|5 Questions with a UAVIP|
Commercial UAV News will be conducting a series of interviews with top asset owners who are set to attend the Commercial UAV Expo as UAVIPs. We’ll be exploring the issues and interests of large enterprise users of UAVs in a specific way that no other industry event focuses on.
See all of the entries in the series
Find out more about the UAVIP Program and see if you qualify
Some events are a great place to see and understand the scope of the drone industry as whole, but the Commercial UAV Expo is specifically focused on solutions geared toward industrial uses in areas like construction and surveying & mapping. That specificity is something you can see in the conference program, and it’s one of the reasons people like Mark Brassette are set to attend the event as a UAVIP.
Mark is the Technical Services Manager at Solvay and began working with drones on a whim, but that interest has evolved into something much more for him and for his company. Find out what UAVs have meant for him personally and for the approach he’s able to take in his work via the 5 Questions with a UAVIP interview below.
Jeremiah Karpowicz: Tell us about the work you’re doing as the Technical Services Manager at Solvay. How is the company currently utilizing UAV technology?
Mark Brassette: Thanks Jeremiah. I’ve worked for Solvay for 15 years now — it’s a global company based in Brussels and I work out of the Parachute, Colorado site. We’ve been using UAVs for about three years. For us it all started with a need to have some aerial photos of some reclamation activities, and has really proven to be a useful tool to communicate what we’ve accomplished to regulatory agencies.
Since this work we’ve looked at how else we can use drones and have done some basic mapping of our site and have also used photos for site safety presentations — the aerial pictures give a unique perspective that you can’t really get any other way. So locally it’s proven to be quite useful. The next thing we’re hoping to do is use a drone to re-seed some of the reclaimed areas we’ve been working on, so I’m excited to see how that works out.
In Europe, Asia, and South America, Solvay has also experimented with infrastructure inspections and is looking in to the potential for security scanning at certain sites — so there’s interest throughout the regions of the company.
What has your personal experience with drones been? Can you talk about how the technology has changed in terms of what you’re able to do with it now versus a few years ago?
Personally I’ve only been involved with drones for about three years. We’d seen the videos of Niagara Falls by drone and Celina, one of my coworkers, said, “Hey we need a drone to take pictures of the reclamation!” With that, the idea was born, I started learning that day and haven’t stopped.
I started with a DJI Phantom 1 with a GoPro set to take shots at intervals, no FPV or gimbal. It worked. I had a bunch of throw away shots and a few good ones each time. Looking back, I think learning to fly “blind” with the P1 setup definitely made me a better pilot. Today with a Phantom 3 it’s much easier to get the shot framed quickly and not have to sift through hundreds of pictures to get a few good ones — much more efficient now.
We’ve also been using DroneDeploy for a year now and for what we wanted it’s been a great solution paired with the P3. It’s not survey grade mapping that we get, but that’s not what we need. The 3D models though are amazing for really understanding what something looks like and being able to explain and show it to others. It’s the next best thing to being there, but much more convenient.
What were some of the biggest challenges you ran into, and continue to run into? How difficult was it to get everything set with DroneDeploy?
I’d say one challenge is figuring out how we can really spread the news internally about this awesome tool and make people aware of the possibilities. Our site manager David is very supportive of innovative solutions, so getting creative with how and where we can use this technology is an ongoing challenge. Sometimes, though it makes sense to keep things simple and stay old-school.
DroneDeploy is a good example of keeping things simple even with the new tech. They’ve done a great job of making it easy for someone like me to get some basic mapping done and use that information in a real way to communicate a point to people. Setup was easy and they’ve continually been improving the app and website to include more features. We’ve pretty much stuck with DroneDeploy for the online processing and viewing of maps. I have tried some different apps for capturing the images and most of them seem to be pretty similar. I am excited to try the Map Pilot app since they recently added “Terrain Awareness” — it’s supposed to keep the drone at a specific height above ground and change altitude with the terrain below. That will be great in the mountains around Parachute.
I understand you’re going to be launching a podcast soon. What sort of show is it going to be? What kind of people are you looking to connect with for it, and what sort of audience are you hoping to appeal to and cultivate?
Yes, I am and I’m fired up about this! In my personal time I’ll be launching the “Industrial Drones Podcast” later this fall — it will be a weekly interview based show. It’s definitely a “niche” podcast focusing specifically on using drones in industrial settings. Going back to the challenges we talked about before, that’s exactly what this show is for — to get ideas out there and get people thinking of how we can use drones in chemical plants, paper mills and similar settings.
I want people who are itching to learn about and put UAS technology to work in industrial locations to have a place to listen, learn, contribute, and take action to make it happen. My audience will be people like me — they know first hand what kind of problems they run into at work and wonder if drones could be the answer to some. They might have some ideas on uses, and want to hear from experts, service providers, and users who have experience with solutions or want to help create a new solution. If that sounds like you, then tune-in!
While we’re talking about Podcasts, anyone interested in the drone scene should checkout some of the other great podcasts out there already. Some of my favorites are Ask Drone U, That Drone Show, Drone Radio Show, Commercial Drones.FM, and DroneVibes. All of them are different, yet value packed. The Industrial Drones Podcast will fit well, but will have a different spin and a specific target audience.
In connection with the podcast, I’ve recently started a Facebook group to connect with listeners and guests and collaborate for solutions to real problems. The group is “Drones @ Industrial Sites” and I welcome anyone interested to come join and grow the community there.
You’re set to attend the Commercial UAV Expo, which will be taking place on October 31st and running through November 2nd in Las Vegas. What are you hoping to see and experience at the event?
Yes, I know this is going to be a great event and I’m excited to be part of it! I’m really looking forward to connecting with folks in the industry and seeing what’s new. Hopefully there will be some solutions specifically geared toward industrial uses — hardware, service, software and cloud solutions providers will all be on my list of people to see. We’re always looking for ways to do things safer and unmanned systems can be a solution to the dull, dirty, or dangerous jobs that are better done by machines than people. I can’t wait!