safety Integration at DJI, told the audience that drones are proving their value when it comes to public safety.

Perhaps the most high-profile example of this was the use of drones during and after this year’s devastating fire at the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.

Mr Durscher said: “Thanks to aerial robotics, the cathedral still stands.”

Major Growth In The Enterprise Drone Sector

9.15am: DJI said that the commercial drone business has grown by 80 per cent in the last year and that leading organisations are scaling up.

An amazing statistic was that the US drone market has advanced two-to-three years faster than expected.

DJI Statement: ‘Your Data Is Not Our Business’

9.10am: Mario Rebello, Regional Manager of North America and Vice-President of Government Relations for DJI, gave an impassioned speech about concerns raised over DJI’s data security practices.

He said that allegations which have been made against the company are misleading and false.

Mr Rebello said: “Politicising the drone industry will only damage it. Our product is safe, secure and reliable and security is an ongoing effort of DJI.”

He continued: “Your data is not our business. We have handed over the control of data to you, the end-user.”

Mr Rebello said that DJI has enhanced its data security through a number of measures, including the creation of a bug bounty programme (meant to reward researchers who came to the company with security vulnerabilities they have discovered) and the development of a product security committee.

Mr Rebello said that DJI is committed to addressing the core issues on safety and security through three key elements. These were committing to transparency and education; committing to research and development; and going through external validations.

He said: “External validations will give you assurances that the product is safe and secure. We have nothing to hide.”

Continuing on the security theme, he added: “We remain committed to these efforts, but the whole industry needs to collaborate on addressing these issues together.”

Mr Rebello called for an industry-wide security standard.

He said: “There is a need for security standards that enable, not disrupt.”

2019 has been a very eventful year – says DJI

9.05am: Mario Rebello, Regional Manager of North America and Vice-President of Government Relations for DJI, told the audience that 2019 has been a very eventful year for DJI, with a range of new launches including the RoboMaster S1 educational robot (pictured below) and the Osmo Action camera.

As a teaser, he added: “You can expect more announcements from us over the next couple of weeks and months.”

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