Dealing with the commercial drone data explosion

The commercial drone industry is exploding, allowing businesses and operators to rapidly and cost-effectively capture data that wasn’t readily available to them before.

While this is opening up new opportunities for companies, it also comes with new complications.
“With drones, now it is very easy to capture data very cost-effectively, and so what you see is this explosive growth of data and the drone being the next thing that is connected to the Internet,” said Josh Bernstein, vice president of the emerging technologies division at EMC. “This data is going to have to be stored somewhere; it is going to have to be analyzed, and it is going to have to be put together.”
The industries that are going to be affected by drones the most in the short term are aerial surveillance for construction companies and agricultural firms because they are not accustomed to dealing with a huge growth of data, Bernstein
​explained. “These companies are going to have to transform themselves to be data analytics companies rather than just a straight up services company,” he said.
In addition, since drones are able to get closer to buildings than helicopters, and are equipped with advanced cameras and sensors, the data they collect will have a higher resolution than before, so file sizes are going to be larger. And as the details increase, the number of images or amount of data is also going to increase. When thinking about data, you need to think about how much storage you need to deal with.
“The people that are winning in this industry are the companies that are most able to make use of the data collected,” said Bernstein.
In order to effectively handle and gain insight from the data, businesses need to find ways to automate the process. “Flying the drone and capturing the data is not a time-consuming or a complicated exercise. It is how you capture and catalog the data after the fact,” Bernstein said.
There are cloud-based drone software providers like EagleView and DroneDeploy that make it easy for businesses to collect, process and analyze data by taking the information, storing it in the cloud, and sending back the results.
But Bernstein believes businesses should build their own services and datacenters in house to get a competitive advantage in the market. “For example, if you and I are competing for crop surveillance and we are both using DroneDeploy or some other service, we are going to get the same results. On the other hand, if one of us brings that capability in house, we can arguably have a competitive edge and return more value to our customers over time,” he said. In order to bring this capability in house, businesses will have to find experienced IT people who know how to bring that knowledge into a new emerging market.