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Half a year on air: Leica Aibot UAV customer success stories

As a complete workflow management solution, UAV technology allows you to process and analyze millions of data points gathered from above and to visualize the data to provide actionable information. Bryan Baker UAV, Sales Manager and Certified Mapping Specialist, and Valentin Fuchs Business Director UAV will have a discussion about the customer cases in the US and Europe for Leica Aibot.

BK: Launched last year, the Leica Aibot has been providing a complete UAV solution for surveying, mapping, and construction companies, by taking only minutes to survey a site. This UAV solution is enabling companies to constantly have access to fresh and accurate data. Welcome to HxGN Radio. My name is Brian and with us today is Bryan Baker, UAV sales manager and certified mapping specialist. Also joining us is Valentin Fuchs, UAV business director. They will be discussing how UAV technology is allowing you to process and analyze millions of data points gathered from above, and to visualize the data to provide actionable information. Gentlemen, thanks for joining us.

BB: Thanks, Brian.

VF: Thanks, Brian.

BB: Great to be here again.

BK: Yeah. Good to see you. All right, Valentin, let’s start off. Tell us a little bit about what the Leica Aibot is.

VF: With the Leica Aibot, we are able to get a complete data set in less time with a more, let’s say, user-friendly interface, and a more innovative interface. It opens up new business opportunities for existing customers, but also for new customers, with spending less time in the field with traditional methods. We are able to provide more data, more trusted data, with the Leica Aibot solutions compared to other systems we have out there in the market. Our Leica Aibot solution is more integrated with other solutions provided by Leica Geosystems. So it’s completely integrated within the ecosystem Leica Geosystems is providing.

BK: Excellent. What are the key benefits, then, that the Aibot is currently bringing to companies?

VF: There are mainly three things we are focusing on, and three things where the customer mainly benefit. Number one is, we have a complete solution. Number two, it’s a complete end-to-end workflow. Number three is actionable data. We even want to push the boundaries, to not only provide data, we want to provide data to our clients that they can trust. So trust is, for us, a quite important figure in that overall solution. These three topics all come together in providing trusted data. So for our clients, we offer a complete and easy-to-use solution for the surveying industry — that’s the particular market we are currently focusing on. That means an integrated — we have an integrated flight plan, simple-to-use tool to execute a mission and also to process the data and analyze the data afterwards.

And thanks to our Leica GNSS technologies we have integrated into our copter, customers can also use existing GNSS infrastructure to capture the data in a simpler way. That means you can hook on to your normal GPS base station that you use for surveying tasks, but also that you can use a SmartNet where you can have your network corrections directly in the copter. So, nothing changes compared to your normal workflow. And we will provide more actionable data, and important is that this actionable data has survey-grade tag marks. Survey-grade means they have more accuracy on, and any data we generate, they have a cool bearings metrics, so we know exactly what type of accuracy these data have.

BK: Excellent, excellent. Bryan which industries are using the solution and what type of projects are they utilizing?

BB: Well, we have, of course, our core market, as Valentin said, is the surveying industry. But within that core market, we have a lot of different applications. We have the Department of Transportation, that are using the aircraft; we have heavy highway construction companies using the aircraft; regular land surveying companies; we have a county road and bridge department that’s using the aircraft; and we have some public safety agencies that are using the system as well. But the bulk falls into the general land surveyor application, but they’re doing those — using it for a number of different jobs within that market. For example, one of our customers has just completed a ten-mile-long survey, they did the entire 10 miles in about a day and a half and were able to get that data, which would have taken them a couple of weeks to do it  …

BK: Wow.

BB:  … conventionally.

BK: Yeah.

BB: They were really happy about that. Another one of our customers is one of our existing mobile mapping users, so they have a Pegasus unit so they are able to drive down the street and get very, very accurate data from the Pegasus Mobile Mapping, but the Pegasus mobile mapper can’t see beyond the structures and the facades on the buildings. So they fly in the right-of-way, and then they populate the data that’s behind the facades of the buildings and the things that the Pegasus can’t see. They are able to fill in that data from the airborne system. So that’s another really nice application. The DOT’s using it for road inspection and road construction, going out and seeing what the surfaces look like, if they need to be repaired or rehabilitated, to bring them up to current standards. We can fly a lot of roadway in a very short period of time-

BK: Yeah, that …

BB: … and get really good data from it.

BK: That’s great. Big time efficiency.

BB: Yeah. Lovely.

BK: Tell us a little bit more about how the UAV solution is opening opportunities for customers. I mean, you’ve mentioned some great efficiency aspects, but what other opportunities are opening up?

BB: Well, customers are still finding out what opportunities are opening up to them.

BK: Okay.

BB: So, the Aibot is a solution that most people will get for a particular need, or a particular application, but then they find that there’s a lot of additional applications that they can use it for. For example, they may get it to do some sort of roadway mapping project, but then they’d find out that that opens new markets, that they can do bridge inspections. Or they can inspect other types of structures. So inspecting a structure is a different process than mapping a surface …

BK: Sure.

BB: … but the Aibot’s very flexible and it’s very easy to use and so they can expand their offerings, or expand their market opportunities within their business to these other types of UAV applications.

BK: Excellent. So now give us an example where the Aibot’s been used in another industry.

BB: One of the industries that it’s been used in is the petrochemical industry. One of our customers is using the system along, again, with some of our terrestrial and mobile mapping products, to fill in the aerial data for a refinery. They are able to look at the assets that they have from the air, not just from the ground, and they can overlay that data, as Valentin said, with being able to combine the data very easily with our other Leica Geosystems product data. And then they have a complete picture both from the ground, and from the air, of all their assets within the refinery. And they can easily inspect with the photographs if there is something that needs to be maintained, looked at, and again, they have a complete picture. Not just a picture from the ground, not just a picture from the air … but a complete 360-degree image.

BK: That’s great. Great. Let’s talk about customer feedback for a minute. What sort of customer feedback have you received, first of all, since the Leica Aibot has been launched, and then, why are companies investing in Leica Geosystems UAV solutions as well?

VF: We have seen that Leica is the preferred choice for any type of accurate data and as Bryan also explained, anything where you need to have integrated data. So more data to generate with. The feedback is, what we’ve received from clients, is quite positive, that the time in the field can be reduced and to provide really survey-grade data as a result of it. So survey-grade data and reducing the time in the field is quite important within the UAV field, and to provide a high degree of efficiency from our point of view is that the system must be as accurate as possible.

We need to have, normally for UAV data we must have ground control points on the ground, and with our Leica Aibot solution we are able to reduce the number of ground control points in the field. And that means a high efficiency gain by laying it out in the field and also using them in the post-processing part within Leica Infinity. Typical applications, what our clients are using, as Bryan mentioned, topographical survey, as-built information, planning data for any construction projects, infrastructure assets information, and so on. So the number is quite broad.

BK: That’s great.

VF: Another quite interesting feedback is more on the soft facts Leica Geosystems is providing and it’s not just about the product itself, it’s any services, any support around the product. There are plenty of other copters out on the field and the benefit Leica Geosystems is able to provide is customer care packages, trainings, any support for the entire solution. So customers saying Leica is a preferred choice because we have one point of contact, so when they have any questions regarding the planning part, or regarding the execution, or regarding the Infinity workflow, or even regarding other sensor integration such as mobile mapping they have one point of contact, and they care about the end results. And I think that is something which is quite important for Leica Geosystems.

BK: Sure and not always something you’re gonna see, you know …

VF: No.

BK: … so having great service is …

VF: Exactly, exactly.

BK: … absolutely essential.

VF: Yes.

BK: Wonderful, wonderful.

BB: One of the great things about the system that we’ve come to learn over this half year that we’ve had it out is how easy it is to get a customer up and running with the system. Because it utilizes a fairly familiar survey workflow that customers are already used to and it integrates so seamlessly with their existing equipment, that within a couple of days, a customer can be fully capable of running their own system. And this is something that a lot of systems don’t provide.

You’re trying to figure out how to make it work with your existing survey system, or if it can’t, how you get the data to integrate, all these sorts of things. And when I go out and do a training now, basically, the first time that we’re out in the field I hand the customer the controller and there’s a button on it that says start mission. They tap the button, and off the copter goes and does its thing. So the product group in Heerbrugg has done a great job with simplifying the system so that the flying is really the simplest and the most boring part of the whole operation …

BK: Even though it should be the most exciting part.

BB: Exactly, flying and exciting shouldn’t be used in the same sentence.

BK: Okay, nevermind.

BB: So, we’ve really simplified it and made it really easy for the customer to get going, and so then it becomes just another one of their surveying tools that they’re easily able to implement into their workflow.

BK: Yeah, time is money, you know?

VF: Exactly.

BB: Absolutely.

BK: Yeah, they’ve gotta get that up and running fast so that’s really neat to hear …

BB: Yeah.

BK: … how quickly things can get up and running, how simple it is, it’s safe. You said exciting shouldn’t be in that, so then, that’s a good thing! You want it to be safe.

BB: That’s one thing I was really pleased about during the first trainings with the system, was how quickly people were able to adapt to the workflow and to the process because it had so many familiarities to their existing system. It just becomes another survey type of rover that they have been running for years and years, it’s just that this one happens to fly.

BK: Yeah, well that’s great it sounds like positives and wins all across the board.

BB: Yup.

VF: Absolutely.

BK: Excellent. All right, well, thank you very much for your time. both of you. I really appreciate it, and thanks for sharing this information, and congratulations to all the success here.

BB: Thanks, Brian.

VF: Thanks, Brian.

BK: All right, well for more information on today’s topic, please, please visit leica-geosystems.com and of course to learn even more and listen to additional episodes, head over to hxgnspotlight.com. Thank you very much for joining us here on HxGN radio.