#004 – Solar Powered Drones & Esri GIS with Devon Humphrey

In Podcast by Ian Smith


Ian chats with Devon Humphrey, CEO of Flightline Geographics out of Austin, at the 2016 Esri User Conference in San Diego to cover the announcement of the new AeroHawk solar powered drone and discuss GIS, Esri, and how it’s all connected in the drone industry.

Show notes:

  • At the 2016 Esri User Conference in San Diego, California
  • Devin’s background in GIS and how he started working for Esri in the past
  • The GIS industry matured in around 1990 because of the popularity of personal computers
  • GIS means “Geographic Information System”
  • Esri is one of the largest GIS companies in the world
    • One of their most popular software products is ArcGIS
  • Devon started as an Esri partner
    • Did a project for the Department of Defense that used FMV (Full Motion Video)
  • FMV is Full Motion Video
    • Video taken (in this case, aerial) from a special camera that has geotags on every frame
    • The video can be superimposed over a map and have it play and each part of the frame is georeferenced
  • Got exposure to drones from this project and in 2012 met Hawkeye Systems (a drone manufacturer) from New Zealand and became the US distributor of their drones
  • First customers were few (Universities, Government agencies) so pivoted to a service model
  • Tested drone technology on controlled wildfires
  • Devon was involved in the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster as the GIO in 2010
    • Were offered access to CBP Predator drones to use for assistance but FAA denied use of drones
  • Flightline Geographics and Hawkeye Systems have just announced the solar powered variant of their long range, fixed-wing drone
    • Can produce more power than it consumes in ideal conditions and even charge its own battery in-flight
    • Typicaly flight time is 3-5 hours
    • Can carry a variety of sensor payloads (RGB, NIR, FMV)
  • Part 107 allows for operating a drone from a moving vehicle
    • Can be useful for oil and gas pipeline companies who want to operate drones to inspect their right of way
  • Ideally want to fly between 10am-2pm for photogrammetry mapping missions with drones for optimal lighting conditions
  • Processing massive datasets (thousands of images) from high endurance drones is a challenge
    • Can also be a challenge moving large data back and forth if huge amount, want to minimize data movement
  • Implications of FAA Part 107 (Devon was a part of the FAA UAS test site in Corpus Christi, TX)
  • Good amount of questions on airspace and reading VFR sectional airspace maps on upcoming Part 107 knowledge test
  • Before each mission, Devon checks airspace around the area of operations
  • What is the next biggest challenge for the UAV industry to overcome?
    • Overcoming inflated expectations—the Gartner Hype Cycle
    • Devon Humphrey has hereby coined “pit of despair”
  • Hawkeye UAV system available Summer 2016, with or without solar panels straight from Flightline Geographics

Follow Devon Humphrey on Twitter @FlightlineGeo

FMV (Full Motion Video) MISB (Motion Industry Standards Board) information: http://www.gwg.nga.mil/misb/

Flightline Geographics: http://flightlinegeo.com/

Hawkeye systems, Hawk GS 1000 Professional
Solar UAV: http://www.hawkeyesystems.co.nz/