- heliguy™ stages the UK's first official demonstration of the DJI Dock, held in partnership with Komatsu UK Smart Construction;
- DJI Enterprise's John Tressel says the Dock has been engineered to facilitate on-demand and remote deployment, addressing current challenges associated with pilot availability;
- Nitin Gupta, Founder and CEO of FlytBase, says the DJI Dock has changed the drone-in-a-box landscape, offering a more reliable, affordable and accessible solution;
- Drone-in-a-box software, such as DJI FlightHub 2, FlytBase, and Drone Harmony have robust mechanisms to ensure flight safety and data security;
- Use-case examples for the DJI Dock include pipeline oil and gas inspection, transmission substations, mining, public safety, and railway yard management;
- Despite BVLOS operations being at a fairly adolescent stage in the UK, keynote speakers encourage organisations to adopt the DJI Dock now to start to integrate it into workflows and build a safety case.
The UK's first demonstration of the DJI Dock showcased the benefits of deploying this drone-in-a-box solution for remote and automated operations.
The event, staged by heliguy™ at Komatsu UK's Smart Construction excavator testing and training area in Birtley, featured keynote presentations from DJI Enterprise and third-party software partners FlytBase and Drone Harmony.
Attendees included representatives from a range of industries, including construction, security, inspection, and surveying.
Key takeaways included:
- DJI Dock addresses challenges associated with pilot availability, enabling on-demand and round-the-clock deployment;
- Drone-in-a-box solutions are already benefiting enterprise organisations around the world, with use-case examples including pipeline oil and gas inspection, transmission substations, public safety, and railway yard management;
- Drone-in-a-box software facilitates automated and remote deployment, including planning and scheduling, data collection, and data centralisation;
- Dock software solutions, such as DJI FlightHub 2, FlytBase, and Drone Harmony, have robust security mechanisms to keep user data safe;
- Nitin Gupta, Founder and CEO of FlytBase, said drone docking stations were the foundation of autonomy and that the DJI Dock changed the landscape, making drone-in-a-box hardware more reliable, affordable and accessible;
- BVLOS legislation in the UK is at an early stage, but organisations encouraged to use the DJI Dock in a VLOS capacity now to integrate into workflows and build a safety case.
This article provides an overview of the event, which was staged across two days.
DJI Dock: Advantages
The DJI Dock is designed to facilitate remote and automated drone operations, collecting data on demand - either through spontaneous deployment or planned and scheduled missions.
Key features include:
- Cloud management and integration with third-party software for flight planning and data management;
- Fast charging (10% to 90% in 25 minutes) for minimal downtime;
- Weather-proof: -35°C to 50°C operating temperature; Core components IP67; surge protection;
- Compatible with DJI M30 Series drone: Up to 40 minutes of flight time; IP55-rated; Wide, zoom, and laser rangefinder, plus thermal on M30T.
During his keynote presentation, John Tressel, Technical Support Specialist at DJI Enterprise, addressed the reasons for launching DJI Dock and the challenges it seeks to address.
"We've reached this maturity in terms of what we can do with current drone solutions and the next step is going beyond this," he said.
"This revolves around the idea of having automated, off-site, remote operations, and having a drone which is available at all times for round-the-clock operations, without being dependant on pilot availability."
The drone-in-a-box concept is not new, but the DJI Dock represents a step change in this technology which will enable organisations to scale this capability more easily, according to Nitin Gupta, Founder and CEO of FlytBase.
"A docking station is the fundamental block for autonomy," he said.
"What has happened with the DJI Dock is the docking station hardware has become very accessible, very reliable, and available at a very affordable price.
"This will completely change this industry, making it accessible and possible for so many customers to start using this technology for autonomous fleets of drones.
"Until a few years ago, docking stations used to cost the equivalent of 200,000 US Dollars. Many of our customers started with these systems but, despite these high prices, they were not very reliable.
"However, with the DJI Dock, this price point has come down to 1/10th of that and the reliability has increased dramatically, which represents a significant change in ROI for these customers."
Drone In A Box Use Cases
The event provided the chance for software partners to demonstrate the use cases for the DJI Dock and explain how customers are already deploying docking stations around the world.
- Mr Gupta said that early adopters of the technology included public safety, oil and gas pipeline inspection, and railway yard management;
- Martin Fuchsberger, Co-founder and CEO of Drone Harmony, said one of their clients was looking to use the Dock for monitoring electricity substations.
- Mr Tressel said the Dock could help with operations such as mining, offering continuous verification of onsite assets, as well as public safety missions, including sea search and rescue.
Smart Construction's excavator testing and training area provided the perfect backdrop to demonstrate the Dock in an AEC setting.
And Richard Clement, Deputy General Manager for Smart Construction, said the potential of the technology is huge for the sector, helping jobs such as progress monitoring, inspections, site security and perimeter patrol, and tracking earth movements.
The image below shows a snapshot from the Dock's M30 Series drone during a mission over the site.
Mr Clement said: "Drones are the best way to map 100 per cent of a job site, capturing the data very quickly and very simply, and providing a detailed and up-to-date view of everything that is happening on site. This enables project managers to conduct data-driven forecasting and planning to accurately track inventories to optimise workflows and stay on schedule and under budget.
“Looking ahead, drone-in-a-box solutions like the DJI Dock offer additional benefits as they can be stationed on site, ready to deploy on demand, without having to depend on pilot availability or requiring a pilot to visit the site. They also offer great flexibility, being able to deploy subject to the requirements of what is happening on a job site."
DJI Dock Software: Flight Planning
Software is a key component of the DJI Dock ecosystem, and solutions such as DJI FlightHub 2, FlytBase, and Drone Harmony enable remote mission planning, flight operation, and data centralisation.
The event provided the chance for DJI, FlytBase, and Drone Harmony to showcase their solutions and explain the advantages of using them.
DJI FlightHub 2
FlightHub 2 is DJI's purpose-built application, allowing operators to unlock DJI Dock functionality from the cloud, helping to schedule missions, create and edit flight routes,and manage data collected remotely.
Mr Tressel said: "It is a tool for teams to work together,For the Dock, it enables teams to make plans, routes and schedule them as necessary, including triggering operations in real time. You say, 'I need to go here, now - you click, and go'."
FlytBase is a drone autonomy software platform which enables operators to automate repeatable and routine drone operations with drone docking stations, including the DJI Dock.
One of its key USPs is its ability to integrate with existing apps and systems to help integrate drone-in-a-box deployments to existing workflows or add additional flight safety features.
Mr Gupta said: "What we have found common is that enterprise users don't want to use drones as separate systems, but they want to integrate them with their existing business workflows.
"For example, when we are doing oil and gas pipeline inspections there is a system called Digital Acoustic System which helps get a signature when there is a disturbance along the pipeline. When the signal is received, the expectation is for the drone to automatically go to that area.
"Similarly, in public safety, there is a system called Computer Aided Dispatch and public safety teams want the response to be integrated with drones: When the alarm is triggered, the drones are sent to that location.
"Thesesystems are in existence and they want drones to be part of that workflow, and FlytBase enables this."
He added that FlytBase has worked with a key collection of partners to integrate safety systems into the software, such as sense and avoid technology, ADS-B, UTM, parachutes, and weather systems.
He said this ecosystem of safety systems was paramount to help accelerate automated drone deployment and has helped FlytBase obtain BVLOS approvals in eight different countries.
Drone Harmony is a flight planning and management solution for the DJI Dock.
It enables operators to plan, monitor and inspect in full-3D, offering enhanced levels of visualisation and situational awareness.
Martin Fuchsberger, Co-founder and CEO of Drone Harmony, said: "Drone Harmony is a Swiss Army Knife for planning complex and complicated flights at difficult to reach places.
"It is important you feel safe before starting the flight - even if you are not actually flying the drone yourself. The flight planning engine features obstacle avoidance and our full 3D visualisation provides a 3D virtual environment where operators can plan a complex flight at a push of a button, preview them before the mission, and see it play out during the flight.
"This provides confidence before the mission starts, even for operations taking place 1,000km away from the Dock, and enables safe flight planning and missions in complex environments, which is not always possible if you have to plan flights manually or use the controller.
"We have a client who wants to fly drones every week across 60 substations, installing a DJI Dock at each location. They are using Drone Harmony's flight planning software because substations have a lot of powerlines and they want to use our 3D flight visualisation capabilities to ensure their flights are safe - making Drone Harmony the perfect solution in that space."
DJI Dock Software: Data Security
DJI, FlytBase, and Drone Harmony all state that data security is paramount.
DJI FlightHub 2's servers are located in Virginia, USA, and uses Amazon Web Services as the cloud computing and storage service provider, which is ISO27001/27017/27018 certified. And Cloud API opens up Dock functionality to developers and system integrators, who can set up custom, private servers.
FlytBase offers end-to-end data security encryption and its cloud servers are hosted in AWS, which is compliant to ISO/IEC 27001 security certifications. The software offers options of in-country cloud deployments as well as on-premises deployments.
Mr Fuchsberger said that Drone Harmony is in line to obtain ISO 27001 certification within the next two months. He added that Drone Harmony can be installed on a customer server (on-premise) or a private network.
DJI Dock: BVLOS Operations And Building A Safety Case
During the event, Mr Gupta said that one of the biggest challenges was issues around regulations and BVLOS flights.
At this stage, standardised BVLOS operations - especially in uncontrolled airspace - in the UK are in a fairly embryonic state.
However, work is ongoing to accelerate this. Earlier this year, the UK CAA published an updated roadmap, setting out plans for the future of BVLOS drone flights in UK airspace.
This was followed by the launch of the Future of Remote Pilot Competency in the Specific Category public consultation, which includes the future competency requirements for BVLOS operations.
In the meantime, Mr Gupta encouraged operators to start using the DJI Dock now, even in a VLOS (visual line of sight) capacity to enable organisations to become familiar with the system, integrate it within their workflows, build a use case, and be in a position to hit the ground running when BVLOS operations do become more standardised in the UK.
“Let’s not wait for the regulations to be in place, let's get started now,” said Mr Gupta.
DJI Dock: Installation And Maintenance
The DJI Dock demonstration event also provided groups of attendees the chance to see the Dock up close and learn about its technical capabilities and specifications, as well as maintenance and installation.
heliguy™ offers a range of DJI Dock support, including consultancy, site assessments and surveys, and installation; and rental Docks for proof of concept.
heliguy™ also has certified and trained DJI Dock technicians, offering dedicated repairs and maintenance.
DJI M350 RTK
There was also a demonstration of the DJI M350 RTK drone - a flagship upgrade of the DJI M300 RTK which has become popular with public safety teams. Like the M300 RTK, the M350 RTK can carry a range of cameras and sensors, including zoom and thermal cameras, spotlights and loud speakers, and LiDAR and photogrammetry payloads.
Upgrades include the M350 RTK's enhanced IP rating and updated battery system, extra safety features such as arm-lock indicator and updated FPV camera, and comes with the DJI RC Plus as standard. Compared to the M300 RTK’s Smart Controller Enterprise, the RC Plus has longer battery life, larger screen, and an IP rating. The RC Plus is compatible with the M300 RTK after a firmware update, but needs to be purchased separately.
Find out more in this in-depth comparison between the DJI M350 RTK and DJI M300 RTK.
DJI Dock Event: Summary
The DJI Dock event provided key stakeholders across various industries to see this drone in a box in action and find out the benefits of integrating it into their existing workflows for automated, remote, and round-the-clock deployments.
Takeaways from the keynote presentations included the quality and reliability of the DJI Dock, compared to alternative solutions; the DJI FlightHub 2, FlytBase, and Drone Harmony software have robust flight safety and data security mechanisms, and that organisations can start to use the DJI Dock now to plan ahead for more standardised operations.
To find out more about the DJI Dock and how heliguy™ can help you integrate it into your workflows, contact us.