Canada’s SimActive is a relative newcomer to the drone industry. They aren’t new to aerial mapping, however: the company was founded in 2003 by brothers Philippe and Louis Simard to assist the Canadian army in mapping the entire country of Afghanistan to aid U.S. Troops. Their goal at the time was to make mapping from satellite data easier to use and faster, so that military personnel could get the data they needed more easily. And while the companies customer base has expanded well beyond the military to include commercial mapping firms and other major commercial customers, the goal remains the same: to make precise and accurate maps, quickly and easily.
The Right Tool for the Job
What you’re mapping makes a difference, says SimActive co-founder and president Philippe Simard: “With satellite, you map a country,” he says. “With manned aircraft you map a city – and with a drone you can map a yard.” SimActive developed drone data capabilities into their Correlator 3D platform to make it easier for their customers to get into the space – and not lose smaller jobs for major clients to another firm.
“Major mapping firms sell the data to the end user,” explains Simard, “but the end user varies quite a bit.”
“Firms can serve more customers by adding drone services. These firms look at the size of the project, the airspace, and the other constraints and they’ll tell you the best tool for the job… That’s important. It’s the ability to choose the right tool for the job.”
With Correlator3D accepting multiple data formats, says Simard, “It expands the number of jobs that you can take but requires the exact same workflow, so the production is easier for large companies.”
Meeting in the Middle on Drones
The biggest mapping firms haven’t all been quick to adopt drone programs. “If its not the drones, it’s the data – then the mapping industry works both ways,” says Simard. “The guys with planes were reluctant to go into drones: but some drone companies have gone into large format cameras. They’re meeting in the middle.”
Simard says his company has seen the hype around drones die down in the last few years- and lead to a more robust growth. “It’s growing now, and it’s cleaner business – there are fewer players but they are more real. It’s evolving into serious business and now there is a real progression in the market,” he says.