3D Robotics means business with its new enterprise drone system

The Site Scan platform includes drone, software, tablet and cloud services

Drones are the bad boys of the Internet of Things. Instead of doing something useful at home or in a factory, it seems like they're usually out capturing amateur spy video. But that's starting to change.

For example, the construction industry is starting to use unmanned aerial devices to keep an eye on things, partly because a lot of its work gets done in places that aren't yet safe or easy for people to get around in. Japanese construction gear maker Komatsu even has robotic bulldozers guided by drones.

Construction is one of the uses for Site Scan, a system that drone maker 3D Robotics announced on Monday with Sony and Autodesk. Site Scan consists of a 3DR Solo drone, a Sony UMCR10C or GoPro Hero4 Black camera, a Sony Xperia Z4 tablet with the Site Scan app, and the rights to use the Autodesk Cloud for image processing and publishing.

3DR is aiming the system at telecommunications, energy, infrastructure and mapping operations in addition to construction. It's no toy: The high-end version with the Sony camera costs US$5,000 and comes with both a 1650mm zoom lens and a 20mm wide-angle lens.

Enterprises can use the system for either automated or more interactive missions over a work site. All the data the drone collects is stored in 3DR's cloud and sent to the Autodesk Cloud for analysis. It can also be sent to other professional design and engineering systems, 3DR says.

Site Scan's Survey mode captures images for high-resolution maps and digital elevation models. Scan mode collects imagery for building 3D models of the site. Inspect mode lets users zoom in, by swiping and pinching on the tablet screen, to view and photograph things more closely.

Users can also draw geofences on the tablet to control where the drone can fly. 3DR's database of areas where drones aren't allowed is included in the Site Scan application.

The system is less expensive with the GoPro camera, at $3,249. But the cloud services are at least as important as the hardware, and they're priced for serious work. The fee is $499 per month, though right now you can sign up for a year at introductory rate of $299 per month. Either way, the service includes unlimited storage, processing and publishing.

Site Scan is available now with the GoPro and is expected to ship in June with the Sony camera.

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Stephen Lawson

IDG News Service
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