Airbus’s new drone arm to help firms super-scale data collection


Airbus is hoping its new dedicated UAV division will help large companies and organisations to gather data on a much grander scale than current drone solutions on the market allow.

Airbus Aerial, which was founded in May, was set up because the company was not seeing the growth of the commercial UAV industry that it expected.
That’s according to the division’s president, Jesse Kallman, who has been responsible for assessing the limitations for companies wanting to use drone solutions to collect data on a large scale.

He said that many organisations struggle to find trusted drone partners and vendors.

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“A lot of the large corporations I’ve seen over the years, especially in the US where we rolled out some programmes with large insurers, a lot of the time they don’t have access to the vendors that can provide the scale or service that they need,” Kallman said at the Commercial UAV show recently.

“It’s hard for them to find that so they have to typically piece together a lot of companies to make it work for them. Also, the frequency of data collection. Again I’ll use the insurance company example – there are some insurers in the US that do 200,000 inspections every year, and that’s just climbing on a roof to take some pictures, and that’s really hard to scale out in today’s drone ecosystem. A lot of the time they don’t want to invest until they know they can actually scale it through the business.”

Kallman also outlined other challenges for large organisations like data quality and delivery times. Aside from this, companies can find it difficult to make use of a piece of hardware because they do not have the methods and means to “take it all the way”, according to Kallman. He adds that companies don’t want to have to be experts on UAV technology and create their own internal programmes.

Airbus Aerial is hoping to solve each of these problems through its capabilities and expertise in the aerospace industry. As one of the largest geospatial companies in the world, Airbus is a major provider of satellite imagery, providing satellite data to the likes of Google and other international giants, and is able to tie this into UAV data collection.

Aerial hopes that through the infrastructure, financial muscle and processing and analytics power of its parent company, it will be able to offer a comprehensive, scalable solution for companies serious about large data collection.

Kallman says: “The whole concept of our business and what we do today is to provide a full service to organisations that are looking for access to these technologies, whether it’s a drone, a small multi-rotor, a fixed-wing flying beyond line of site, satellite or the Zephyr programme, which is based here in the UK.

“It’s all about what you’re trying to solve and being able to use the right tool. That’s the philosophy behind our business. A lot of people would probably assume that airbus is building a drone, but we’re actually not manufacturing a single piece of hardware for our business outside of the Zephyr, which is being manufactured for many other purposes. Today we primarily use off-the-shelf technology and we partner with service providers all over the world.”

Kallman also revealed that the Zephyr programme will be operated by the company as a packaged service, rather than selling the drones privately for customers to use.

The Zephyr is a new UAV being developed by Airbus which is designed to have wider applications and be able to collect data on a larger scale than conventional drones with the capability to stay aloft for three months.

Tags : Data collectionDroneUAVUnmanned Aerial VehicleZephyr

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