Making the Business Case for Your Drone Program

I am happy to announce the release of Making a Successful Business Case for Drone Technology – a blueprint for enterprises to develop a successful business case for a drone-based technology program. Produced in partnership with PrecisionHawk, this reference guide offers enterprise leaders a clear, step-by-step process to analyze, evaluate, and communicate key objectives of a drone program to ensure company-wide adoption.

The guide is designed to provide specific guidance for operational managers. It covers a variety of business case topics like setting short and long-term goals, documenting costs, assessing the business impact, and communicating drone program benefits. Organized so you can consume only what you need, this guide provides a generic business case template as well as business case examples, both of which you easily adapt for your specific needs, company, and industry.

Here is an excerpt:

Adopting a new technology is naturally complicated—from gaining executive buy-in to implementation and training, to ensuring the technology delivers on key objectives. Process oversights, inconclusive value assessments, insufficient support from the right parties, and general delays can derail the project and de-motivate even the most experienced operational manager. A strong and complete business case can make all the difference.

The purpose of a business case is to outline the rationale for adopting new technology–in this case drones–and provide a means to continually assess and evaluate the project’s progress. A good business case needs to address key concerns for executives and peers, but in general, should answer four basic questions:

  1. What is the project’s goal?
  2. How do we reach the goal?
  3. What type of change is required?
  4. What’s the degree of certainty this solution will solve the problem?

A business case typically has much more detail than a project proposal and should be reviewed by key stakeholders before being presented to executive decision-makers. Preparing the business case involves assessing a business problem or opportunity, identifying the specifics of the drone technology solution, and understanding the benefits, risks, costs (including an investment appraisal), implementation timeline, impact on operations, and the organization’s ability to deliver the outcomes. Ultimately, your business case needs to both articulate the problems with the current situation and demonstrate the new business vision’s benefits.

The guide goes on to offer solutions for these and other issues, including short and long-term planning, gaining executive buy-in, documenting costs and assessing the business impact, ultimately ensuring that the resulting drone program’s objectives are aligned with the impact on a business’ bottom line.

The full reference guide, including sample business cases and planning frameworks, can be found on our partner’s website here:  http://bit.ly/2zj7vua

 

Image credit: Shutterstock and PrecisionHawk

DroneDeploy: Enterprise Grade or Not?

DroneDeploy’s new App Market fills a need for commercial drone use, but can the data quality measure up for widespread industrial use?

THE FACTS:

This past week, DroneDeploy introduced its new App Market, a store for drone applications from a range of companies—including Autodesk, Box, John Deere, and 13 others—as well as a variety of industry verticals. Additionally, it includes applications from Airmap, Dronelogbook, Flyte, Kittyhawk, NV Drone, Skyward, and Verifly that help pilots and businesses manage drone operations and compliance.  In a nutshell, these apps enable enterprises and drone-based business service providers to automate their workflow and data integration with specialized tools built right within the DroneDeploy user interface.

In one way or another, the apps enable businesses to extend the capability of DroneDeploy’s automated mapping and online drone data services with apps that augment flight planning, logging, data analysis, export, and more. Apps appear in different areas of the DroneDeploy interface, depending on what they do, and you install them in your DroneDeploy account. For example, a flight planning app will appear in the flight planning interface, whereas an export or integration app may appear in the export menu. You can read about the details of this announcement here.

WHAT’S COOL AND WHAT’S NOT

The three apps that stand out in this announcement and make progress toward workflow goals are Autodesk, Box, and John Deere. In a generic sense, “workflow” is the definition, execution, and automation of business processes where tasks, information, or documents are passed from one participant to another for action, according to a set of procedural rules. Workflows automate the flow of employee tasks and activities and make processes more efficient, compliant, agile, and visible.

With the Autodesk app, users can send their maps and 3D models directly from DroneDeploy into their Autodesk Forge storage. The Box app on DroneDeploy lets users easily export maps to their Box account for easy sharing with clients or other enterprise software solutions. With the John Deere app, users can import field boundaries from MyJohnDeere, which can help align flight planning with ongoing management of farm machines, fields, and jobs.

 THE COMPETITION:

In the past, many have discounted the output of DroneDeploy’s processed data as not good enough for enterprise work. This stems largely from the fact that almost all of their users fly and capture data with prosumer-level drones from DJI. For example, one of the main criticisms I’ve heard is that the resulting point clouds are not resolute enough for construction or engineering work. However, one look at this webcast with Brasfield & Gorrie, one of the largest privately held construction firms in the United States, and you can see first-hand the specific projects that have among other things integrated DroneDeploy automated mapping in their Building Information Modeling (BIM) process. Their plan is to scale this program across their sites.

Let’s be clear. This trend toward the use of prosumer drones for enterprise work is not going away anytime soon.  All the major mission planning and mapping applications like DroneDeploy, PrecisionHawk’s DataMapper, and Skycatch Commander (and dozens more) now run with the DJI SDK. Most of these started off with applications dedicated to their own drone but soon found that most professionals want to use the simpler and more reliable DJI prosumer-level and above drones.  Additionally, the prosumer drone category is the only place where sales volumes and margins are strong enough for manufacturers to recoup R&D investment with new technology like automated obstacle avoidance.

BOTTOM LINE:

We have written about the value, ROI, and potential of drones as aerial image and data capture devices in The Truth about Drones in Construction and Infrastructure Inspection. In that report, we discuss the benefits and challenges posed by the current state of drone data integration:

Drones and the data from drone data services do not provide a complete solution, and more likely than not, you’ll need to traverse a learning curve. For example, the firms mentioned in this paper had to set up new data integration workflows for their existing ecosystem of software solutions.  Those who used aerial images from drones to do BIM design work had to incorporate those images into CAD software like Autodesk REVIT.  Those who did work plans with images had to incorporate the images into project software like Navisworks.  Both camps had to learn how to manage daily workflows from constantly changing sets of new images.  Workflows needed to focus on how to both communicate and manage change – either in the feedback to design or in the feedback to production or to both at the same time.

To be fair, the apps in the new DroneDeploy App Market don’t solve all those problems, but they’re certainly a step in the right direction.

What’s next? I suspect we will see more workflow integration from DroneDeploy (and others) this year. They’ve hinted there’s more to come from their work with John Deere.  Personally, I’d like to see a complete automated workflow from DroneDeploy to SAP. Why? Because SAP software is used by 87% of the Forbes Global 2000 companies, and SAP customers produce 78% of the world’s food. SAP has an integrated suite of applications for just about everything that encapsulates aerial data and maps – from asset management to field service management.

DroneDeploy already has a beta release of an integration with Esri, which will allow users to analyze their DroneDeploy maps in ArcGIS Online.  SAP HANA users can integrate ArcGIS maps and SAP business data throughout SAP products, but I haven’t seen an end-to-end customer-specific use-case. If you are working on that, let me know—I’d love to hear about it.  You can write me at colin@droneanalyst.com.

Image credit: DroneDeploy

This post first appeared on DRONELIFE.com