Drones Go To Work For IT - InformationWeek

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2/27/2015
10:06 AM
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Drones Go To Work For IT

Drones offer new opportunities for businesses of all kinds. Here's how one IT department got involved with a drone project, and what the company learned.

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The most prevalent uses of drones today are blowing up suspected terrorists and unnerving French authorities. But organizations of all kinds have an opportunity to make business use of these flying machines.

IT should be out in front of the drone movement. As Chris Murphy at InformationWeek noted in a recent article, "IT pros should see drones as just another amazing node out on the Internet of Things, and another ticket to obliterate boundaries around traditional IT."

Tim Porter, Information Systems Director at WS Development, participated in a company project in which a video camera mounted on a drone shot footage of a property development around Seaport Square in Boston. WS Development builds, manages, and leases retail properties across the US.

(Image: Hans via Pixabay)

(Image: Hans via Pixabay)

"We use the video for marketing properties, leasing purposes, and for the financial community when we're trying to give investors a sense of what we do," said Porter.

As the drone dips, rises, and turns over the city, prospective tenants and clients get a unique aerial view that has more energy than traditional still photos or architectural drawings of the location.

Porter noted the drone project was marketing's idea, but IT was quick to come on board. "I have to make sure business units have all the tools to be successful," he said.

To that end, Porter purchased a NAS storage device from QNAP to store the video rather than upload it to the company's existing array. This was a low-cost option that allowed him to get 16Tbytes to store the video, and to get the video into employees' hands quickly.

"It made sense to find an additional storage medium that integrated fully with vSphere," said Porter. "We could display it all as mapped network drives." This made it easy to give staffers access to the video over the company's network so they could begin editing right away.

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In addition to editing the video, employees integrated architectural renderings from Adobe Premier Pro to give a sense of how the project would look when finished.

And because the video is high resolution, Porter said employees can grab video stills to be used in other collateral.

Before IT pros get hooked on the idea of piloting drones as part of their job, keep in mind the company hired a contractor to do the shoot.

Laurel Sibert, VP of Corporate Marketing at WS Development, said using an aviation expert is essential. "He's a licensed pilot and stays current on regulations and permits." In particular, because the site of the shoot was close to Logan Airport, the drone operator had to know and comply with FAA restrictions on altitude.

Don't Just Show Up

While drones are fairly simple to operate and deploy, Sibert said using a drone for aerial videography requires some legwork.

One concern is that drones are weather-dependent, so contractors have to be flexible. "We had days where it was too windy to shoot," said Sibert.

She also said the company does a walkthrough of the site before shooting, to define the angles and shots it wants to capture. Light levels will also affect the outcome of the video, so time of day is important to keep in mind.

The size of the site must also be considered. "If it's a large site we're shooting, the drone operator has to move quickly." She said the company rented a golf cart and had a driver to keep the pilot in sight of the drone while it was flying.

Tim Porter added one more essential detail. "We now know it is a good idea to notify the state police if we're going to be flying a drone near a federal courthouse."

Drones: What's Next?

Drone video will play a part in an upcoming project for WS Development. The company is building a large retail site in Wisconsin. It's using a Webcam to record construction. Once the site is built, it will shoot the finished project from the air, to show the process from start to finish.

"The combination of the Webcam and drone footage gives a comprehensive look at what we do," said Sibert.

Porter envisions drones playing a role in facilities management. "It'd be great to inspect roof and HVAC conditions, and give facilities more tools to get the job done quickly," he said.

Porter didn't know if drone operation would ever be brought inside the company, but he's confident the flying machines are part of the organization's strategy going forward.

"It's something we'll do more frequently. Where we have the capability to use it, we're going to take advantage of it."

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Drew is formerly editor of Network Computing and currently director of content and community for Interop. View Full Bio
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StaceyE
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StaceyE,
User Rank: Ninja
4/30/2015 | 1:06:17 PM
Re: Drones are bad news
@ batye

It is sometimes hard to differntiate between criminals and some governments, I agree.
batye
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50%
batye,
User Rank: Ninja
4/1/2015 | 2:58:19 PM
Re: Drones are bad news
yes, I could not agree more... plus this days some countries own and run by criminals - how I see it...
StaceyE
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50%
StaceyE,
User Rank: Ninja
3/29/2015 | 5:10:30 PM
Re: Drones are bad news
@batye

You are right, these days criminals have access to more sophisticated tools, and I agree that criminals are not always simply bad individuals or bad groups of people, but a lot of criminal activity in the world today is probably run like a corporation.
batye
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batye,
User Rank: Ninja
3/1/2015 | 11:19:16 PM
Re: Drones are bad news
@StaceyE I could not agree more as this days criminals afford latest and greatest this days... as criminals is no longer simple group of bad people... it more like corporation with criminal activities as corporate way of life - end goals 
batye
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batye,
User Rank: Ninja
3/1/2015 | 11:14:12 PM
Re: Drones and IT
@nasimson I agree but I would like to add... we never know the way technology develops... as some thing act as  game changers...
batye
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50%
batye,
User Rank: Ninja
3/1/2015 | 11:11:09 PM
Re: Drones are bad news
@tzubair I could not agree more as this technology could be a coin of both sides... and could be used for good or bad... 
batye
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batye,
User Rank: Ninja
3/1/2015 | 11:08:58 PM
Re: Drones Go To Work For IT
I think drones have only big potentials but becomes way of future, in many fields... in the few years it will be a game changer for all...
zerox203
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zerox203,
User Rank: Ninja
2/28/2015 | 10:29:41 PM
Re: Drones Go To Work For IT
This use case has gone a long way towards selling me on the concept of drones outside of niche industries, which I've previously been pretty skeptical about. It doesn't have to be this enormous investment, it doesn't have to revolutionize your industry. You can pick a specific project or a niche part of your overall business where it makes sense, use it there, and deliver some specific value with it. I still think the argument that IT in general needs to 'get out in front' of this is a little shaky - it's not like you should devote resources towards this in case your company needs drones in the future. Let the use case present itself, then act. Using an outside contractor speaks to this and makes sense to me. You can pay them by the day, and it's not just that you don't have to eat those ancillary costs like licensing or training - you don't even have to think about them.

I can see the use cases piling up. A drone might not be able to replace a human inspection on that $10,000 HVAC system, but it might be able to tell you whether or not you need to order one and save you a bunch of money. That project about showing a timelapse of a site being constructed sounds really cool and is a prime example of something that simply couldn't be done otherwise (not from those heights/angles). IT's role as stewards of the collected data becomes a lot more pronounced when we're talking about companies for whom this is not a core competency (one would think a retail development company is a prime example). They need to be ready to advise the business on the best options for their needs, the TCO, and have a firm handle on what the technology they purchase and install on the backend can and cannot do. I wonder if there'll be certifications for that
tzubair
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tzubair,
User Rank: Ninja
2/28/2015 | 8:41:34 PM
Re: Drones are bad news
"But I don't think they're anything to fear if treated professionally. That's the key. Like any aircraft they need to be treated professionally. that's why we don't have flying cars right now."

@David: I agree. The regulation wouldn't really hurt the drone companies. If anything, the regulation would help them compete better with other companies. Without the regulation, the industry as a whole cannot develop.
nasimson
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nasimson,
User Rank: Ninja
2/28/2015 | 1:12:31 PM
Re: Drones and IT
@Mitch: Drones and BigF-Data. That is the BIG flights data. This merger between Drones and BIG Data can be the next development frontier.
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