Drones keep popping up more and more in conversations about video. With increased frequency, we’re asked if we support video captured from drone-mounted cameras in formats such as 4K or 360 degree or live streams. (The answer to these questions is, of course, yes.)
We are seeing drone based-cameras as an emerging content creation source with very interesting use cases and enterprise applications. For now, footage from drones is still emerging but clearly positioned for growth.
Collaborating with Fred Berg at iSky Images, a Philadelphia-based drones services company, we are gaining some interesting insights as well as trends, perspectives and of course video footage from up high.
Why Use Video Captured from Drones?
Drone technology offers a better, faster, cheaper, and safer way to inspect and document the status of a variety of assets. Drones generally are controlled from ground level and have high-quality single image and video recording capabilities as well as infra-red capabilities. In the US, a drone can legally be flown up to 400’ above ground level and up to 400’ above the level of a building or structure the drone is reviewing. A drone can cover far more square area than a person can while coincidentally photographing everything it covers.
Couple that with the fact that the drone itself is classified as an Internet of Things (IoT) device, which has sensors and connects to the internet. When the drone captures video, Kaltura offers open meta-data schemas. We add meta-data and cue points which can lead to interesting applications with visuals and analytics, such as machine learning for actionable intelligence. .
The choice for each company to use drone-based video hinges on a variety of factors. And some organizations prefer to own their own drones while others outsource drone video shooting. Some decisions are further refined on a regional basis depending on the project or client.
To be sure, we expect to see a steady overall rate of growth of drone operators and footage created. Drilling down on this growth we find many small, regional operators that are well-positioned to respond to their region’s needs and that are offering some interesting applications and approaches. Consider the time 7-Eleven beat Google and Amazon on the first B2C delivery of goods.
Infrastructure Use Cases for Drone-Based Video
Drones can be extremely useful in inspecting a variety of commercial structures, e.g., cell towers, water towers, bridges – essentially anything that is difficult to access. Since cell towers are often sited on private buildings and since it is important to maintain these towers, communication companies must ensure their periodic examination. For a variety of reasons, a far safer and faster and therefore cheaper approach to examining these towers is by drones. The camera systems on drones are powerful enough to allow a very detailed look from quite far away from a tower thereby eliminating the risk of damaging the equipment. And a drone can completely circle a cell tower to ensure a complete photographic image that offers valuable documentation as well as issue monitoring.
Here’s a video, captured by one of iSky Image’s drones, that clearly illustrates this point:
Using Drone-based Video for Insurance
The Insurance industry also offers a variety of applications for drone footage. Too many to cover in one blog post; they range from property assessments from a risk perspective to accidents and claims.
Some major insurance companies are starting to buy and operate their own drone fleets. Here is an article describing what they are doing to facilitate their technology adoption in their core business: claims and risk management. Another article shows the various ways each company is testing and adopting drones to suit their organization.
As for the content, the actual videos –live streamed from drones, as well as high-quality video on demand (VOD). A single frame pull from a video can identify the nature of the claim, e.g., high-resolution image of hail damage or water or wind damage. Claims processes can have paperwork, images and a video file to supplement for a complete and accurate claim file submission. Once photographs are made, ground-based inspection teams can safely review drone-collected images. We are even seeing companies integrate photos and videos from drones programmatically into their claims file systems.
In terms of cost-effectiveness, drones can dramatically increase business decisions. Rather than hiring a person and a crane, a ladder, or some other way to gain an aerial perspective, the drone can quickly ascend, capture images and share that content in a matter of minutes rather than hours. Completing claims quickly, accurately and efficiently solves a core business problem.
Another common use case is roof inspections. The typical approach to roof inspections is to walk the roof and photograph areas with potential issues. Using drones, a residential or commercial roof can be inspected in a fraction of the time, with far less opportunity for error and all without an inspection person or team physically on a roof. An entire roof can easily be photographed for both documentation and issue monitoring purposes.
It can be valuable not only to have drone-generated footage identify an issue but also to subsequently show that the issue has been resolved.
Using infrared cameras to translate temperature to color, the same GPS coordinates and the same perspective can be used to capture video that compares the scene over time. Adding metadata for insights, such as cue points, hex data for the colors, with the ability to search and listen to voice overs and download related files offers much more value than just a passive view.
Video in, Insight Out
Whether an independent drone operator or a large organization with its own fleet, the real value of footage captured from drones is the data. While you have a video from a new perspective, the insight derived is the real value. For example, detecting colors and changes in the surfaces of the video, i.e., using infrared video to capture where heat and cold are in a particular location. GPS data and date and time stamps for logging information and comparing to follow up visits.
These values-adds are addressed by robust tools Kaltura offers, from cue points, interactive video players, synching to slides and files, voice overs, searchable meta data, and visual annotations – such as a circle and a pointer overlays.
The more insights provided with the video, the more value for the client. The ultimate value is avoiding a problem with such a service. Through thorough analysis of the site inspection content, preventative maintenance becomes much easier. Follow up visits track changes and can signal to future issues before they happen.
Goldman Sachs, in a paid post in the NYT, predicts the impact drones will have on various industries. Interestingly, Construction is 10X to that of Insurance claims, at $11.2B and $1.4B respectively. Given the newness of this space, it is possible – or likely – that construction and insurance overlap and infrastructure valuations are perhaps low estimates.
With drones, it becomes easier and safer than ever before to monitor even the most inaccessible infrastructure. Expect drone-based video to become a major factor for companies in the future.