You've likely heard of software as a service, but what about drones as a service (DaaS). That's right – you no longer have to maintain a fleet of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to reap the benefits of operating drones for your business.
Drones have a number of uses for companies across a variety of industries. Telecommunications companies can use them to inspect cell towers for needed repairs and upgrades, media companies capture aerial footage for news reports and cinematography, and energy companies can inspect pipelines, solar fields and wind farms. [Check out some other ways businesses are using drones.]
Drones gather data in a fraction of the time these jobs used to take, but the only problem is it's expensive and complicated to maintain a fleet of drones and hire quality pilots. Not to mention that contextualizing that data to complete the job is a huge task.
"When you start thinking about what goes into starting an aviation department or buying drones and using them for enterprise, it becomes complicated and expensive quickly," said Brandon Torres Declet, CEO of DaaS company Measure.
Between finding and training skilled pilots, buying the right hardware and software, acquiring aviation insurance, and understanding data modeling, starting an aviation department often demands a herculean effort.
That's to say nothing of navigating the Federal Aviation Administration's rules on UAVs. Last year, the FAA released its Part 107 rules on commercial drone usage, clarifying the legal landscape for drone usage for work and business.
"It's not as easy as buying a drone from Amazon," Torres Declet told Business News Daily. "Bigger companies … also have to figure out how to scale that, which becomes challenging and difficult as well."
Measure pioneered the DaaS industry after Torres Declet realized the commercial demand for drones would be high, but so would the barriers to entry. DaaS is more than just a drone and a pilot, but a full-service process from start to finish.
"Typically, a customer will reach out with a use case … for example, inspecting a wind farm," Torres Declet said. "We work with them to figure out exactly what type of data, pictures and video they need. We select the right drone and sensor … we'll acquire it if we don't already have it in our fleet."
From there, Measure selects the most appropriate pilot from its staff (ideally one trained in the specific task at hand) to come out, operate the drone and gather the requested data. Then the data is delivered to Measure's in-house data engineering team, which analyzes it and creates a contextualized data product to return to the client.
"We're flying every day on behalf of Fortune 500 companies," Torres Declet said. "I think this is the only way it's going to work. The Chinese already beat us with cheaper hardware. Then there was a software gold rush … so everyone has licenses for great data processing software, but no one to go fly, and no way to integrate that [software] into their workflow. So, all of a sudden, they need someone to do it all."
The market's initial response to the idea is encouraging. In 2016, Measure was employed for more than 1,000 flights and is working on plans to develop aerial technology that could make drone operations even more effective for businesses. Earlier this year, Measure scored $15 million in Series B funding, led by IT services firm Cognizant and Hudson Bay Capital. The fact that organizations are betting heavily on the DaaS model suggests there might be more in this young industry's future than a few hovering UAVs on the horizon