Propeller to unlock enterprise data with drones

Australian start-up Propeller Aerobotics hopes to help enterprises collect data that is relevant to them.
Written by Aimee Chanthadavong, Contributor

The Internet of Everything (IoE) — a term coined by Cisco — has given Sydney-based startup Propeller Aerobotics the foundation to develop drones that it hopes will reduce the complications of data collection for enterprises.

Propeller Aerobotics, a Cisco IoT Innovation Challenge semi-finalist, has developed drones — dubbed 'aerobots' — to help enterprises collect data over areas that would have previously been too costly or too dangerous. 

Propeller Aerobatics co-founder and director Francis Vierboom said the foundation for developing drones thrived from a hunger to take advantage of the IoE.

"From our perspective, [IoE] is about making the world a bit more like The Jetsons. So far the internet has mostly given us a lot of desk jobs, and just recently it got interesting as we're able to do things on our mobile phones and wrist watches, but there is still a lot of staring into screens.

"Then there's a lot of cool stuff where a jacket can dry itself out like Back to the Future, and definitely one of the other things the IoE is doing is connecting flying robots to what we do every day, and that's the exciting technology that Propeller is working with.

"The fact is that now it's possible and affordable to create drones that will fly themselves around and autonomously navigate, they can capture a whole lot of data and at angles where it was expensive to get data from, and there is a lot of businesses that see the potential for drones."

One challenge that Propeller attempts to tackle with the drones is ensuring that the data that is collected is relevant and it is information that businesses are actually after, rather than overlooked as "an enormous pile of videos that is going to end up unlooked or unwatched".

As part of the development, the information collected by the drones is delivered to a smart integrated cloud platform known as the Aerodata system that will give companies access to near real time data. Third party operators are also able to upload their data onto the system. Businesses also have the opportunity to develop their own applications on Aerodata to use the data.

"The latest generation of cloud tech and IoE age of technologies is about dealing with enormous range of data, and what is coming next is really tackling that exact issue of when you collect too much information you're going to become stuck with useless data, but the technology building block gives you the ability to manage it properly," Vierboom said.

Vierboom said potential applications for these machines will mean that businesses will also able to begin collecting relevant data regularly, freeing up jobs for people who previously had the tasks to collect and analyse data.

At the moment the company's focus for early commercial opportunities is engaging with the resources industry, but Vierboom believes the relevance for drones can be applied to many industries, including by government agencies and engineering firms.

"At the moment there is a long tedious job to calculate the shape and contours of a large piece of land to measure how much iron ore is being moved out of a mine. Drones are changing exactly how that is done, they can fly over, get that job done really quickly," he explained.

"They also make it possible to inspect dangerous areas or to avoid the need to abseil off a bridge. There are real things drones are doing now and companies are starting to use them already. But the thing is there is a lot more than drones can do."

Under new legislation that was recently passed, Dutch authorities will be able use drones for video surveillance of the country's citizens.

Last month, the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs, chaired by Nationals MP George Christensen, released a report recommended that Australian privacy law needs to be updated to take into account potential breaches of privacy by drones.

The report noted that Australian privacy law was limited in the protections offered against the invasive use of drones federally, with some state laws offering some protection by making it illegal in some circumstances to use a surveillance device to record or monitor private activities.

The committee recommended that the government should consider introducing legislation by July 2015 that protects privacy from being invaded by technology such as drones.

Editorial standards