Drone Programs: Top 5 Considerations
Updated: Oct 10, 2022
Starting a drone program within your organization can seem like a daunting task. After all, you are responsible for implementing a new emerging technology within your organization and you probably want to make sure that you are making the right decisions along the way. In some sense, you are the architect of the drone endeavours and you need to make sure that teams and resources are designed to maximize overall productivity gains for the organization.
What are top 5 key considerations to bear in mind while architecting your drone program?
We’ll have a look in the video and article below.
1. Identify Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
From the get-go, it’s important to understand what will be the key performance indicators (KPIs) for your drone program. Is the business goal to reduce costs or to increase revenue?
If it is to reduce costs, by how much and what metrics can you track to understand if your drone program is set up for success? Most of the time, these metrics are going to be tied your specific industry.
For e.g. if you are in the mining industry conducting drone magnetic surveys, you are probably trying to eliminate target sites for mineral exploration as quickly as possible and therefore survey line km per day is an important metric for you.
Conversely, if you are in the construction industry, you are probably trying to document your site and infrastructure’s present condition. How long did a drone site map or asset inspection take and what were the costs involved per survey or inspection would be the key metrics here.
Tracking metrics can be a good way to measure performance, and help you understand how to design your drone program so that all important aspect of it can be tracked and measured. You also want to find a way to track these metrics in a scalable way, so that increasing the size and scale of the operation still allows these metrics to be tracked.
Ultimately, you can only improve what you measure!
2. Assess and Plan Resources
Once you’ve got a good handle on what you’re aiming to achieve in the drone program and how you are going to track the right metrics for success, it’s important to then assess and plan the required resources for your drone program to be successful.
This should at-least include:
🔢 Use-cases: What use-cases are you looking to achieve using drones?
👥 Teams: Which teams need to be involved and in what way?
🛠 Hardware: What hardware would you need and what’s the best place to procure it?
🖥️ Software: What software would you need and what requirements should it have? Can it scale to your needs not just today but also in the future?
👨✈️ Training: What training and drone certifications are needed in your geography?
✅ Compliance: What documentation do you need to maintain for your operations?
3. Organize Your Team’s Workflows
Once you’ve got the KPIs and resources nailed, it time to put all of it together into repeatable workflows for your team to execute and refine. It’s difficult to get this right from the get-go so we recommend following the MVO (minimal viable operation) strategy.
This strategy takes the view that’s important to get the drone operation #1 under your belt and deliver the end result, and then take your KPIs to understand how you can refine and improve your MVO till it is a perfect fit for your organization.
Some of the key questions to consider while organizing your team’s workflows are:
Which team is in the best position to plan drone surveys & inspections?
Who’s going to be flying the drones? Is it the same as the planning team?
How is the drone data going to be stored and tracked?
How do you make sure high-quality data is collected throughout the organization?
How would the teams communicate with each other?
What workflows are needed for efficiency?
Here is an example end-to-end workflow for building inspections that you can use to model the ideal workflows for your team.
It’s natural to find inter-dependencies between the chosen resources and workflows. For instance, software can be a major role in setting the correct workflows for your team. If the software natively supports your required workflow, great, if not, reach out to your software solutions provider to see if a specific workflow can be implemented. Sometimes, choosing the right hardware can also make a huge difference. For instance, if you require flying many drone flights over a short period of time, perhaps investing in a high megapixel camera is a good strategy as this would allow you to fly from a distance with greater efficiency.
4. Identify and Create Budgets
Once you’ve got a good working understanding of your KPIs, resources and workflows, it time to put a cost value to the drone operation.
What budgets will be needed to fund your operations both today and in the future?
An important consideration here to understand what the budgets look like in contrast to your overall business goals. If the costs only represent 10% of the total value added by drones to the business, could you afford to spend more and add further value to the organization?
Sometimes, it can be useful to have this conversation not just internally but also with your hardware and software suppliers, who might be able to recommend strategies on how to best allocate your budget for efficiency gains.
5. Plan a Multi-Use Strategy for Growth
Every drone operation starts off due to a burning need that needs to be satisfied by the organization. For instance:
Spending too much on scaffolding for building inspections? Use a drone.
Climbing on buildings, cell towers, wind turbines becoming unfeasible? Use a drone.
Want to accelerate your mineral exploration or solar survey? Use a drone.
Whilst starting off with one use-case and planning your drone operation around it is a good starting point, it’s also important to look at the drone for what it is: a general purpose machine designed to fly and collect data which would otherwise be more expensive to obtain.
Does your organization have multiple use-cases that could be fulfilled by the same flying machine? After all that’s how we use computers, tablets and smartwatches today, so why should drones be any different?
In this article, we looked at the some of the key considerations to bear in mind while starting a drone program.
Hammer Missions is a software platform that helps drone (UAV) teams work with versatile & high-quality drone data for site surveys and asset inspections. Our goal is to help UAV teams cut costs and increase ROI by building operational efficiency in their drone programs.
Our Hammer App, which integrates with commercial drones, allows the drone pilot to create and fly 15+ types of drone missions, by creating automated flight plans based on pilot input.
Our Hammer Hub is a cloud-based platform where drone data can be processed and visualized in a full 3D environment, and annotated to mark defects or severe issues. This data can also be annotated using AI to accelerate the annotation process, and it can then be shared with other team members or stakeholders within the organization for further review.
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We look forward to hearing from you.
— Team at Hammer Missions