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Drones, Data, and the Digital Job Site

By Jonathan Downey
Founder & CEO, Airware

At Airware, we believe aerial data can solve some of the most challenging problems businesses face. Our goal is to deliver complete solutions that address those problems. Today, I’m excited to announce that we’re acquiring Redbird and offering a new solution for some very old problems.

The construction, quarrying, and mining industries are in need of significant technological change. This is a world in which project planning, supply-chain orders, equipment logs and daily reports are still conducted with paper and clipboards. On-site communication often takes place over walkie talkie. Comprehensive understanding of site conditions is frequently lacking, resulting in compliance-related fines and over consumption of fuel. Production volume often isn’t assessed until the end of the quarter, resulting in millions of dollars in inventory risk every year.

Failure to keep pace with technological advancement made in other industries has had a profound effect. According to a June 2016 report by McKinsey, large construction projects typically take 20 percent longer to finish than scheduled and come in up to 80 percent over budget. Construction productivity improvement lags far behind that of the overall economy, and has actually declined in some markets since the 1990s. The mining industry is 28 percent less productive than a decade ago. These are dire challenges, and technological change is not just an opportunity for these industries, it’s an absolute need.

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Deploying commercial drones will enable companies in these industries to gain competitive advantage by optimizing site operations. Aerial data can enable real-time collaboration the likes of which this industry has never seen and will allow enterprises to assess sites far more frequently than conventional methods.

With current tools, site-wide surveys typically happen annually, and most surveys only cover small areas. These surveys capture a fraction of the information that commercial drones provide. The resulting gaps in data allow errors to go uncorrected and cause production surpluses and deficits, missed deadlines, and inefficient work planning.

Commercial drones can be flown weekly, and provide extremely accurate measurements, enabling the precise planning, measurement and reporting of work. Site managers will be able to see how much volume they move per day, per machine. With this data in hand, entire mines, quarries and construction sites can be optimized for lower costs, higher revenue and better safety. Physical assets will be brought into the digital world, enabling the comprehensive digitization of mines, quarries and construction sites.

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There’s just one problem. Until now, commercial drone offerings for this market have been fragmented. While there are plenty of companies offering pieces of technology, the fact remains that a drone, some images, and a map won’t do much for an enterprise’s bottom line. Large companies in these industries might have ten different sites using a half a dozen different products, with no organization-wide intelligence or interoperability. The drone technology available to this market does not provide the scalability necessary to bring the construction, mining and quarrying industries into the digital age. Companies in this market frequently reach out to Airware with interest in complete solutions that meet their needs at an organizational level.

To meet that demand, Airware is acquiring Redbird, a company that has developed the best application in the industry for aerial data visualization and analytics for mines, quarries and construction sites.

Redbird has built an intuitive cloud-based application that makes it easy to monitor, map and analyze construction sites, mines and quarries. While there are many drone products that offer mapping capabilities, and some that even measure production, Redbird customers get unmatched analytics that can automate production measurement, optimize productivity with real-time efficiency calculations, and provide specific safety and compliance measurements. Workers can annotate, comment and share that information with their colleagues in an incredibly easy-to-use cloud app on any connected device, collaborating at a level never before seen in this industry.

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Now, the site-level intelligence and ease-of-use of the Redbird application will be combined with Airware’s operator software and the enterprise-grade scalability, security, and operations management capabilities of the Airware platform. The result will be the most complete technology offering on the market, an end-to-end solution for construction, mines and quarries.

The excellence of Redbird’s product reflects the excellence of the team that built it. With Redbird joining Airware, we can now deliver large scale drone operations to the construction sites, mines and quarries that need it.

I have known Emmanuel de Maistre, the CEO of Redbird, for the past two years. Redbird was one of the first companies we invested in with the Commercial Drone Fund, and they still stand out from the crowd of over 115 companies we’ve reviewed since the fund was launched. I couldn’t be more thrilled to join forces with the Redbird team at such an ideal time for both companies. We set a goal for 2017 to expand our operations to support European customers, and now we have Europe’s leading enterprise drone company joining ours.

Someday in the very near future, every site manager in an organization will have daily insights and powerful analytics at their fingertips. Airware and Redbird will be there, helping enterprises make this transformation successfully.

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