Global Manufacturer

Saving Lives with Leading-Edge Drone Imaging Innovation

Snapshot

A global manufacturer of engineering services and aerospace systems needed to help its customer base of utility companies keep employees safe — while improving efficiency and gathering actionable data from the field. Nerdery determined that an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) inspection service could meet the client’s safety and efficiency goals as a drone and drone operator captured, organized and annotated videos and images, allowing engineers to perform inspections remotely and safely. 

In less than six months, Nerdery proved the concept and brought a UAV service to life within the organization, helping secure the client’s first customer. The insights gathered allowed the client to sell additional products and services to its customer base of utility companies that manage flare stacks and power lines.

Contributions

Product Development
Visual Design
Quality Assurance 
Software Development

Client project lead

“The quality, speed and minds that make up your organization are of great value to what we are trying to achieve. We continue to appreciate your collaborative effort, hospitality and kindness, and ability to accommodate yourselves to our standards and processes.”

Business Challenge

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, utility line installers and repairers have one of the top 10 most dangerous jobs in the United States, with 21.5 annual fatalities for every 100,000 workers. The client approached Nerdery with a business goal that was threefold: keep workers safe, improve efficiency and collect actionable data. The insights gathered would allow the client to sell additional products and services to its customer base of utility companies that manage flare stacks and power lines.

The client’s internal team was operating as a greenfield unit within the organization’s aerospace division; they were focused on experimental technology without a formal product strategy. UAV inspection services were uncommon at the time, and historically, these services were conducted using helicopters. They needed to get a prototype in front of customers quickly. Due to ISO standards and being a multinational conglomerate, the client wasn’t set up to complete a large, experimental project in a three-to-five-week timeline without the help of a fast-moving, outside partner. 

Our Goals

Keep workers safe

Improve efficiency

Collect actionable data

Strategy and Solution

The Nerdery team quickly discovered the drone lacked necessary functionalities and constructed workarounds together in the Nerdery Innovation Lab. Using goal-oriented rapid prototyping, we developed the image recognition portal, which took images from the drone camera and analyzed them to determine changes in the power lines and flare stacks over time. The prototype was developed fast enough that the client was able to put it in front of their customers to gain feedback, which allowed our team to iterate on the ideas until the product was sufficient enough to use in the field. 

To accompany the UAV service, we developed a tablet application for use onsite as a customer relationship management (CRM) interface to collect and organize images, maps, and product and customer information. We also created a web interface for administrators and scientists to conduct deep analysis of the drone images to identify site maintenance needs.

Our fast, flexible and scalable work brought the commercial UAV inspection service to life within the organization and helped secure the first outside customer of the application. 

Results

Our fast, flexible and scalable work brought the commercial UAV inspection service to life within the organization and helped secure the first outside customer of the application.

The UAV inspection service was named one of the organization’s Top 12 Innovations of the Year in 2017, a breakthrough technology that demonstrates how connectivity is changing the world.