Work in these sectors? Here's how drones can help your bottom line

Inspection drones are fast-becoming a key technology acquisition for a diverse array of companies.
Written by Greg Nichols, Contributing Writer

Industrial drones are nothing new, but the growth curve and pace of adoption is pretty astounding. The adoption of industrial drone programs by industry is expected to increase at a 66.8% compound annual growth rate over the next year. 

Industrial drones are being used in major industries like insurance, mining and aggregates, using cutting-edge technologies (AI, machine learning, and deep data analytics, to name a few) to drastically reduce the time workers spend gathering and analyzing data while increasing accuracy and positively impacting the bottom line. All of these working together result in a growing field impacting industrial work and forever changing how these industries operate on a daily basis globally: smart inspections.

Krishnan Hariharan, CEO of Aerial Intelligence company Kespry and drone industry veteran, believes that there's still much room for improvement in the drone industry. Kespry, the company he leads, is pioneering smart inspections by leveraging the power of AI, machine learning, and data visualization to conduct inspections that previously had to be done manually. 

I had the opportunity to connect with Hariharan about the growth of the inspection drone market and the reasons businesses across a variety of sectors might want to add drones to a growing automation technology portfolio.

GN: What are the advantages to humans of inspection by drones and how can they help the bottom line?

Krishnan Hariharan: There are several advantages of autonomous drone inspections, especially considering this method removes the need for manual inspections. The first is worker safety. Instead of manually climbing on stockpiles and roofs to get accurate measurements, workers can simply tap out a flight perimeter on an iPad and let the drone do the work, keeping them out of harm's way. 

As an example, Edw. C Levy, a construction and facilities company, uses Kespry to conduct its site surveys. Without drone technology like Kespry's, a lot of construction and facilities companies contract with third-party companies to conduct their site surveys. That opens up a great deal of risk exposure because it involves an unknown party operating their vehicle in an area unknown to them. They could get lost, they could have a vehicle malfunction, they could require assistance from your own team members — all of which could cost you time and money. Kespry eliminates those unknowns and greatly reduces risk, keeping people out of harm's way.

In addition, Smart Inspections positively impact the bottom line for businesses by saving both time and money. What used to take hours or days now takes mere minutes. After the drone collects the imagery and data, it is then sent to the Kespry Cloud, where any team member can immediately access the information, making data processing that much faster and more accurate. As an example, one of the largest insurers in the United States leverages Kespry technology to conduct roof inspections for insurance claims. Instead of an employee climbing on the roof, manually taking measurements, and then compiling the data for interpretation, Kespry's drone does it all. An insurance employee simply has to navigate the drone over the flight path, while the drone collects imagery, measurements and data, and sends all the information directly to the Kespry Cloud, where it can immediately be analyzed by anyone, anywhere. As a result, the insurer saves time, and therefore money, and can process insurance claims faster than ever before.

Finally, because measurement isn't done manually, there's less room for error. Smart Inspections are getting accuracy to be near perfect. With Smart Inspections, businesses can stop focusing on minor tasks like data collection and start focusing on maximizing production efficiency, optimizing labor productivity, and reducing downtime and errors using a single, integrated, and secure data platform from field collection through detailed analytics.

GN: Smart inspection is emerging as a key use case for drones and AI. What's the current state of the market regarding smart inspection offerings?

Krishnan Hariharan: Companies are still in the business of performing manual inspections for assets across various industries including roof inspections for construction and roofing, or stockpile inspections in the mining, aggregate industry, and heavy earth moving for construction. Luckily there is a better and much more efficient method: Smart Inspections. With the use of drone technology, cloud-based analytics and high-resolution imagery, industries such as mining and aggregates, insurance and industrials can now experience completely touchless surveys and inspections in half the time, while keeping employees safe and keeping organizations compliant to their respective industry standards. The ultimate value proposition for customers using Smart Inspection is to increase revenues and lower operations and maintenance costs.

With this rapid adoption and because Smart Inspections can save organizations so much time and money while improving worker safety, they will soon be ubiquitous, and slow adopters or hold-outs will risk being outpaced by their competition.

Kespry's solution extracts business insights from aerial data collection techniques by leveraging high resolution imagery and their real-space situational context or coordinates. And, we believe Kespry is the only organization capable of solving for multiple industries because of an extensible platform and the investments we've made to improve it over the years.

GN: Are smart inspection drones sector-agnostic, or will customization be required to leap from industries like pipeline inspection to crop inspection, for example? 

Krishnan Hariharan: A drone is a very powerful medium to collect a lot of data efficiently that makes it possible for companies to process and analyze that information. Second, sensors used for drones continue to improve making it possible to use a single drone-payload for different kinds of missions across multiple industries. However, workflows for different industries are typically different and how the data is used and processed is nuanced for different industries. Therefore, if drones can accurately fly and gather the right information over the designated area, a robust software platform (including AI and data analytics) should be smart to be able to do the rest. The software will need to be flexible to adapt to each industry, gather the correct data and process the images correctly. 

Kespry's specialization and secret sauce is to efficiently automate the business workflow in an efficient and scalable fashion for multiple industries consistently. There will be some level of customization required for specific industries because of how the data is analyzed and processed. For example, asset classification for Oil Inspection is going to be a bit different than asset and inventory management for Mapping/Mining and Roofing. However, there's also an opportunity to leverage many of the implementations across multiple industry verticals. For example, when Kespry performs defect and anomaly detection, our AI/ML models for cracks, water ponding, rust etc. can be easily reused and applied consistently.

GN: How is Kespry innovating the space and what's coming down the line?

Krishnan Hariharan: Kespry is always staying on top of emerging technology to better serve its customers. Advancements in AI, ML and data analytics are allowing us to transmit data to our customers within minutes of it being collected so end-users can take action quickly. As a leader in the industry for years, Kespry takes key learning from evolving technology to further improve its platform, including the software, AI models, analytics and more, to adapt to any environment within the insurance/roofing, mining and aggregates, and industrial spaces. Currently we are working on expanding our compatibility with any drone model so that more customers can access our technology. Additionally, we are exploring the use of edge devices to process images faster so we can have high-resolution images to customers within moments. Finally, we are working towards expanding to offer smart inspections in the industrial space. 

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