Tag Archives: World of Drones

drones UAV

Australia’s drone revolution: our emerging UAV market

Drone data is an unexplored industry where Australia could become a key player in the global UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) market, predicted to reach $11.2 billion by 2020.

Author, entrepreneur and drone guru Dr Catherine Ball conducted a thought-provoking drone workshop with Professor Stuart Phinn of the Remote Sensing Research Centre at the Science Meets Business (SmB) 2017 meeting.

Ball describes Australia as the “perfect test bed for collaborations”. Unlike in many other countries, Australian airspace regulation easily allows for trials, tests and training. While Australia might not be at the forefront of drone manufacturing, Ball told the SmB audience that we can easily become a leader in smart operation if we use drone data wisely.

“People make decisions worth billions of dollars based on this information”, said Ball. Ball and Phinn presented an overview of how drone data is being used in agriculture, ecology and climate forecasting in order to benefit the economy, environment and communities.

What is Earth Observation (EO)?

The gathering of Earth information via remote sensing and on-ground techniques.

What is remote sensing?

The acquisition of information without making physical contact, normally using satellite- or aircraft-based technologies.

What is a drone?

An unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV).

What are the benefits of drone data?

Drones often provides better resolution than satellite imaging, which can be adversely affected by cloud-based cover, and they negate the need to put people at risk when on-the-ground data may be dangerous to obtain.

Agricultural boost: increasing crop yield by 166%

Using infrared mapping, drones can predict crop yield and provide an early warning of crop stress to boost agribusiness.

WA-based agricultural UAV provider Stratus Imaging says that farmers can potentially increase their yield from $3,000 to $5,000 per tonne, and for a fraction of the cost of satellite imaging.

Oaklands strawberry farm director John Allen is excited about the benefits of the technology: “[Infestations] can do a lot of damage, so to find that five days earlier…could save thousands of dollars”.

Ecology: achieving a synergistic picture

Drones are increasingly being employed in the race to save our environment.

Dr Arko Lucieer, Associate Professor in Remote Sensing at the University of Tasmania, has invested in drones worth over $60,000 to monitor the health of native flora. “Linking ground, air and satellite data leads to a much better understanding of ecologically meaningful properties”, says Lucieer.

Wildlife populations can also benefit, says conservation ecologist Associate Professor Lian Pin Koh from the University of Adelaide. Koh is tracking yellow-footed wallabies in South Australia, where drones can cover large areas more efficiently than ground-based mapping and for lower costs than manned aircraft.

Natural disaster alerts: protection from fires, floods and storms

Sophisticated data engines to improve bushfire and flood forecasting are in the works. The Resilient Information Systems project combines satellite and drone data in a decentralised information network with enhanced bushfire prediction capabilities. Another CRC project is creating highly accurate 3D maps of the Clarence River, which will lead to better flood evacuation plans.

Drones could even prevent blackouts due to fallen power lines. Inspecting vegetation in power line corridors costs Ergon Energy $80 million per year, costs which would be slashed by optimised UAVs .

Ball sees “massive potential in drones as part of business and economic growth”, as well as benefits for the community and environment.

– Larissa Fedunik

Read more about the opportunities drones are providing in agtech and coastal monitoring.

drones startup

Remote Research Ranges: a startup story

Featured image above: Dr Catherine Ball, Telstra Business Woman of the Year in 2015, and CEO & Founder of geoethics, big data and drones startup Remote Research Ranges. 

When did Remote Research Ranges start and what stage is your business?

RRR is in the first 12 month stage of a startup, but we hit the ground running, and are already in good profit.  Collaboration is the new competition, so we are living that ideal.

What’s the solution your business provides?

RRR is an advisory company around drone technology, big data management, and geoethics (the ethics around geospatial data).  We are providing advice to international clients, state, federal, and local governments, as well as schools, universities, and rangers.

What have been the barriers in growing your business?

One of my biggest problems has been the ability to sit and focus on one particular thing.  When establishing your own business and managing your personal brand you tend to say yes to too much, and can risk spreading yourself too thin. I have learned that ‘No’ is a complete sentence.

What expertise have you tapped into to help you in your business journey?

I have been so lucky, as Telstra Business Woman of the Year (Corporate award 2015) that I have been welcomed into such a helpful and excellent alumni.  The awards opened up networks for me I could never have imagined.  Some of the people I have met have become mentors, sponsors, and even business partners.  It has been a game changing experience.

In your opinion, what is the most valuable thing that would support your business the long term?

I am really looking at longer term projects, such as the World of Drones congress that I am a co-creator of; this is going to be a long running and internationally expanding congress. It will allow me to really focus on fewer projects, as I will have sustainable income, and also develop very strong links across industry, so I have more choice about which projects I would like to work on.

What is the one thing you need to keep reminding yourself daily as a start-up going for sustainable growth?

Every day is a school day and I am learning a lot.  The key for me is to constantly be learning, reaching, and growing.  Looking for the ‘Blue Ocean’ and areas where the niches are either empty, or not created yet.  There is a saying, “the best way to predict the future is to create it” and I couldn’t agree more.

Dr Catherine Ball is CEO & Founder of geoethics, big data and drones startup Remote Research Ranges. 

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