Each October, we look forward to our largest event of the year – DroneDeploy Conference. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, our 2020 show went virtual, and in 2021, we were excited to revisit this on-demand format, opening the door for even more participants, sponsors, and global sessions. Unsurprisingly, our community of innovators more than delivered, sharing the latest drone innovations, operational insights, and industry topics with one another in the form of rousing panel discussions and exciting fireside chats. But with over 50 sessions (including those for our APAC customers, in AEST), you likely missed some of the action. To that end, we’ve recapped some of the most prominent themes and announcements that came out of DDC’21.
"The future of reality capture is here – both in-the-air and on-the-ground.”
- Mike Winn, CEO & Co-Founder, DroneDeploy
DroneDeploy Conference started strong with a powerful opening keynote from our CEO and Co-Founder, Mike Winn. With over 250,000 commercial drone pilots now registered in the United States, there’s never been a better time to fly – and companies are taking note. In fact, our estimates state that drone programs are growing at a rate of about 30% per year, and we expect this number to continue to rise with increased investment. That’s why, this August, we joined the ground robotics space with the acquisition of New Zealand-based robotic software firm, Rocos. In this way, we’re continuing to push the boundary of reality capture, with additional product enhancements like Corridor Flight, 3D reconstruction, the DroneDeploy Walkthrough app, and more.
The Practical Application of Ground Robotics
In one of our most anticipated panel discussions, David Inggs, Head of DroneDeploy Ground Robotics, led a forward-thinking chat surrounding the adoption and implementation of ground robotics on today’s construction sites. While the tool has made leaps and bounds since its initial introduction, the industry still has a long way to go, particularly when contrasted against drone technology. When discussing barriers to entry, Peter King, Head of Robotic Solutions at InDro Robotics, explained, “There’s still a mindset that robotics are taking people’s jobs, but those of us in the industry know that this isn’t true. Most organizations are focused on integrations to help support current employees, not take their roles.” Tim Dykstra, Head of Channel Sales at Boston Dynamics, agreed, and added that the company is focused next on autonomous indoor solutions for construction professionals.
"DroneDeploy Walkthrough makes the camera in your pocket ready for any project.”
- Andrew Fraser, Director of Product, DroneDeploy
Elevating DEI in the Drone Industry
“You can’t be what you can’t see,” Elena Buenrostro, Founder of Women Who Drone, expressed on Tuesday’s all-female panel discussion. This is the primary challenge for drone companies in the coming years – attracting a more diverse candidate pool while elevating underrepresented voices in the community. Dr. Karen Joyce, Education Director at She Maps, recommended utilizing inclusive language and imagery to promote a cultural shift in the way we think about drone pilots and professionals. Sally French, Founder of The Drone Girl, suggested seeking out these diverse voices and educating oneself on hot topics. Further still, Elena Buenrostro stressed the importance of participating in cultural events and moments to signal inclusivity in the workplace. By employing these techniques, organizations are likelier to find success in recruiting and retention without solely hiring to fill a quota.
Leveraging Drones in the Enterprise
How does a massive corporation like Chevron manage a multi-level, cross-functional drone program? With DroneDeploy’s centralized data platform and in-app analysis. By getting technology into the hands of their field teams, employees at the company’s San Joaquin Valley Business Unit were able to increase operational activity and organizational capability, with additional strides in enhanced communication and off-site collaboration. Whether inspecting mechanical tanks, accessing tank roofs, or virtually walking job sites, drones are now a standard part of the organization’s workflow. Today, they’re even experimenting with geology use cases.
"Construction is very dynamic by nature… so sharing information has been one of the largest benefits to come from a drone platform.”
- Tim Conroy, Northeast Field Technology Group Leader, DPR Construction
Win More Jobs and Promote Positive Client Relationships
In this breakout session, our powerhouse team of construction professionals tackled common misconceptions, use cases, and FAQs about 360 Walkthrough, our latest product offering for AEC. Why are problems being solved in this way? Who is responsible, and who benefits from this actionable data collection? And what is the overall impact? Across the board, team members from Clark Contractors, Industrial Project Innovation, and Wadman Corporation stated that 360 Walkthrough’s photo consolidation, site documentation, and one-click reporting capabilities translated into considerable time savings.
Accelerating Human Development with Drone Technology
DroneDeploy Conference day one ended with an inspiring keynote detailing how the United Nations Development Programme uses drones and robotics to build a better world from their base in Bogotá, Colombia. When it comes to disaster relief efforts, every moment counts, and saving lives must be prioritized. Historically, this has been difficult as response teams typically cannot administer aid until after a threat has passed. “This leaves the most vulnerable communities disproportionately affected by disaster,” Alejandro Pachecho, Deputy Resident Representative at UNDP, explained. Drone technology makes it possible to immediately respond to cataclysmic events, therefore minimizing the effects of disasters – and that’s exactly how the United Nations utilizes this technology. Post-disaster, this information is analyzed and exchanged with local governments and municipalities to better prepare for the next event.
"DroneDeploy Stand Assessment really got our customers excited – right away, we’re able to get a report that counts the number of plants in the field, and make actionable decisions from that data.”
- Samantha Teten, Drone Operations Manager, Syngenta
Sustainability & Carbon Farming
Discovering “greener” farming practices and finding innovative ways to tackle climate change are hot topics affecting today’s agriculture industry. Our customers at The Climate Solutions Exchange are no strangers to these issues, and work daily to research, develop, and model solutions for farmers nationwide. In this breakout session, representatives from the organization describe their carbon sequestration network and how even individual family farms can partake in the practice. Andy Howard, CEO and Co-Founder, said, “Buyers struggle to navigate standards and purchase high-quality carbon credits at a transparent price. Our purpose is to help develop a trusted carbon market that offers land managers a fair return on investment.”
A Year in Review: Sunrun
Sunrun, a residential solar company, has had an amazing year – due in large part to their optimized drone program for accurate roof measurements. As the largest company in their industry utilizing drone data, the team fully leveraged their internal software suite with significant results: over 100 site technicians became Part-107 certified pilots, averaging 600 flights per week. With fewer resources required to service more customers, this translates into considerable ROI and boosts employee morale with increased automation opportunities. We’re looking forward to seeing what Sunrun will accomplish in 2022!
"We’ve been able to use our distribution network with DroneDeploy pilots and the product suite to provide roof reports – saving weeks, if not months of time.”
- Tom Caska, CEO & Co-Founder, Aerologix
Simplifying Collaboration with Site Reality
This year’s DroneDeploy Conference brought panels tailored explicitly for our Asia-Pacific region. “Simplifying Collaboration with Site Reality,” a construction breakout session, was one such event, bringing together innovators from Southbase Construction Limited and Calibre Group for an immersive session about collaborative project management. When these leading construction firms drove drone-based reporting and workflow creation, stakeholders felt included, heard, and ultimately, more informed at every stage of the project lifecycle. Regardless of the build stage, this conversation proved how pivotal drone software is for communication centralization.
The Next Phase of Project Management
Day two closed with an uplifting fireside chat with Tom Karemacher, Vice President of APAC at Procore Technologies. As a dedicated DroneDeploy partner, Procore has been at the forefront of progressive construction technology and reliable project documentation. As 2021 comes to a close, Tom shared what’s next for the AEC corporation as it navigates long-held industry trends and predictions amid a global pandemic. “Robots on the job site driving automation is the next big thing, and DroneDeploy and Procore working together on providing a seamless integration that facilitates job site automation is a really exciting next step,” Tom stated.
Thank you to our customers, sponsors, and speakers for making DroneDeploy Conference 2021 an amazing online event. Remember, your registration comes with full access to each panel, keynote, and breakout session on-demand for up to one year after the conference’s date. This means that attendees can keep learning by revisiting inspiring chats, product demonstrations, and use cases throughout 2022. For any questions, please contact [email protected]. We hope to see you next year, live and in person!