DJIAirWorks

In heading out to LA, DJI was keen to keep the annual AirWorks steamroller ticking over and this year, in an expansion of its reach from what was a predominantly US-based show, attendees, speakers, media and exhibitors formed much more of an international gathering.

Enterprise expansion:

Kicking off the conference as part of the opening keynote, DJI’s regional manager for North America and VP for government relations, Mario Rebello, described just how quickly the enterprise side of the business was growing, detailing that it had grown by 80% and now has 14,000 employees worldwide with 7 locations just in the US.

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He explained how the drone industry is seeing more large enterprises deploying drone technology and are starting to reap the rewards of doing so. In turn, this means that the time, effort and resource needed from DJI’s side to ensure they are capable of providing the right service to what the large enterprises are demanding for on-site work.

DJI is seeing increasing scalability in the US large enterprise market as well as those in the public safety, first responder and emergency service sector – the focus of DJI’s AirWorks conference last year.

However, as we all know too well, the excitement of expansion does not come without difficulty. DJI has been the subject of a number of reports and accusations detailing how he manufacturer’s drones send data back to China, where the company is headquartered. In the opening keynote, Rebello was keen to quash the rumours, describing them as “false.”

He said: “We are facing some headwinds from a geopolitical perspective and it is impacting how the industry is growing as a whole. But we’re ready to meet those challenges head on.”

He continued: “Let me be very clear. False. These allegations are totally false. Our platform is clean, safe, and secure too.”

Counting on crops:

Moving on to what DJI had on offer, it confirmed its intentions to better equip the agricultural industry. With the slogan ‘Today’s Tools, Tomorrow’s Standards,’ the manufacturer outlined the £1.1bn worth of addressable agricultural market in the US where drones can help improve work, part of a wider addressable market of what is £4.6bn globally.

Speaking to the media, DJI’s VP of strategic partnerships, Jan Gasparic, commented on how DJI has a plan to imlement its aim to help “scout fields in less time, see the unseen and make decisions mid-season.”

In doing so, DJI has launched the P4 Multispectral, a 6 lens camera integrated with the Phantom 4 which also has a sensor on top.

Introducing the product, Jan Gasparic said: “The idea is to create a ready to fly platform that is easy to use and that everybody can deploy. The camera system has six built-in lenses, one is an RGB sensor which essentially acts as a normal camera. Also integrated, is a five band multi spectral camera system. There are five different lenses, each with two megapixels and each one is capturing different levels of the light spectrum.”

He detailed how this was important as being able to access the entire light spectrum, something the naked eye is unable to do, can allow those in the field to gather information on plant health, chlorophyll levels, and potential stress to the plant.

He added: “On top of the drone is basically what we call a sunlight sensor. That is, when doing mapping missions, is it constantly capturing the ambient data and when processing this data the reading then gives more accurate and more consistent data. This all comes back to making data much more accessible and consistent for others to build on top of.”

The manufacturer has described it as the world’s first fully integrated multispectral imaging drone designed for precision agriculture and environmental management. It combines data from six sensors to measure the health of crops, from individual plants to entire fields, as well as weeds, insects and a variety of soil conditions.

The device, which is easily fitted on to the Phantom 4, provides farmers and agronomists with a new tool to improve crop yields, cut costs and helps environmental professionals easily monitor vegetation on the land they manage.

Gasparic went on: “P4 Multispectral has the promise to transform the agriculture and land management industries. It will do this by collecting precise plant-level data without having to send personnel into the field for manual surveys.”

Adding: “By combining multispectral imaging into a trusted, efficient and affordable tool, DJI is making this transformative technology more accessible to professionals around the world who are pioneering the adoption of drones in their respective industries.”

P4 Multispectral features a gimbal-stabilised imaging system composed of one RGB camera and a multispectral camera array with five narrow band sensors – including red edge and near infrared – that are capable of capturing visible and invisible light.

This data gives professionals in the field unique insights into vegetation stress, soil composition as well as water salinity and contamination.

An additional integrated spectral sunlight sensor maximises the accuracy and consistency of data collection during missions flown at different times of day.

Integration into the DJI Ground Station Pro flight planning app then allows pilots to switch between real-time views of the drone’s RGB video camera and Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) output for immediate insights while in the field.

An integrated RTK positioning module and TimeSync system support real-time, accurate positioning data for each image, optimising photogrammetric results and providing as close to centimeter-level accurate measurements.

The P4 Multispectral is compatible with standard industry workflows including flight programming, mapping, and analytics software from DJI and other leading providers.

Data collected can be imported into DJI Terra or a suite of third-party software including Pix4D Mapper and DroneDeploy, for analysis and to generate additional vegetation index maps. In addition, P4 Multispectral users can enhance the accuracy of RTK positioning without an internet connection by using DJI’s D-RTK 2 High-Precision GNSS Mobile Station, which supports all major global satellite navigation systems, or using a third-party network RTK via an iPad with an internet connection.

DJI confirmed that the P4 Multispectral would be available in October through authorised DJI Enterprise dealers worldwide and said that all purchases of a P4 Multispectral in the United States, Canada, China, Australia, Japan, United Kingdom and the European Union will also get a 1-year Enterprise Shield Basic coverage on their new drone.

As part of the announcement, DJI also confirmed that it would be bringing the T16, its agri spraying drone previously used in Asia, to the North American market.

First response:

Elsewhere at AirWorks, DJI showed its continued commitment to the first responder, emergency service sector, which is increasingly reliant on drone technology to help with its vital work.

This year, it unveiled a new Disaster Relief Program to support first responders in the United States with access to DJI’s industry-leading drone technology, outlining response and recovery efforts during and after major disasters such as wildfires, hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, earthquakes and local emergencies as to where it hopes it can help.

Romeo Durscher, director of public safety integration at DJI, commented: “This program builds on DJI’s growing commitment to the public safety industry, as more than 900 public safety organisations across the United States, including the Los Angeles Fire Department, are deploying DJI drones for lifesaving activities.”

Adding: “To date, at least 278 people around the world have been rescued from peril by drones and this program will ensure that many more lives are saved by mitigating the risks to emergency responders on the ground and on the front lines of natural disasters like we have seen.”

Through the Disaster Relief Program, DJI will work with pre-selected US-based partners to equip state and local public safety agencies.

Initial participants in the program include the Los Angeles Fire Department, Menlo Park Fire Protection District, Alameda County Sheriff’s Office, Public Safety Unmanned Response Team North Texas, FlyMotion and Axon.

Drone hardware and software distributed through the program will include the DJI Matrice 200 series and Mavic 2 Enterprise series drones, accessories and batteries, powerful visual and thermal cameras, DJI’s FlightHub drone fleet management software, and DJI AeroScope for airspace management and both unauthorised drone detection as well as mitigation.

DJI will also provide technical support, repair services, and on-site manpower to help organisations more effectively and efficiently deploy drone technology in times of need.

Across the pond:

The supply business and ‘authorised resellers,’ as DJI calls them, has so far been almost exclusive to the country the dealer is based in.

However, like AirWorks this year, DJI is becoming more international month on month, and the latest news out of the DJI dealer network showed just how the drone industry is shaping up in the UK and North America.

Heliguy, a successful reseller of DJI products in the UK, confirmed it would be expanding into the US market, becoming a ‘DJI Gold Partner.’

Speaking to attendees as part of a breakout, Ruairi Hardman, Heliguy’s business development manager, announced at AirWorks that the UK-based firm would be expanding into the US market.

It will serve the American commercial drone sector, offering a stock pool of aircraft, payloads and ancillaries from DJI as well as other major industry names.

Heliguy is the online retail brand presence of the company Colena Ltd, which started life as an RC Helicopter specialist in Northumberland. As the business evolved, the technical and training teams expanded to build more units and train people which, in turn, will give them a head start in the evolving services sector.

The company then reinforced that work with CAA accreditation and other external processes such as ISO 9001.

In mirroring what it does in the UK in the US as it readies to open in Dallas, Texas in Q1 of next year, Heliguy says it wants to transform workflows across public safety, infrastructure, construction, mining, agriculture and film/media.

Mr Hardman reflected: “This will build on our successful enterprise formula, which has seen us establish an esteemed list of clients including Balfour Beatty, Terra Drone Europe, Sulzer Schmid, The BBC, National Geographic, Network Rail, London Fire Brigade and Sellafield Sites, as well as forge a worldwide network of partners with key industry players such as SlantRange, 3DR, MicaSense, DroneDeploy, Delair, ParaZero as well as Hasselblad.”

Merlin Love, VP of sales at 3DR, commented: “As an acclaimed DJI dealer in the UK, 3DR chose to partner with Heliguy due to their credibility and deep industry expertise.”

Customers will be able to take advantage of b oth next-day delivery and the same 50-day returns policy offered in Europe.

Hardman added: “I am very excited to announce that Heliguy is launching in the USA. Heliguy is committed to providing clients with access to the whole drone ecosystem and to the Heliguy model of support and service.

“We are open to and welcome any cooperation with anyone who we can assist – both clients and service providers – and look forward to helping them utilise drone technology to maximise efficiency savings and enhanced safety.”

Following the announcement, DJI’s director of public safety integration, Romeo Durscher said he was encouraged by the move.

He said: “This is exciting. Heliguy is crossing boundaries, just like a drone does, and that is what it is all about. We are an ecosystem across the globe. Heliguy can bring its experiences to America and Heliguy can learn from us. I am really excited to say that Heliguy has new become a part of our family in the USA.

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Alex Douglas

The author Alex Douglas

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