Blue sky opportunities

30/07/2019 - 09:26

In the dunes of the state’s South West, on the mine sites of the red north, or in remote villages around the world, drones are unlocking opportunities.

Drones add an additional dimension to anything requiring human eyes. Photo: Gabriel Oliveira

In the dunes of the state’s South West, on the mine sites of the red north, or in remote villages around the world, drones are unlocking opportunities.

For the South West Catchments Council, drones simplify inspection of revegetation work, such as recent projects at Five Mile Brook and The Maidens near Bunbury.

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Previously, staff would need to set up a series of sampling places, each a square metre in area, and hand count seedlings – a highly labour-intensive practice.

Photo: SWCC

Now it can be done by drone, chief executive Steve Ewings told Business News.

“We use drones monitoring regeneration sites, so we can assess with some metrics the regrowth in vegetation,” Mr Ewings said.

“We fly a transect that has hundreds of images in it, and it’s pitched together in one GPS
meta-tagged image.”

Local startup Soar takes the potential of drone imaging a step further, with an online marketplace where customers can contract pilots over a system powered by blockchain.

Drone uses extend beyond photography and video capabilities, however.

Examples include infrared detection or the use of ultrasonic devices to measure the thickness of steel.

Chief executive of aerial imaging and sensing business RemSense, Steve Brown, said there had been significant growth in demand for drones from mining and energy businesses due to the improvements in safety and productivity they offered.

Mr Brown said using people for inspection work at height was complex, expensive, and required significant approvals processes.

Drones were better suited to those projects, he said.

Similarly, mine shutdowns could be cut significantly using drones for inspections, which reduced the impact on production, Mr Brown said, improving cost competitiveness for export-intensive industries.

Applecross-based pilot training provider Global Drone Solutions is hoping to have an overseas impact through a partnership with WeRobotics.

Photo: Attila Csaszar

WeRobotics, a non-profit, has set up 23 flying labs around the world to build drone capability in developing
countries.

The intention is to help communities prepare for disaster relief, assist in distribution of medical equipment, and potentially ignite new businesses.

GDS has helped train about 60 pilots for WeRobotics using an online course, with chief executive Mahmood Hussein telling Business News he had wanted to have a positive social impact through his
business.

“I was born in Pakistan in a rural village,” Mr Hussein said.

“It’s always stuck with me … to make sure we help others as well.”

He said the training, which includes a big component of theory such as aerodynamics, had been key in reducing the number of drones that had crashed or been lost.

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