‘’Hey sky, take off your hat, I’m on my way!’’ was the exuberant message of Valentina Tereshkova as she embarked on the Vostok-6 spacecraft on June 16, 1963. As her valiant efforts demonstrated, the sky is not the limit, and to be able to face the impossible, you need to have an innate sense of boldness and audacity to achieve it. 55 years later, another set of individuals are looking towards the sky, and they come in the form of ‘’Skyeer’’ — an international team motivated and experienced enough to tackle challenges from above, albeit not in the field of space exploration, but in business. By ‘’above’’, the word does not only hold a kind of metaphorical significance, but is a statement based on reality as the company makes use of the ‘’buzzing, robotic structures in the sky’’ that will be of colossal significance in the coming future, if not already — drones. I sat down with Alexander Ryzhov, the Managing Director and had a compelling discussion about what they’re doing and how they’re keeping up with such a fast-paced world of innovation…
There was an interesting prediction some years ago about drones being more creatively used to solve different problems both socially and commercially, so the amount of buzz (pun may or may not be intended) from the reputation that Skyeer has been generating, has certainly captured my interest. After all, with the realized concept of drones, comes two words that both begin with the letter F: Fun and Future. Any company that makes use of these buzzing entities can boast about being described by those two adjectives. Skyeer — welcome to the exclusive club!
Advanced, one-of-a-kind algorithm — a symbol of eminence?
Under the guidance of Mikhail Bolotin that has provided a sense of direction for this innovative venture, ‘’Skyeer seeks to offer solutions for business optimization based on the application of spatial data and cloud-based geoinformation technologies’’. They also provide a full, inclusive service available to the customer ranging all the way from UAV mapping to technical consulting — and provide a special web platform for instant data analysis. Essentially, Skyeer implements drone technology for businesses and other interested parties to develop an ideal sense of perspective on their own individual activities, which is an essential part of thriving in any business environment; analysing those aspects of your business that can be solved more simply through cutting edge technology should be more than welcomed…and through Skyeer’s use of drones and advanced algorithm, this puts them on my list of companies that add a sense spark to the table.
I wrote some months ago about Geographic Information Systems (GIS) seeing a rise in popularity in recent years and drones being more frequently used in this process — it’s safe to say that Skyeer is yet another interesting addition to this field. Back then, I used the example of their application to the military, but here they are effectively used in four core areas of commercial business: building, mining, agriculture and inspection. In the case of Skyeer, they are also engaging around the area of Building Information Modeling (BIM) and have done so in regard to Earthworks but more of that later. In general, the market for commercial and civilian drones will grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 19% between 2015 and 2020, according to BI Intelligence  — which is a strong indicator that drones will be more frequently used in situations that serve a plethora of different functionalities, dwelling into various niche areas of business. Skyeer has chosen its path — and that path can reward them greatly in the future as they attempt to meet growing demand around the world. The company has seen a rise in requests from Russia, Latin America and the US. Will they take more chances to showcase what they have?
From start to finish — a chain of flexibility.
And from what point in the Skyeer business process could you actually expect to optimize your business if you were a client? In building, mining, agriculture or inspection — as long as you know what you want to achieve, the general plan is structured as follows: they commence by sending up the UAV, which is attached with multi-rotor and glider blades with various types of sensors — they also allow for the option of installing high-precision GNSS receivers. This survey data is then automatically processed for the purpose of obtaining an orthophoto and 3D models. An orthophoto is essentially an aerial photograph that is geometrically corrected, without ‘’topographic relief’’ and lens distortion — this allows for a depiction of the Earth’s surface that is accurate and from which true results can be achieved.
The next step offers the ability of integration of customer data using GIS and CAD files of the client and for joint data analysis. After which, one can use a variety of tools for the accurate measurement of heights, distances, areas and volumes. What’s important is also the special program allowing for the detection of changes, which is one of the key attributes; there’s an automatic detection function of changes for immediate analysis and prompt decision making. If all of this isn’t detailed enough (which it probably should be), then don’t worry. They also offer analysis with additional analytics from industry experts. It’s safe to say that flexibility is a key word here and as such, you can enter their business process from a number of different angles and come out of it with the result you need. It’s safe to say that Skyeer simplifies this approach significantly, but it all depends on the specific results that you want to achieve.
‘’We understand that the customer values the accuracy of data — and a small inaccuracy can really add up for big businesses. We’re experienced enough to know when this is the case’’ — Alexander Ryzhov, Managing Director
In the world of sensors and data types…what tools do they have in their toolbox?
What intrigued me initially was the exceptional algorithm, but they use a number of different sensors and data types to present a clearer picture for the customer. Alexander Ryzhov, the managing director, took me through a lot of the ways that the data can be presented and simplified explaining all the different colours and visual data into something understandable — it wasn’t very difficult. A thought popped up in mind at this point; they say a picture is worth a thousand words, but here it’s really a thousand pictures being simplified into just a few words. The algorithm and technology itself is complex — but what I needed to understand was a jargon-free explanation of what they could produce and so the answers were clear. Red and blue. I saw two different colours on one screen showing a 90-degree photo and 3D model of a construction site, which I immediately assumed was the elevation and depth of the surface information. I was right, red represented the elevation and blue was the depth. But that was not all — the next visual representation was facilitated by the famous surveying method that many may have already heard about — Lidar.
All the way from the magic of Lidar to NDVI.
Lidar, which stands for ‘’light-detection and ranging’’, has become ever-expanding since it was first introduced as an idea in the 1960’s. The technique uses laser light as a process of typification of the Earth’s surface whereby accurate information is determined through x, y and z coordinates. Accuracyis the key takeaway from this and not only that, but it presents the laser data as something that is pleasing on the eye, but most importantly shows the contours and all other objects in the resulting photo. Skyeer has Lidar firmly implemented into its data types and strives to use it to give an accurate picture in the above-mentioned fields. I’ve mentioned orthomosaic being used, but there are others to choose from depending on the exact customer needs. DTM/DEM (Digital Terrain/Elevation Model) gives a general overview without taking into account vegetation and anthropogenic objects. Sometimes, it’s even necessary just to receive a simple 3D model and video of the premises — this is all backed up in the online platform that is offered for real-time results. For maps of the values of vegetation and analysis of the biomass of crops, there’s the traditional NDVI (Normalized Difference Vegetation Index), as well as Thermal Imagining for determining temperatures of objects and identifying sources of heat loss in buildings — this is crucial in countries that are less dense, with remote locations that take up energy in places where you didn’t expect them to.
Skyeer seems to do it all. In terms of less specific areas of interest — Skyeer is continuing to implement ‘’Digital Twin’’ into various parts of its services, which gives me a sense that the company is forward-thinking throughout its core. Geotracking of employees and the increasing importance of employee safety has also become of growing importance in a number of different countries — standards are rising and thus there are further expectations to be working in safe environments. What Skyeer is doing is providing the means to track the employees through special tracking devices, giving a signal when they leave or enter certain areas. In construction inspection, this can be especially important. They can also measure the pulse and implement technology from ground laser control and specific beam information algorithms for the Earth. This all sounds very fascinating. But it’s not only the services and activities themselves that give me this perception of the company trying to power their way into the future. It’s also the enthusiastic, driven character of the Managing Director and his team that seem inspired enough to kick it up a notch.
Building Information Modelling and Control: What do they have to show for it?
These days, a growing number of engineers, architects and contractors are using Building Information Modelling (BIM). Essentially, BIM and AEC (Architecture, Engineering and Construction) go hand-in-hand; as BIM is an intelligent model-based process, it connects AEC clients so that they can build, design and operate buildings more efficiently. Skyeer has been very much part of this modelling process and has been steadily growing its client base notably in regard to Earthworks. With the tools and methods outlined above, they have been flexible in moving into different areas of the field. But what do they have to show for it? Fresh off winning a competition in connection to Gazpromneft-Terminal, specifically in their version of ‘’Drone Biathlon’’, they can boast about being the best software solution for building control based on spatial data and data from drones. A highly significant achievement, indeed.
The winner was determined by direct field tests on a real site for the construction and reconstruction of a tank farm in the Leningrad region. The jury evaluated the decision on 5 main blocks:
1. Efficient scanning of the territory; 2. Accuracy of measurements, 3. Platform functionality, 4. Ease of use, 5. Potential and prospects for further development.
The contestants were offered to “scan” the site of the construction by UAV’s on two different days. In the intervals between which the work was done, the relief was changed, rubble mounds were made, and the asphalt was marked with geometric figures. The first day of the flights provided working and design documentation for the subsequent demonstration of the functional control of the plan / fact of construction. For the measurement standard, all embankments were measured by a laser scanner.
Based on the results of the protection to the jury members of the competition, the Skyeer digital platform proved to be the most balanced solution, including user-friendliness and accuracy of measurements. The laser scanner determined the volume of the mound at 1.92 m3, 4.09 m3 and 6.0 m3. Skyeer did excelled and their digital platform showed the maximum accuracy among the participants at 1.94 m3, 4.04 m3 and 5.95 m3 respectively. A sign that they take accuracy very seriously.
The team looks beyond — the world is next…
‘’While all other attributes such as quality, showcased by our strong algorithm, is important — what we want to highlight is our priority to be transparent and open to new windows of business’’ — Skyeer
The world is undoubtedly changing and doing so at an extremely rapid pace. Developments are reaching level that are almost unrecognized at this point in time — maybe sometimes we even don’t come to grips with how fast it’s all happening, so it’s high-time to stay dynamic and flexible to keep riding on the wave of innovation. Without transparency in your business, it’ll damage relations with your customer and thus, Skyeer does the right thing here by prioritizing transparency as a key value for the business. The Skyeer team includes a number of specialists in the field of geodesy and geoinformation systems and have plenty of experience to show for it — they also employ experts involved in solving specific tasks, many of which have already been outlined in the areas of construction, mining, agriculture and inspection.
When I asked the Managing Director what was next in store — there was a degree of excitement in his response — ‘’there is a lot yet to be seen, but Europe is a target that can promise a lot’’. With the vastness of Russia as a nation, there are plenty of reasons why their services will continue to be needed — the lengthy time of travelling back and forth between a construction site can be costly, both time-wise and in raw financial terms. He expects Russia to stay a significant part of the demand, but a gradual move towards expanding outwards will be taking place soon, he says. With all these developments happening in an area of business that remains somewhat incognito — the concept of implementing drones for creative commercial endeavours could soon be widespread. With the guidance of Mikhail Bolotin, Alexander Ryzhov and his team are driven to make this happen. With all of the possibilities available from the use and implementation of UAV’s — in this case they allowed me to see real-time results for myself. But here is where I started to see the pattern and summarize with something I thought about above. All of the pictures and surveying methods really made me wonder:
If they say a picture is worth a thousand words — Is Skyeerpart of the world that reduces thousands of pictures into just a few words?